The Note: Palin Significance

Now that (we presume) the economy will be saved and the republic will endure and our money is as safe as the politicians who crafted this bailout package (read: not very), a few questions to take us into a week that will surely be more predictable than the last one:

How many presidents do you need to save a bailout bill?

How many winners were there in Friday's debate?

How many more ready-made opportunities do the candidates have to shift the terms of the race? (How many times has the Obama campaign done anything as bold as the McCain campaign does about every other week?)

A picture of George Stephanopoulos on GMA.

How much impact will "Saturday Night Live" have if politics subsumes the jokes?

How many times will Bill Clinton say, "Barack Obama is the best man for the job"?

How many more times can Gov. Sarah Palin unleash words instead of answers without seeing her image cemented by the national media? (How much does Steve Schmidt care about that question?)

(Is the answer to all the above questions, "zero"?)

This is why you pick a vice president (plus the Tina Fey impersonations, we suppose). Palin will be critical to Sen. John McCain's success this week -- the flubs and fumbles under close scrutiny, the episodes where she seems to contradict McCain while talking circles around herself under an unforgiving glare.

The pressure would rest on the McCain ticket's shoulders anyway, given the shuttle (and shifting) diplomacy of last week that didn't quite work out. Add to that a first debate that cements the status quo, a running mate who seems to be getting worse the more (still limited) time she's out there, and a very big week gets bigger for Sarah Palin.

Think Team McCain is worried about Thursday's debate? After a joint McCain-Palin interview with Katie Couric, there's one final joint event in Ohio, and then the GOP vice-presidential nominee heads to Sedona, Ariz., for debate prep -- and stays until debate time.

"The McCain campaign moved its top officials inside Gov. Sarah Palin's operation Sunday to prepare for what is certain to be the most important event of her vice-presidential campaign: her debate on Thursday with Democrat Joe Biden," Monica Langley writes in The Wall Street Journal.

"More broadly, the McCain campaign aims to halt what it sees as a perceived decline in the crispness and precision of Gov. Palin's latest remarks as well as a fall in recent polls, according to several advisers and party officials," Langley writes. "In recent days, Gov. Palin flubbed quasi-mock debates in New York City and Philadelphia, some operatives said. Finger-pointing began, and then intensified after her faltering interview with CBS anchorwoman Katie Couric." l

Palin may already be past the tipping point with political insiders -- though she still has chances with the public.

"Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can," Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria writes. "But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly, gibberish. . . . The more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that's causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb. Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president."

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