Last night the vice presidential candidates met in their one and only debate of the election season. It was Sarah Palin’s chance to prove that she belonged not only on the Republican ticket, but in the national arena, while Joe Biden had to overcome his notorious propensity to commit one of his trademark embarrassing gaffes.
The transcript of the debate can be read here, and you can go back and read the liveblogging that we did here. The liveblogging was probably some of the best we’ve done to date; some familiar faces and a few new ones as well came to join in on the fun.
For the most part, I’m going to stand by the post debate analysis I provided last night:
Palin did, for the most part, enough to at least give her spin team the chance to say “See? She’s competent.” But I don’t think that anyone can say she won on points. Nor did she always avoid the kind of embarrassing word jumbles she is prone to. On at least three separate instances (the first coming on the global warming issue), Palin delved into answers that were at times just outright bizarre. She also delivered at last a couple of outright lies straight up with Josh Marshall hitting one midstream. General McKiernan did agree that Surge principles will not work in Afghanistan, and his name is not McClellan.
Palin didn’t drool, and therefore I think she avoided causing a great implosion of the ticket, but I think she was still weak on substance, and she sounded like a talking point emitting robot more often than not. She tried numerous times to drive a wedge between Biden and Obama, but Biden was skillful in either dodging or correcting them. Also, it was clear that Palin was doing everything she could to win over Joe Sixpack, going so far as to even saying the phrase, “Joe Sixpack” once during the debate.
I’m not sure if Joe Sixpack would actually like that so much considering that that’s typically an inside baseball reference to low information voters, and not a very flattering one to boot.
I personally feel that Palin was simply trying too hard to connect with “Main Street,” but I could also be wrong.
For Biden’s part, I think he did exactly what he needed to do. His role in this campaign was not on trial, and the first and foremost goal for him was, as the hippocratic oath states, “First do no harm.”
He needed to avoid major gaffes, and he did. He needed to not be seen as a bully, and he accomplished that as well. He took the fight to McCain, and he refused to let Palin own the connection to regular Americans all by herself.
It was on that last point that I think Biden really soared. Towards the end, he made mention of his family, and how he knows what it’s like wondering if one of your kids was going to make it. He got choked up there, and that felt like the most honest part of the debate. That one moment could possibly turn out to be more endearing than any of Palin’s rehearsed mentions of being a hockey mom.
Palin seemed visibly shaken up after that moment as well.
From my view, I think Biden looked ready to take over from day one, and Palin looked like she was doing her best impression of someone who was ready to take over from day one. The big question is if the American people bought that impression or not.
To add to this, it’s important to note that in both a CBS snap poll, and the CNN snap poll taken directly after the debate, by considerable margins people clearly saw Senator Joe Biden as the winner of the debate. Palin did improve her numbers some, signifying that at least for the moment she has managed to staunch the blood flow, but I simply don’t think that she performed well enough to change the direction of the election.
In the end, this means a real victory for Joe Biden who didn’t lose for his team the incredible momentum they were capable of building up until this moment, and ultimately a loss for the McCain/Palin ticket. This may seem counter intuitive compared to the analysis I’m sure a lot of pundits are providing at this point, but we have to factor one thing into this.
The election is now only thirty-two days away and Obama is out in front with a comfortable lead and trend analysis indicating that his lead is still growing. With that taken into account, every day that passes in which the McCain/Palin ticket does not turn figure out how to reverse the momentum should be considered a ultimately as a lost opportunity.