ST. LOUIS-- Sarah Palin and Joe Biden face off in the sole vice presidential debate in a few hours at Washington University. Obama senior advisor Stephanie Cutter is praising Palin's oratorical skills and Sen. Joe Lieberman, a McCain supporter, is returning the compliment to Biden.
There's more pressure on the McCain team because he is lagging in the polls. Lieberman said he teased McCain about his slide last night when they were in the Senate:
"You got this race just where you want it to be. You are six points behind. McCain is a fighter from behind. You can't defeat this man. He is resilient and when the going gets tough, John McCain gets going," Lieberman said.
It's the first time a female has been in a major presidential debate since 1984 Geraldine Ferrarro dueled with then Vice President Bush. Cutter said it was "insulting" to suggest gender will play a role tonight.
Palin gets on stage as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll show more people are questioning whether she has the experience needed to be president.
Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent Democrat said the challenge for Palin is to get the media to stop focusing on what she does not know. She comes to the debate following unsteady performances in high profile interviews.
This is not about gotcha and the debate is not like college finals.
"Now she's got to come out and change the discussion. I think some of the media, with all respect to everybody here, has been playing a game of gotcha with her as if she's sort of taking a final college exam. She is not," Lieberman said.
"She is taking, she is convincing she is ready to be vice president based on her strength as an individual, on her intelligence, on her values and on her proven record as the most popular governor in America who worked across party lines to change Alaskan government so I think that is what she's got to prove tonight."
"...I think she is going to be fine. ....I think she is pass the threshold tonight...this is an important night but she is ready it ...."
"I said to her...be yourself, You are a strong, accomplished person and you have kind of a quality of strength and an appealing personality. Let it shine in the debate.
"Don't feel you have to come up with a five point answer to every foreign policy question. That is not what the American people are looking for. They are looking for someone who will represent them in Washington."
Cutter, who is also Michelle Obama's chief of staff, was asked about the role gender will play as Biden debates a female rival.
"I don't think it plays a role at all. I think it is insulting to suggest that it does. He debates women in the United States every single day," Cutter said.
"And it's something that never enters your mind when you see two senators debating each other over an important issue on the Senate floor. And It does not occur to you to take a step back to see if it is a man and a woman debating, it is two senators that are debating and our hope is that tonight people will see two vice presidential candidates debating. These are two people that could be a heartbeat away from the presidency."