Thursday, October 2

Veep reax

To practiced ears, Palin memorized and repeated talking points and Biden responded to the questions and argued. Palin dodged questions and seemed vague; but then again, for those whose only impression of Palin has been the one Tina Fay performed on Saturday Night Live, she cleared the bar. Biden seemed a little unsure how tough to be at the beginning of the debate; by the beginning of the final third, he hit his stride. As the debate wound on, Palin seemed less agile when it came to constructing sentences and answers. Lots of key phrases, weird placement of conjunctions, so the gist of what she was saying was there, but it wasn't terribly clear.
Sullivan reader:
The closing statements are about to wrap. I have been watching your comments and have reached the same conclusion. Palin caught Biden off guard by coming off as a pretty competent debater (facts aside). Once Biden realized that he was facing a real opponent and became less afraid to fight back, he cleaned her clock. They sent Biden in with a muzzle. Thank goodness he was smart enough to know when to take it off.
Another such reader:
Two things immediately jump out as memorable. Biden ruled on the VP question, absolutely ruled, and she was clueless. And his breakdown in talking about his son almost dying was even more poignant because of her immediate, insensitive, complete disregard for what had been a genuine moment.
Ben Smith:
My quick take is that Palin passed a pass-fail test, though she flagged as the debate went on. Though she was chosen for her emotion connection, she was the drier of the two candidates. But if the central worry was that she'd be a drag on the ticket, she likely returned herself to the same status as Biden and every other running mate in memory: Not, ultimately, a major factor at the polls.
I think Palin is giving a cosmetically strong performance so far, but on the substance it's a horrorshow.

Meanwhile, note her extremely heavy reliance on notes--up to three or more glances per answer. At moments during her Afghanistan exchange she seemed to be reading directly from them.
Josh Marshall:
We were just talking about why Palin did better tonight than she did in her interviews. I think it's actually very simple. No follow ups. It's not a criticism of Gwen Ifill. It wasn't the format she was supposed to work with. But if you look at Palin's interview trainwrecks things always got bad on the follow up -- when the interviewer (Gibson or Couric) pressed her on the nebulous answer for some specifics, which she couldn't provide. That's the difference.
Ramesh Ponnuru:
The big loser tonight was Tina Fey.
Philip Primeau:
Let's be honest: Palin only held her ground tonight because Biden let her do so. He was afraid a hard charge might backfire, so he kept his engines at 50%, max. Even so, on every substantive issue he champed her, and rhetorically there was no comparison. They should've invoked the mercy rule half-way through.
Ross Douthat:
He didn't need to wipe the floor with her in order to win, and he wisely didn't try; he just needed to sound more authoritative, nuanced, and experienced than her, to hammer away at John McCain, and to generally play defense for a ticket that's on its way to victory at the moment. And I think he succeeded. The Democrats have a lot of built-in advantages in this election cycle, and judging by the public's reaction to the first debate, the key to victory for Obama-Biden is to do no harm - don't squander your advantages, don't freak out when the Republicans score their points on the surge and offshore drilling, and just be sure to always nudge the conversation back to the economy, to middle-class tax cuts versus tax cuts for the rich, to health care, and to George W. Bush's record. So while Sarah Palin did an awful lot for Sarah Palin tonight, there was only so much she could do for her running mate - given her own limits, but especially given the state of the country, and the gulf between the issues the McCain campaign wants to fight on and the issues voters care about. She's saved herself from Quayle-dom, but Obama-Biden is one debate closer to victory.
Greg Sargent:
a better way to decide who "won" tonight is this: Which Veep candidate most forcefully made the case against the opposing presidential candidate?

By that standard, the winner by that measure was unquestionably Joe Biden. He made a far stronger case against John McCain than Sarah Palin did against Barack Obama. It wasn't even close.
Nate Silver:
Palin's largest problem, to my eyes, is that she was tangibly nervous for most of the debate, rushing through talking points and canned jokes alike with unsually little inflection. I doubt that this will impact her favorables much -- in fact, it seems likely that her favroables will improve.

The McCain campaign did not opt, in the end, for Sarah Barracuda. They wanted
Palin scripted, and in some cases she seemed to have her lines literally memorized. This was the more risk-averse choice, but provided for few genuine moments of spontaneity.

...It also allowed Joe Biden to get a lot of free shots in at John McCain, several of which were quite effective.

...I suspect that the Sarah Palin chapter of the campaign is largely over. She may draw large crowds in her next couple of public appearances; it's also not out of the question that the media will sour on her performance in the forthcoming days, once it's been removed somewhat from her safety net of low expectations. But after that, she may largely fade into the background, and if she is making news, it may not be for reasons the McCain campaign likes.

At the end of the day, this is another missed opportunity for the McCain campaign, a fact which is only betrayed by conservative commentators' hyperbolic attempts to spin to the contrary But McCain may well have been willing to take that settlement ahead of time, figuring they had more to lose tonight than to gain.
M.J. Rosenberg
I always liked Joe Biden but, I'll admit it, I worried about how he would do in the debate with Palin.

It was a difficult situation. It was imperative that he give the Republicans no openings at all to portray him as condescending, arrogant, sexist or a bloviator.

He gave them none.

In a way, Obama's task is easier. McCain is simply not likable. Palin is. And she's a woman. And she's a mom. And she is "one of the people" while Joe has been a senator since he was 30.

It would have been easy for Biden to blow it. He didn't. After two suck-up Vice-Presidential nominees in a row, we, at long last, had a real fighting Democrat. What a change after '00 and '04.

Joe Biden made me proud. Of him and of Barack Obama (not that I wasn't proud already).
I have to give credit to Palin and her advisers of being able to come up with a way to completely dodge questions and avoid discussing topics she has no idea about. Just use "Let's get back to (previous topic)" and just avoid the question altogether. Never did I believe she understood what she was even talking about. Don't understand a topic, insert "John McCain is a maverick that went against his own party," "Obama wants to increase taxes," or wink at the camera to distract the viewers from what is actually being said. Here we have candidate for the second highest position in the country, coming off as folksy and talking to us like we are a child. Can she be any less presidential? We don't need someone who could ad-lib their way through a debate and call it a success. This country deserves better than this.

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