Has Gwen Ifill been hamstrung? *Updated*

Debates, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Matt Yglesias thinks so:

Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill

If I may state the obvious, the fact that Gwen Ifill apparently has a forthcoming book titled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama is a huge advantage for Sarah Palin. If you look at the demographic breakdowns of any poll, you could probably count on one hand the number of college educated African-American women who are favorably disposed toward Palin. But because of the book, and because Ifill has a reputation as a professional to maintain, she’s now in a situation where she’ll bend over backwards to avoid appearing too hard on Palin.

I tend to agree. When I chewed my fingernails and worried about how the Biden/ Palin debate would go down, that was one thing that I found reassuring — that the debate would be moderated by a woman. I think that Palin and the McCain campaign are going to look for any excuse to cry “sexism,” and that it will blunt their ability to do so if the follow-ups (which are frequently Palin’s Kryptonite — not that she was so Super in the first place) come from a woman.

That was a big part of why Katie Couric’s interviews created so many jaw-dropping soundbites — Couric would gently, smilingly offer a follow-up, and the follow-up would make it clear that the barn door was flapping but the horses had already bolted. (I either mangled an idiom or coined one there, I’m not sure.)

Note, I don’t think that the book actually indicates that Ifill will be unfair. I just think that

  1. It means that Ifill will have to be considerably more careful than she would have been if this wasn’t made an issue ahead of the debate, and
  2. The book will be used as a bludgeon in the post-debate spin. Even if Biden is impeccable (which is a largish if), McCain people can (and will) go after Ifill as impartial and attempting to embarrass poor, long-suffering Governor Palin

UpdateNate Silver has an interesting point — if Ifill is replaced at the last minute, the bludgeon is removed AND it throws both debaters a curveball.  (They have been preparing with Ifill in mind — watching the 2004 VP debate, etc.)  And who is more likely to deal well with a curveball?

Hey, Katie, are you available??

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