Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Winner Is...

...America, for one night, at least. Tonight's Vice Presidential debate was {gasp} an actual debate, for the most part. Sure, Senator Biden asked for extra response time a couple times, and yes, he of course tried to pin quite a bit to Bush; and sure, Governor Palin (and Biden) avoided the actual question that was being asked a couple of times, particularly in the beginning. But overall, that was actually a well stated debate by both parties, which probably favors Governor Palin more than Senator Biden in terms of results, as she - like Barack Obama in the Presidential debates - was trying to show she's qualified and knowledgeable enough to carry out her duties as Vice President. Senator Biden was trying to present the Obama ticket as a superior one due to their policies, particularly by pinning McCain to Bush. It didn't seem like he gained any new support with what he was saying tonight, but he didn't make any real gaffes that could have eroded any major support.

Palin actually did a decent job not only of presenting herself as qualified, but at pushing the McCain-Palin policies over the Obama-Biden ones as well; not sure if it would sway many, but the social liberal/economic conservatives in the middle might like it. She did a very smooth job at pointing out that most of the people in the $250k+ bracket are not individuals but small businesses; I don't think Biden's arguments about Exxon getting a break resonated because people understand that that's not what Palin was referring to (Exxon is a public corporation, not able to file the way a small business does). Certainly, her arguments should have resonated with small business owners and employees, as would the $5k tax credit, because they usually don't have health insurance through their employers. That the health benefits other companies offer would become a taxable benefit was a good attempt by Biden, but I don't think it would take those voters away from the right; those same voters also gain by their companies having lower corporate taxes under McCain-Palin and are likely to be against the idea of universal health care to begin with.

I was slightly surprised that the Supreme Court didn't come up much, nor abortion. I sincerely hope that nobody tries to claim that Biden's emotional reaction about raising his kids as a single dad was fake, nor on the flip side that Sarah Palin was implying he didn't understand what it was like to "sit around the table" with one's family. She was clearly showing her connection to the middle class, and he was clearly showing he has had his share of hard times as well. I liked what he said about not questioning their motives; I liked what she said about it coming back to the actual policies. Biden's line takes away some of that "attacker" label, while hers was a nice shot at hammering home "our policies are better".

Biden may have actually helped Palin a bit by consistently agreeing with her policies as Governor of Alaska, noting he liked what she did there. He was trying to not come across as condescending but instead confirmed her abilities as an executive. One very interesting thing to watch was the two of them after the debate standing and talking to one another not only civilly but for real - it wasn't those fake political smiles, it was real discussion and actual introductions between family members. Biden came across as a true grandfatherly figure, while Palin started talking to one of Biden's daughters or nieces and was making a little impact just having that conversation, which I found interesting. Biden does seem to come across - and I don't mean this in a bad way - as someone who wants to get down to business with the people that understand what he's talking about, while Palin is trying to take her time and explain to everyone what it is that is going on and why. Biden noticeably focused his answers at Gwen Ifill or Palin, while Palin noticeably looked into the camera even when responding to Biden much of the time. I think each of those worked to their respective strengths - Biden as the person who has this experience, Palin as the person who can connect to the people.

Unfortunately, the media is going to spend the next 24 hours killing this debate and reducing it to soundbytes and comparisons and instant meaningless poll results and attributing it all to whatever they want to. Fortunately, it was probably a well-watched debate, much like the Obama and Palin speeches were, and people can actually form a decent opinion on their own without being told what they should think. All that being said, it was certainly cute how each side managed to get in their soundbytes - Biden about the "Bridge to Nowhere" and the "change" and "more of the same" mantras, and Palin with the "maverick" lines and the Reagan quotes, with the best being the "There you go again, Joe" that even Biden cracked up about. The very best line was where she mocked the jokes each made, getting laughter from Biden and the audience.

All in all, it was a really good debate, particularly the last 30-40 minutes or so. I think the best way to grade debates is not the "who won" but by grading each; whereas McCain and Obama, from the sound of it (I started to watch it on YouTube but didn't end up doing so), probably both graded in the "D" range, Palin probably got more of a B+ and Biden a B for tonight's debate. What's often - but not always! - the best measure of who won is InTrade, which is people putting actual money on these things; Obama's value to go up after the debate dropped a nice amount (60 -> 48) as soon as it ended, as did the likelihood of Palin being pulled as the VP nominee (11 -> 5). Biden's chances of being pulled as nominee rose a teeny tiny bit (5 -> 6). That sounds like Palin reassured people she was qualified to be the Vice President, which takes her from a possible lag on the ticket back to being the one who can connect to middle-class voters.

What are the chances the Presidential debate next week will be this good? Here's to hoping...


  1. I don't think that this debate did much to convince anyone of anything they didn't already believe.

    Palin floundered. She consistently ignored questions and tried to return to her comfort zone.

    If I was Biden I would have hammered her on her inconsistencies and lack of experience.

    She made a very poor cheerleader for McCain.

  2. Jack - I think people are so blinded in their opnions if Palin woke up tomorrow and cured cancer people would spin it somehow that she had been holding out on the cure.

    I consider myself objective because I don't like Obama or McCain. I didn't come into this election with a horse in the race.

    I think Palin did a fantastic job, she was tough, sounded intelligent, played the game and did what she had to do. She made Joe eat his words about Obama on several occasions and correctly pointed out how much people like Joe Biden believed in mcCain before Obama was marketed to the American public as some kind of wunderkind.

    There are times when it's obvious someone does good or bad. The question is if we are acting too blinded to realize. I admit that Palin didn't do great with Gibson and did outright terrible with Katie Couric.

    But last night she was fantastic.

  3. As debates go, this one wasn't bad. The candidates were civil to each other and the questions and most of the answers focused on actual issues. Palin performed a lot better than I expected her to, but she still came off as vague and glib and had to resort to checking her notes constantly. I think that Biden was much too easy on her and it annoyed me how he kept laughing at her jokes. I'll bet that Obama is not too pleased that Biden wasn't more forceful.

  4. My reaction here.

    I think you missed the point Biden was making when he kept complimenting her job in Alaska. In Alaska, her job was to heavily tax the oil companies and distribute that wealth to Alaskans. That is the opposite of what she'd be doing with John McCain.

  5. Jack - I think you're clearly viewing this with a liberal slant, though I agree that it didn't change many minds.

    Chaim - She did a nice job of correcting Biden and noting what he'd said about Obama in big spots. That was well played. Gibson she was okay with, particularly in the unchopped version; Couric seems to have been horrible.

    SR - I think he actually thought she was funny - the Reagan line was really well done, and the other lines were pretty good, too. He also needed to not come off as condescending, because of his reputation.

    JA - That was not her job. She actually never passed a windfall tax, but didn't get the chance to respond to that Biden line.

  6. Jack - I think you're clearly viewing this with a liberal slant, though


    I haven't any problem admitting that I disliked her before the debate.

    My problem with her is that she is clearly unqualified. She was completely out of her depth and unable to answer the questions.

    Her folksy approach came across as being disingenuous and her record as gov. is truly dismal.

    She is not the reformer she claims to be. She is nothing to crow about.

    I want a V.P. who can answer questions. I want a V.P. who doesn't couch their ignorance with cutesy remarks.

    So if you're saying that a liberal slant means that I want substance in my V.P you'd be right.

  7. Seriously, is she going to have a single press conference before the election? This is totally unprecedented.

  8. JA -

    You know whats truly unprecedented? The level of bias the media has shown and the viciousness they have gone after Palin with.

    Think one has to do with the other?

  9. These are not debates in any true sense. I'd like to see a classic format with no moderator except to announce the rules and restore order.

    In any case, all fans of one political team or the other will continue to back their team and will find ways to view the proceedings in that spirit. Unless we ourselves came in undecided, we have little ability to know how undecideds reacted.

    We can trust the media to spin or distort reaction-related coverage to favor their anointed candidate.


    Way back when the current debate format was rolled out (Nixon-Kennedy, 1960) it was rightly characterized by some as a joint press conference. Nixon lost points in the first TV debate for wearing bad TV makeup, which supposedly gave the healthier looking Kennedy a boost. All his time in office, Kennedy was actually surviving on multiple pills, etc.! Anyway, in the end, what pushed Kennedy over the top was massive vote fraud in Illinois and Texas that Nixon was too much of a patriot to challenge in court. The fraud factor is still with us today, aggravated by poor law enforcement, possibly intentional, in some key areas. Enforcement is looked on by some partisans as akin to disenfranchisement.

  10. I'm glad other people see the media bias. How many times has Obama gaffed in interviews and misspoken about major events and topics (MANY TIMES!) and yet the mainstream media never says a word. It was also shown that Biden flat out lied in over seven answers he gave...not just judgment calls but lies. Hmmm, never heard this from the media today. Polls show that the media is self proclaimed 85% liberal and I am starting to believe that. Palin obviously won the debate. I was a speech major in college and I have a masters degree in interpersonal communication. I have also won numerous awards in extemperaneous speaking and debate....Palin won on style and content. Content is rated higher for Palin after the debate when answeres can be verified as truth or lies. Palin's answers were more truthful while several of Biden's answers were false. I enjoyed the debate and give props to both the VP candidates!

  11. Let's see now,

    Today a "gaffe" has to do with mispronouncing or not knowing someone's name, or not knowing some arcane insider trivia in Washington.

    Time to focus not on gaffes but on real dangers:

    1. Putting a lifelong radical leftist with racist, criminal, and domestic terrorist connections into the White House.

    2. Leaving in Congress the senior Democrats who fought for and ran interference for all the mortgage funny business at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They stopped all oversight dead in its tracks for years.

    3. Electing a President with a foreign policy that puts America and its true allies such as Israel last.

    Wake up from the nitpicking and look at the big picture.

  12. Wake up from the nitpicking and look at the big picture.

    It is not nitpicking to say that Palin is unqualified, vindictive, provincial and frighteningly ignorant about critical issues.

  13. I cringed so much during this debate that I had to throw it to audio only on my computer and do other things for a while. I am embarrassed that Palin is our female VP candidate. She is unprepared, shows no signs of intelligent life, and came off as a buffoon. I support McCain, but am very unhappy about it. I know we are likely to lose and I am disappointed in my party. I don't know what debate all the commentators in the press and Ezzie were watching, but I don't think "she held her own" or "she did a good job" or she "put up a good fight" or whatever else they are saying. I think she was a mistake and I am annoyed about our upcoming loss to a candidate and party that doesn't speak for me.

  14. Jack said, "If I was Biden I would have hammered her on her inconsistencies and lack of experience."

    Biden, however, actually was Biden, the smooth inventor of multiple, demonstrable lies.