Veep debate to bring huge audience

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Obama has many surrogates, McCain has few

Despite the posturing, there is little doubt that Mrs. Palin must answer the question: Is she qualified to be a heartbeat away from being the next commander in chief?

Trail Times blog: At betting booth, odds are against Palin

Will she use her femininity, even cry?

“While I would discourage frequent and certainly manipulative crying, if it is an appropriate emotion to have in a situation, Palin shouldn’t be afraid to show that emotion,” said Roxanne Rivera, chief executive officer of Syntactics Communication Skills, a company that offers presentation and speaking skills training to executives.

“She governed Alaska femininely dressed and at times with her children at the office with her,” Mrs. Rivera said. “I think she learned how to use her femininity to her advantage then, and I hope that she won’t try to start thinking and acting like a man now in order to appeal to more voters.”

Mr. Biden has his own problems. Although he says he’s debated “an awful lot of tough, smart women” in the Senate, including Mrs. Clinton, political strategists say he sometimes comes off as condescending or abrasive. If he flashes his 1,000-watt smile, he could look patronizing or, worse, sexist.

But if he holds back, Mrs. Palin could win on points simply by surviving.

The two nominees hunkered down on Wednesday, with Mrs. Palin practicing outdoors, near a creek at Mr. McCain’s Arizona home. Even that was a cause for criticism - two MSNBC evening news hosts mocked the image, saying politicians should prepare for debates in similar settings to the actual forum and quipping it inspired the term “up a creek” without a paddle.

Mr. Biden has been out of public view since Sunday, huddled with advisers and Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, who has been playing the role of Mrs. Palin. The pair have been practicing on a makeshift stage in a converted gym at a hotel in Wilmington, Del., where Mr. Biden spent much of the day and evening Wednesday.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report from Washington.

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