This is a much more difficult debate to score than the first presidential one. The reason is simple: there really weren’t many punches landed in the presidential, but there were tons on both sides in this one.
But I have to say, whomever ends best often wins, in the opinion race. I got very worried for a minute because towards the end, Sarah Palin really started scoring some serious points. But Joe’s response about his child stole the thunder of Palin, not that he was using it, but it did. And his ending was supreme in its reach into Middle America. I think it was probably very effective.
Very few people expected Sarah Palin to be specific about anything, and she didn’t disappoint. But worse, she couldn’t answer questions and decided to just say whatever she wanted to whenever she wanted to. I don’t think it came off well. That’s especially true for the answer to the question of “what is your biggest flaw.” No one expects an honest self-critique, but you have to couch it in some sort of humility, like Joe did. It was out of control.
We’ll have to see what the big replays are to know who won. But as I watch Tweety on MSNBC, it seems like the pundit class is not pleased at all with her performance.
I should probably mention the expectations game. On this level, I’d say Sarah Palin mostly won. She didn’t come off as a drooling idiot, which is definitely an improvement. But was it enough? I’m not sure. If you’re looking for competence, you have to say that she didn’t even bother most of the time to even play by the rules of the debate because she couldn’t answer the questions.
But she definitely got some serious shots in towards the end and she definitely proved herself quite a skilled debate competitor. No one can take that away from her.
The trouble for the campaign is that the recent downturn in the polls had nothing much to do with Palin, even though her numbers have dropped along side the ticket. The problem has been the economy and John McCain’s erratic, irrational responses. On this level, Biden did tremendously. Much better than I’ve ever seen him, in fact. His ability to speak to the problems of Middle America in a real way – as opposed to Palin’s patronizing and placating way – was a force to be reckoned with.
If the American people are looking for answers – and I’m pretty sure they are – then the Biden responses, which dripped with fact and figure, must have come off well. If they’re looking for style over substance, Palin wins.
Again, we shall see.