Vice Presidential debate analysis and wrap-up

Now that I’ve had several hours to let the chips fall and think about things more clearly, I believe there was a decisive victor in the debate last night. That person was Gwen Ifill who, despite he Obama-friendly book coming out in January, was very professional and I thought evenhanded in the questioning. She followed-up with both candidates and told both of them when they weren’t answering questions.

Of course, Ifill isn’t running for office so let’s get to the what matters.

Anyone hoping to tune in and see some kind of melee where Biden mopped the floor with Palin was sorely disappointed. She held her own with the 35-year veteran of the senate. Her performance wasn’t amazing, but it was good, which is what it needed to be. Biden, on the other hand, performed as expected as there really wasn’t a bar set for him, he also performed very well.

Palin needed to sound presidential, needed to answer the question as it was presented. She did that for the most and had Biden on the defense a good portion of the debate. Biden is very skilled though, he played things off well and took it back to Palin.

I believe many in the media were thinking this debate was going to send polls further to Obama’s direction and I don’t think that happened. I would say this election is probably where it was on Wednesday but perhaps with a more confidently energized Republican base after Palin’s performance.

Neither candidate had a major mistake or gaffe, both garbled things a little from time to time as expected. It comes down to substance and effectiveness. Truth be told, Biden had more factual tidbits and facts in his answers. They sounded like the answers delivered on the Senate floor, perhaps. Palin had effectiveness in communicating with people on a more familiar level they can relate to. The question is, which does the American people want more? I’m not going to answer it but I believe that is what it comes down to.

Now, onto the media pundits who all had some mixed statements and reviews:

First, CNN’s analysis:


Here’s a very fair, honest assessment from the Today Show on NBC

I think NBC hit the nail on the head there. They both performed well but Palin’s performance managed to excite and engage Republicans.

Karl Rove on Fox News:

Olbermann, Maddow, and Buchanan on MSNBC:

Report from CBS News with analysis:

Report from Yahoo News:

ST. LOUIS – John McCain’s campaign aches needed a tonic.

On a day when he abandoned the fight with rival Barack Obama in one battleground state and national polls showed him trailing overall, running mate Sarah Palin put on a debate performance that soothed the pain.

Going up against Democratic running mate Joe Biden, the Alaska governor offered reassurance to Republicans and conservatives unnerved by her lack of national experience and her faltering conduct in two recent TV network interviews.

She winked and smiled and shrugged through a litany of grievances against Obama on taxes, the war in Iraq and energy. She jotted down notes, glancing at them from behind her lectern as she checked off the points of her replies. And she made a case to the middle class, offering a populist answer to the cause of the current housing crisis.

“Darn right it was the predator lenders, who tried to talk Americans into thinking that it was smart to buy a $300,000 house if we could only afford a $100,000 house,” she said.

But even as Palin reversed some of the harm she had caused herself, Biden was meeting his own tasks as well. Time and again, the veteran Delaware senator tied McCain to unpopular President Bush and managed to connect with the audience on a personal level as much as he did on policy points.

Disciplined, he defended Obama from attacks, but refused to engage Palin in a tit-for-tat exchange.

They both did what they had to do. Biden was very disciplined, he did not run on in his answers or make any gaffe as he’s prone to do. Palin came across as eager to answer and eager to engage, unlike the Couric interview days before.

Both candidates were effective for their respective campaigns.

  • JD

    I agree. The election is where it was before the debate but with Palin pulling off some regrouping of the conservative base.

  • Ushi

    Palin is new to the national scene of politics. As governor, she shook things up. Many Ps and VPs became so from governor. She has not spent decades in the senate and is fresh to the scene. She is an outsider! She is learning fast and doing well. Why does US and KC think Sarah is going to play being quizzed? She is not on a quiz or doing an exam. I can name a few papers in US and tv channels. I live in UK. How ridiculous to say Sarah cannot name a paper; she does not want to endorse any. Solicitors offices get most of the main press and I envisage her office does too. She reads all of them. KC’s repeat questions are frankly silly. Sarah seems to need to do political history for the past 20 years and pass an exam. Obama might be good at sitting exams but that does not make him good for presidency. Do we want university professors in? Sarah has a proven track record for reform and was chosen for that, her freshness, beliefs, character and who she is. A large minority will be voting for her hoping to end ROE V W. Thes issues will be decided at state level. We are not liars and we see Sarah up to VP. Obama is hot air, he plays his ethnic card and has a very worrying history. He does not eat pork spare ribs or ham sandwiches, whilst claiming Christianity. Biden or Hilary would do better. Some of the economic mess is caused by dems in the senate, so why is it all blamed on Bush? I was against the costly war in Iraq but think we should stay in now. Where was the anti war press before the invasion?

  • I actually think Ifill failed. The moderator’s job is to ask get the candidates to answer the questions directly and clarify their answers by asking follow up questions. She did not. The result is that the debate was little more than a modified stump speech for both candidates (more so in Palin’s case).

    Perhaps all the pre-debate attention to her book did affect Ifill and she erred on the side of mildness. That’s too bad. I think very few minds were changed by the debate.

  • Babs

    Actually, Ifill asked a question specifically (she said) because neither Obama or McCain answered it in their debate. Did you feel that debate was just modified stump speeches, also?

  • Pete_M

    Both candidates met my expectations. Biden explained his ideas (mostly) well and was in command of the facts. Palin frequently weaselled off the hard issues and into the land of rote-learned, crib-noted ‘truthiness’. Her cynical suggestion that teachers’ reward would be in heaven actually had me throw up a little bit. So did her tortuous reinterpretation of the Vice President’s Constitutional role as someone who makes Congress nod through whatever the President wants. This person is worse than Cheney with lipstick.

  • Frankly I don’t see a huge difference between Obama and Palin. Both of them are young, energetic, charismatic and good looking and able to deliver messages. It is also true, both of them lack experiences (2 yr US Senate for BHO and 2 yr Governor SP) to be president or vice-president.

  • Stalin

    Obviously I was very happy with Palin. She has proven to be a very quick study and has proven wrong all the liberal pundits and journalists who wanted her to fall on her face. She will only get stronger from here. Biden was par for the course. He did make quite a few more factual mistakes than Palin did. Like Rove said, this will not put McCain ahead in the immediate future but, this debate had help bend the curve in a more positive direction.

  • the_don

    I am a registered republican but i just can’t wrap my head around mcain/palin. Watching that debate last night and hearing Sarah Palin talk was painful. All of the “you betcha’s and golly gees” really didn’t help her in portraying herself as a vp. I felt like I was watching a high school vp debate. She sounds so fake in the way she tries to “be middle class” and saying phrases like joe six pack (who says this stuff). I feel she is trying to hard to be something that she is not, a vp.

  • Babs

    Alaskans say that stuff, the_don. Just like you have your regional idioms and quips.

    Stalin, Palin gave a really good interview today with Cameron over on Fox. She let it be known that she was just “annoyed” that Katie Couric would ask her questions like what does she read, as if they don’t get the same papers and magazines in Alaska like everyone else does. I think the interview was shown in 3 or 4 parts. It’s probably posted on their website. Catch it. She’s saying the things McCain won’t.

  • Helen Smith

    Here in Australia we are all too conscious of the impact that American decisions have on the world – political, financial and so on. People here are terrified at the thought of Palin suddenly being put in the hot seat of Presidential leadership. The very fact that she has virtually no experience of the world having barely left the US is incomprehensible for someone seeking to lead a nation that for better or for worse leads the Western world. American voters are urged to look beyond whatever is deemed as ‘cute’ about Palin to the potential disaster of her insular and uninformed mindset.

  • Shane

    I understand political differences and motivations for voting, however the McCain-Palin ticket seems like a frightening joke. I respected McCain for a long time up until he changed his tune on most important policies in the last 4 years to wrap up the nomination. I won’t argue qualifications, because it seems any one can become president, however, I do hope for substance, economic answers, an end to a war that spends billions a month, I do not need someone to even be likeable or certainly not folksy…that’s nauseating to watch. I read the issues and articles and watch videos gleening information avidly, and what I see is like after lie coming out of the Republican party rhetoric factory. Atleast it is not criminal like the many indicted and investigated personalities of the last administration…oh yeah except for that investigation about a certain Alaskan governor firing an ex brother in law…

  • JC

    Does anyone think Palin is ready to step in should something happen to McCain? Whatever she may be, she is not presidential.

  • Jaden

    As an Independent I pretty much have made up my mind after last nights debate. Can Palin answer a single question? It seemed to me that she rehearsed on a few topics and tried to answer every question with the topics she rehearsed. I’m not Joe six back and resent her continued reference to such. I am a hard worker who is underpaid and trying to keep a roolf over my head. I work hard and save when I can however with todays economy I’m falling short at the end of the month. I don’t think McCain or Palin really understand. I just received a $400 oil bill in the mail. I take my chances with Obama/Biden as I don’t want Palin speaking for me. My cousin lives in Anchorage and tells be that she is not that popular in amongst the Native Americans (Eskimos) due to some of her policies. Come on is this the best the Republican party can do?

  • Jim819

    Palin`s achiements result in a very impressive list!

    Now, here`s BO`s achievements before spending the vast majority of his time in office running for Pres. BO has had ONLY 2 bills passed into law! They are 1. to name a post office and 2. to promote democracy in the African Congo.

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/129976/page/2

    PATHETIC!!! Just like running for Pres. IS PATHETIC after Only 143 days as a US Sen! I have left-overs older than that! And BO followers can`t see that they were lured right into McCain`s trap. That is – he knew BO`s followers would attack Palin on her experience, which is exactly what he wants because it puts even more attention on BO`s vast inexperience at the top of the D ticket! That`s why the BO campaign immediately stopped attacking Palin on her experience, unlike his followers!

    Btw, every neg. comment made here about Palin could be said about BO too. The difference is that BO is at the top of the D ticket and, as such, IS THE HEARTBEAT, while not ready to even be VP yet, as astutely pointed out above too!

  • Billy P

    Hmmm. given that Palin’s selection as VP from McCain was clearly a political choice only to advance McCain’s appeal without regard to any of her policy positions (if she actualyl has any), this debate became a contest to see if she could endure being in the public eye and not crack under the pressure. Most political analysts agreed correctly that Biden could not directly attack Palin with impunity as it would appear he is “beating up on a woman”.

    What’s troubling is that the only issues Palin is clear on are her belief to continue the War in Iraq indefinately and and her evangelical based positions on gay marriage and abortion.

    Since Palin is not highly educated and chooses to use casual language to convey a foley middle class persona, she is either unwilling or unable to articulate her policy beliefs.

    Many liberals and progressives fear that given McCain’s age and medical history he may not survive his first term, and certainly not a second. This would leave Palin the president of the United States.

    This is a practical problem and not a political spin to be concerned that the VP be qualified to lead the country in the event of the presidents death. Palin therefore is held to an even higher standard and clearly her lack of knowledge on wolrd affairs would spell disaster as it has for Bush.

    Voting for people who are “like us” or remind us of someone in our class is about the worst reason to vote for anyone. George Bush used to put on this fake texas drawl to obfuscate the fact that he is a blue blood from Connecticut who has been given all the advantages of an American prince. Think about it.

    Education counts in the highest offices just as much as it counts when performing surgery, doing scientific research, or studying economic principles that help a country to maintain stability and compete in the world marketplaces.

    Many movies have been made where a common place protaginst “shakes up the system” with earth and sincere language that evokes a folksey morality. These movies are made to appeal to our fantasy beliefs that a Forrest Gump like persepctive will rid the world of it’s evils. Pa-lease.

    If being a shrill hockey mom with a disaster of a family is supposed to be representative of a country as complicated and diverse as the US than the republicans are even more out of touch than suspected.

  • Jinaque

    This was a POLITICAL debate, for heck’s sake. Not a popularity contest. Palin did not answer a single question in context, she kept babbling on giving her typical non-answers. Biden gave to-the-point answwers to every question, laid down the strategies and made his points backed up with facts.
    After that debate, can people still think that Palin has some content to offer in herself (read:brain) other than a winning smile and loads of pre-recorded and pre-memorized jargon??
    (which is the reason WHY she could not answer any question asked by the mediator, but had to pick up her own question from the pre-briefed “cheat-sheet” in front of her and answer it herself….)
    IF ANYONE thinks that Palin has enough skills and standards to discuss serious politics after watching her performances (including the debate and all previous TV appearences), then those ones have seriously low-standars.

    Jinaque