After tonight’s debate, Sarah Palin is very likely the future of the Republican party. John McCain sure as hell ain’t.

The conventional wisdom is that the debate was boring. The truth is that both candidates did terribly. This was the worst performance by both candidates ever.

This debate doesn’t mean much in terms of its direct impact on the public perception, both for the reasons I staked out in my post on the previous debate, and because nothing significant happened — though it was nice to see Obama shouted down by Tom Brokaw. Hee-hee.

What this debate signaled more than anything is that Barack Obama is happy to lie quite a lot about his positions, and John McCain will be content to let the lies pass and then go on to lose handily; Dole 2.0. (Can we please not nominate any more aging Senators for president?)

My only consolation is that Obama has proven to have a Clintonesque pragmatism, and he’s turned around on the idiotic foreign policy positions that brought him a flood of votes in the primaries. For example, he now advocates a policy toward Iran and North Korea that (for all its rhetorical difference) is materially indistinguishable from the Bush policy of the past 8 years. And he will not unilaterally pull out of Iraq. In other words, Obama is not the principled, Carter-type liberal that would prove to be disastrous for our country.

Short of a gift from Obama, I just don’t see how McCain can win. There’s a notion out there that if Obama starts to slide, he’ll drop like a rock. I think that’s wishful thinking. Rasmussen and Battleground are the best daily tracking polls, and they both show that there’s very little volatility in the polls, tracking a slow, steady build of Obama support. This doesn’t look to me like a flash in the pan.

We Republicans have another few years before we start campaigning again. As for how we ended up with Dole 2.0? Blame the evangelicals and Huckabee.