Democrats on Hill Worried About Biden at Debate

By Nitya

Sep 29, 2008 7:34am

There doesn’t seem to be a single Democratic officeholder on Capitol Hill who thinks Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is better qualified to be vice president than Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. Many don’t think she’s qualified at all.

But as the two vice presidential nominees prepare for their one debate this Thursday, there are a number of Democrats who, off the record, say they’re worried that despite his far greater breadth of knowledge, Biden could whiff it.

He can be verbose and has a propensity for gaffes, they say. The son-of-Scranton candor they usually find charming can sometimes seem reckless or insensitive.

That Biden will be debating the first Republican woman vice presidential nominee makes his challenge all the greater.

In recent weeks, in fact, Biden has taken advice from Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, presumably offering tips on how to debate women without seeming sexist or bullying.

On Sunday, Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod sought to lower expectations. Much of this is spin, but some of it is quite legitimately rooted in Biden’s occasional charge to open-mouth-insert-foot.

“I think Governor Palin is a skilled politician," said Axelrod, per ABC News’ Matt Jaffe. "She got elected in a very tough political arena against tough opponents and we’re going to treat her with the respect that she deserves."

Axelrod said, "I fully expect her to be ready for this debate, and I think there will be a great deal of interest in this. I think it will be a well-watched debate, so it’s going to be important… She’s very skilled and she’ll be well-prepared. I know she’s preparing this weekend. As you saw at the convention, she can be very good, so I think it would be foolish to assume that this going isn’t going to be a really challenging debate. We’re preparing for that, on that assumption.”

- jpt

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