The Washington Times - October 1, 2008, 04:40PM

“On the eve of the vice presidential debate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is already a heavy underdog, according to the odds makers at BetOnline.com,” says spokesman Grant Marek.

“Why? One of the site’s prop bets might offer insight. The over/under on the number of times Palin mentions ‘Russia’ is currently at 2 1/2, with the site favoring the over. Palin is also a 3-to-1 underdog to win the VP Debate on BetOnline.com, with results based on CNN exit polls,” Mr. Marek said. “Ready to start counting Russias?”

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Well, maybe not. But there may be charm involved.

Debate coach Richard Edwards, author of “Competitive Debate: The Official Guide,” has advice for Mrs. Palin and Sen. Joe Biden as they head into combat.

He advises Mrs. Palin to concentrate less on nitpicky details of the McCain campaign and more on facts that appeal to ordinary Americans.  The town hall format plays in her favor.

“Don’t worry about going for the knock-out blow against your opponent – it’s John McCain who must close the gap in the upcoming presidential debate,” Mr. Edwards says.

As for Mr. Biden, he advises the lawmaker to avoid “seeming condescending” with body language or verbal attacks and to “make John McCain the opponent rather than Sarah Palin.”

Oh, and he should be “charming.”

Stay tuned.

— Jennifer Harper,  National Desk reporter