A candidate and her cheat-sheets

A CANDIDATE AND HER CHEAT-SHEETS…. About a week ago, during one of Sarah Palin’s meltdown moments in response to a Katie Couric question about the bailout, she appeared to be looking down quite a bit, apparently referencing notes.

During last night’s debate, Palin was less incoherent, but that may have had something to do with her learning to read her notes more effectively.

The fine folks at ThinkProgress put together this fascinating compilation from the debate, where it appears Palin is referencing materials before and during her responses. The New York Times noted this morning that the governor relied on “carefully scripted talking points,” but this clip suggests the description is rather literal.

Faiz explained, “Because the cable and network television stations did not show a split screen of the debate, most viewers could not see the fact that, during Joe Biden’s answers, Palin spent almost all her time looking down and studiously reading her notes. But viewers did see that when Palin delivered her answers, she would repeatedly glance down to check her talking points.”

Now, I should note that I’m not sure what the ground rules were, and have no idea whether Palin was permitted to have pre-written notes at her podium. For that matter, I can’t say with any certainty whether Palin was looking down at notes she personally made during the debate, or notes that were written in advance for her by campaign aides.

But this does help explain a few things. As Kevin noted last night, “She pretty overtly didn’t even pretend to address a lot of Ifill’s questions — probably because she couldn’t — and a lot of her filibustering ended up sounding like random strings of phrases from the Hockey-Mom-o-Bot 3000.” It was, at times, as if Palin were just repeating lines written on a notecard, whether the responses made sense or not. If she were simply reading from a cheat-sheet, this would explain why her responses sounded detached and off-topic.

Faiz also noted this gem from Newsweek’s Andrew Romano: “The problem for Mrs Palin, however, is that she often seemed to run out of talking points — at which point her answers would devolve into the confusing ‘blizzards of words.'”

Watching the video, this problem comes into focus.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.