by Frank Schnittger
Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 01:09:36 AM EST
Joe Biden won the Vice Presidential debate just finished but Sarah Palin did much to repair the damage created by her recent TV appearances. According to a survey of viewers carried out by CNN, Joe Biden won the debate by a margin of 51% to 36%. 64% of viewers had a better impression of him after the debate, but 84% felt Sarah Palin had exceeded their expectations. A CBS survey scored the debate 46 to 21% in Biden's favour.
The consensus of the CNN pundits appeared to be that whilst Sarah Palin did much to rehabilitate her reputation and help rebuild morale amongst the Republican base, she did little or nothing to sway independent or undecided voters and reverse the momentum of the campaign as a whole which has been moving towards Obama since the economy re-emerged as the dominant issue.
Palin tried to paint Biden as the Washington insider out of touch with main street reality whilst she and McCain were the outsider Mavericks - despite McCain's long service in the senate. Biden stressed McCain's record of voting with Bush and almost indistinguishable positions on tax cuts, deregulation, health care and Iraq. Palin chided him for playing blame games with the past rather than building hope for the future. It was as if all criticism of Republican rule over the past 8 years was supposed to be off-limits. Certainly Palin/McCain were going to take no responsibility for it.
Both sought to connect emotionally with their audience, but it was Biden who almost choked up when speaking of raising a family as a single father and worrying about a son who was perhaps not going to make it (through an illness or injury?). Although a bit wordy at times he generally managed to conclude with some kind of punchline whereas Palin sometimes lost her way a bit and turned many questions back to her energy policy. The fact that she was working from a script also meant that she wasn't able to challenge or respond effectively when Biden challenged McCain on his record. His charge that McCain had refused to talk to the Prime Minister of Spain - a NATO ally with troops in Afgahistan - went unanswered. (Who cares about Spain anyway?)
The focus groups polled afterwards seemed to indicate that those undecideds who had made up their mind tended to swing towards Biden/Obama. Palin did much to retrieve her own reputation, but little to provide the game changer needed save McCain's campaign. Biden managed to avoid gaffes and too much Washington insider speak and was also careful not to talk down to Palin in any way. The atmosphere was a good deal warmer and friendlier than it had been for the McCain Obama debate, and both managed to observe the first rule of Vice Presidential debating: Do no harm.
Palin did appear to agree with Biden on same sex couples - something which may cause her some difficulty with her Christian fundamentalist base. Expect a post debate campaign "clarification" on this point. That is one group she can't afford to piss off.
It is unlikely that this debate will have much impact on the campaign one way or another, except perhaps to provide some temporary relief in the daily news cycles from the gathering economic storm. It is perhaps best that the distractions of Lipstick on pigs and bridges to nowhere are left behind. This debate could have been an embarrassment for either campaign. That it has proved a qualified success for both has just removed one further obstacle from the path of a probable Obama victory.