Let's traffic in some gender/political stereotypes for a moment: Obviously, Palin is a risky pick for McCain because she is approximately as qualified to serve as commander-in-chief as my Great Aunt Ruby (who has, full disclosure, been dead for several years now.) Indeed, I just finished listening to Linda Wertheimer on NPR grouchily voicing complete befuddlement over how McCain could pick someone so clearly unprepared in light of the senator's advanced age and questionable health. The contrast with Joe Biden is particularly stark. In a debate with Biden over--well, just about anything that doesn't directly involve the state of Alaska--Palin is almost certain to get her clock cleaned. 

But! Biden nonetheless needs to tread carefully and show more self-control and finesse than he is normally known for. Palin may be a varmint-hunting, moose-stew-guzzling NRA lifer, but she is still a woman--and an exceedingly delicate, feminine looking one at that. (A former Miss Wasilla no less!) And as irrational as they may be, the laws of politics forbid any man from behaving in a condescending, bullying, dismissive, mocking, or otherwise disrespectful fashion toward candidates of the fairer sex. Just ask poor Rick Lazio.

The fact that Palin looks to be a far more fragile flower than Lazio's former opponent makes Biden's job all the tougher. In head-to-head match ups, he will need to dismantle Palin completely, yet avoid triggering all those stupid, gut-level, subconscious, knee-jerk instincts that would lead voters to feel protective of her. This is particularly important in light of the remaining Hillary Issue. God forbid a meaningful chunk of Hillary dead-enders got it into their heads that, not only had Obama disrepected their gal, but now his number-two was dissing another sister. 

Whine all you want about how all candidates should be viewed and treated the same regardless of gender. The research and history of our politics show they aren't. Just something for Biden to think about when he's strapping on the gloves. 

--Michelle Cottle