Like many of you I spent some time last night watching the debate between Joe Biden and
Gwen Ifill Sarah Palin. Also like many of you, I have been seeing a variety of punditry on it this morning, most of which remarks on how Palin managed to exceed expectations while Biden still did a good job. These achievements were, respectively, nothing special and very impressive. In the case on Palin, given her performance in other settings, I think that “exceeding expectations” really just meant that she didn’t fall down. I mean, really, watch the following clip and tell me she doesn’t remind you of that kid who really likes eating paste… you know, in high school:
Joe Biden, on the other hand, had the difficult task of trying to smack some sense into the Republicans while not giving the impression that he was smacking Sarah Palin around. Because, you know, she’s a girl and girls can’t take it. Riiiiiight. Sure they can’t. Still, Biden managed this goal with supreme aplomb- tearing into John McCain with dignity and respect.
So am I here to just repeat what the pundits are saying? Nah, not really, but I did want to ask y’all for your opinions on the debate. Particularly, I’m wondering a couple of things.
First, initially in the debate Palin seemed to be going for folksy charm and meaningless platitudes. Biden, on the other hand, came out of the gate aggressively arguing about policy. For a while there Palin stuck to strategy, then looked cross, and then started making fairly direct and- I thought- insulting remarks about Biden and Obama. In other words, I think there was a distinct change-up in her strategy from folksy reassurance to an effort to bait Biden into making a mistake. It didn’t work but, to me, it came across as: “Crap, this isn’t working, time to go with the other strategy they taught me.”
Second, we really got to see two Sarah Palin’s last night. One Palin was calm, collected, and had direct talking points with distinct taglines. The other Sarah Palin was a confusing, nonsensical wreck. Oddly, the latter seemed to be present at the beginning and end of her comments when she was struggling to dance around the real question and the former Palin came out once she had wrenched the subject around to something else. So, basically, it felt like the campaign staffers just gave her a series of set-piece talking points and told her to get onto them as fast as possible no matter what happened.
In short, I think Biden did extremely well and Palin only held her own by comparison to what many of us knew might happen instead.
What do you think?