A stunted VP debate

A STUNTED VP DEBATE…. This may be an elaborate effort to manage expectations, but it seems more likely the McCain campaign is genuinely worried about Sarah Palin’s ability to handle a nationally televised debate.

The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to an unusual free-flowing format for the three televised presidential debates, which begin Friday, but the McCain camp fought for and won a much more structured approach for the questioning at the vice-presidential debate, advisers to both campaigns said Saturday.

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive. […]

McCain advisers said they were only somewhat concerned about Ms. Palin’s debating skills compared with those of Mr. Biden, who has served six terms in the Senate, or about his chances of tripping her up. Instead, they say, they wanted Ms. Palin to have opportunities to present Mr. McCain’s positions, rather than spending time talking about her experience or playing defense.

The commission specifically sought a relaxed format for Biden and Palin, allowing time for “unpredictable questioning and challenges between the two vice-presidential candidates.” The McCain campaign rejected the idea altogether.

The farce, in other words, continues. A campaign confident in its running mate — you know, the one who may be one heartbeat from the presidency in about four months — wouldn’t be this afraid of questions and interaction.