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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin/Biden Debate Reactions

I am too emotionally drained to write much of anything myself right now. The long and the short of it is this. Palin didn't implode. She avoided nearly every question the moderator put to her. She read off notecards repeatedly. She repeated platitudes and forced her way into folksiness too many times. She explicitly argued for the expansion of the powers of the Vice Presidency. Seriously. The moderator was terrible and had no fortitude to keep Palin to the issues. I think Joe Biden gave a solid performance and caught himself before he could embellish or exaggerate. Ultimately, she didn't fail as tremendously as most expected (I didn't think she would). In the final analysis, I think she did fine by her base but my educated guess is that she did poorly with average run-off-the-mill undecideds.

Here is a debate reaction roundup from Andrew Sullivan:


Ifill, moderator: Terrible. Yes, she was constrained by the agreed debate rules. But she gave not the slightest sign of chafing against them or looking for ways to follow up the many unanswered questions or self-contradictory answers. This was the big news of the evening. Katie Couric, and for that matter Jim Lehrer, have never looked so good.

Alex Massie:

Palin is reading off cue-cards that, one assumes, have complete answers written out. Not, of course, the answers to the questions she is being asked but, indubitably, answers nonetheless.

James Poulos:

Palin wins on domestic; Biden wins on foreign policy. But Palin’s relative strength here can’t do much, I don’t think, to help McCain’s basic disadvantage on the main domestic issue — the economy.

Ramesh Ponnuru:

Any conservative who was white-knuckled going into this is relaxing by now. There were some points where she was a bit more platitudinous than one would ideally want, but overall--she's cleaning up. Biden is sighing more as the night goes on, and I can see why.


Palin: people aren’t looking for more of the same. Does she know which side she’s on? Biden: McCain’s not a real maverick! As they start to wrap up, I will admit that Palin has avoided disaster. Biden has put in a pretty successful performance. My guess is that Biden will come off as the clear winner in the eyes of viewers, but it will not be as lopsided as her critics expected.

Ezra Klein:

Seems that Palin kept talking about General McLellan when she meant General McKiernan. That's the sort of thing that might stick. Meanwhile, Palin says she loved being able to get up here and answer these tough questions without the "filter of the mainstream media." Weird that she used her closing statement so defensively. But whatever: Good for her. She should give up on politics and get a talkshow. Otherwise, she should learn how to answer the press's questions.


I think a visitor from Mars watching this debate would have been struck by the fact that Sarah Palin could barely get a paragraph out without mangling what she was trying to say. Conversely, a veteran of the Katie Couric Interviews would be struck by the fact that Palin’s errors weren’t so egregious that you were left totally baffled as to what she was trying to say. But I don’t actually think this stuff is all about expectations. If Palin had some kind of substantial record on or background in national issues, I don’t think anyone would find this performance especially terrifying. But if you already had some serious doubts about her, I think she scarcely put those doubts away.

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.


I can't tell you who won. I thought, though, as the debate wore on Biden really put on the pressure. They seemed even early, I guess with an edge to Palin. But you can't keep repeating the same talking points.


After running ahead for most of the debate, the Sarah Palin has now fallen narrowly behind on most of the analyst scoring. Suspect last impressions are most important. I sure can't remember what we were talking about an hour ago.

Erick Erickson:

Sarah Palin just field dressed Joe Biden like a moose. She was awesome. She connected with the people. She had fun. She was relaxed. She was awesome.


Averaging expectations, style and points, it was a wash. Partisans have reason to be satisfied; I honestly have no idea how undecided voters will react (although CBS's panel of them gave Biden an edge.) ...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.


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