DEBATE LIVEBLOGGING — VP EDITION….It’s Biden vs. Palin. The Kid From Scranton vs. the Hockey Mom From Wasilla. Are you ready?
Wrapup – I’ll be honest: I genuinely didn’t understand about 50% of what Sarah Palin said. She pretty overtly didn’t even pretend to address a lot of Ifill’s questions — probably because she couldn’t — and a lot of her filibustering ended up sounding like random strings of phrases from the Hockey-Mom-o-Bot 3000. This was especially true as time wore on. If nothing else, this makes it almost impossible to judge the substance of what she believes, and despite the fact that she “connects” with ordinary people, I have a feeling that an awful lot of ordinary people weren’t impressed with this.
On grounds of style and affect, Biden seemed fine to me. He had good energy, made his points pretty sharply, and didn’t make any mistakes. He was also very good on substance. Palin, conversely, seemed wound up like someone on her tenth cup of coffee, and I just don’t know if that seems very presidential (or vice presidential). I think she would have been better off with a lower key style. On the other hand, she had no big gaffes, and we all know that’s what we were really waiting for.
As usual, I don’t really have a strong idea of how other people will react to tonight’s performance, but I think Biden won pretty convincingly. He didn’t overdo things, but he did demonstrate a good command of the issues as well as a good command of working class folksiness. He defended himself well without seeming overbearing. For her part, Palin probably seemed friendly enough, but her obvious lack of command of the issues combined with her obvious reliance on stale talking points can’t have been very impressive.
UPDATE: CNN snap poll says Biden won 51%-36%. CBS poll of uncommitted voters says Biden won 46%-21%.
UPDATE 2: Dodgers win 10-3. Hooray!
UPDATE 3: Nielsen says 45% of all households watched the debate compared to 31% for the first Obama-McCain debate.
10:26 – Palin says she’s never had to change her view on anything. Good to know.
10:25 – Interesting to see Biden take on the “maverick” thing directly. I think Palin has called McCain a maverick about a hundred times so far.
10:21 – In fairness, Biden isn’t answering the question either, though at least he knew what it was. But he’s not babbling.
10:19 – Now Palin is just babbling. I don’t think she even understood what the question was. (It was something about what her real Achilles heel is.) (Via email: “She is being very meta by actually demonstrating her Achilles heel rather than just telling us.”)
10:16 – Palin: “Our founding fathers were wise in allowing so much flexibility in the position of the vice president.” What the hell?
10:13 – Email from a friend: “Palin is just hyper. It’s weird. She’s making more sense than not, which I’m sure NRO is high-fiving about. But she is so keyed up, it’s frightening. Monotone, snarky, relentless verbiage for her alotted time. Wonder if the perma-smile will wear. No dynamic in her tone. She’s cramming.”
10:12 – Palin: “There you go again, Joe.” Oh please. Palin is desperate to insist that McCain just has nothing at all in common with Bush.
10:08 – Ifill asks how a Biden administration would differ from an Obama administration. Biden uses this as an opportunity to deliver a basic stump speech. The CNN focus group loves it.
10:02 – Palin is grinning like the cat who caught the canary while Biden talks about Iraq. Why? Because she’s just waiting for the chance to say that Biden supported the war before he was against it. Childish stuff.
10:00 – McClellan? Who’s that? Is Palin talking about General McKiernan? Did I hear her wrong?
9:55 – Palin: “There have been huge blunders with this administration.” Glad we can all agree on that. Hopefully we’ll get some specifics on that after the debate.
9:52 – I guess the format of the debate is set in stone, but Ifill really isn’t pressing either Biden or Palin to actually address her questions. I guess there’s a limit to what she can do.
9:48 – Not a strong response from Palin. She’s just regurgitating old soundbites about meeting with the Castro brothers et. al. without preconditions.
9:46 – Biden’s doing a pretty good job on Afghanistan and Pakistan being the central front in the war on terror.
9:43 – Audience reaction to Biden’s “We will end this war” is off the charts. Reaction to Palin’s “That’s a white flag of surrender” is deep into negative territory. Interesting.
9:41 – Biden isn’t always the easiest guy to understand, but Palin’s statement on Iraq was just an astonishing string of soundbites and miscellaneous, unconnected phrases. I have almost no idea what she was talking about. (Except that we have to “win in Iraq.”)
9:34 – Hmmm. “Drill baby drill” decidedly didn’t go over well with the women in CNN’s focus group.
9:31 – Wow. Palin’s statement on climate change was spectacularly incoherent, even by her standards. And she still doesn’t think it matters whether human activity is to blame. But she thinks we need to cut back emissions anyway. Even though we don’t know if that’s the cause. Sheesh.
9:29 – Biden could have done a better job defending his support for the bankruptcy bill. Or, better yet, he should have said even less and just jumped straight to his statement that we should allow bankruptcy courts to reset mortgages.
9:27 – Palin is really rambling. Biden is doing a little better, but he could stand to be even more pointed, just as a counterpoint.
9:25 – Biden wants a windfall profits tax on oil companies just like they have in Alaska! Possibly a decent attack.
9:23 – Palin: The nice thing about McCain is that he doesn’t say one thing to one group and another thing to another group. Huh? What was that all about?
9:15 – Well, that’s original. Palin just said outright she’s not going to bother answering the questions if she doesn’t feel like it.
9:13 – Biden: “The middle class needs tax relief.” Palin: “Darn right we need tax relief.”
9:10 – Palin: “We need strict oversight of those entities in charge of loaning us our dollars” — or something like that. “Never again will we be taken advantage of.” Okey dokey. But it went over great with the CNN focus group!
9:08 – Palin is making lots of eye contact with Biden. No condescension for her!
9:06 – On the financial crisis, Biden starts off very much in Obama style, with a laundry list of policy distinctions (oversight, CEO pay, equity shares, etc.). Palin goes straight for a soccer mom story.
9:04 – According to the audience-o-meter, women really, really want to punish Wall Street CEOs.
9:02 – “Can I call you Joe?” I guess I wasn’t expecting that.
8:59 – So what do I expect tonight? Honestly, I have no idea. Basically, I figure that Biden will do OK because he’s not an idiot and Palin will do OK because this is a format that allows her to get away with easy soundbites and folksy homilies. Still, it does have sort of a NASCAR quality to it, doesn’t it? You just never know if suddenly someone is going to crash and burn.