Saturday, October 04, 2008

biden v. palin

Thursday night's vice-presidential debate was hands down the most-watched VP debate ever and the second most-watched political debate in U.S. history, according to the Style section of today's Washington Post. That means more people tuned in to see Joe Biden and Sarah Palin debate the issues than than the number that have tuned in to almost every presidential debate in history. And these guys don't even get to run the show.

Along with a projected seventy-three million Americans, we tuned in to see Biden v. Palin. Many thought that Palin, the governor of Alaska and Republican John McCain's running mate, would fall flat on her face (figuratively, at least). Her expectations were low following a series of Katie Couric interviews that were released last week that made Palin seem like she didn't know what was going on. She couldn't name any newspapers that she read or any Supreme Court cases that she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade.

Palin surprised us all, though, by generally seeming as if she knew the issues when pressed on them. She employed the age-old tactic of skirting the question, but that's to be expected of most honed politicians. She at one point even claimed to be such a Washington outsider that she likely wouldn't answer questions in the way that Biden or moderator Gwen Ifill may like.

Palin also employed colloquialisms and her famous Alaskan accent to her advantage, making her seem more appealing and real. If the debate were judged solely on style, she'd be a sure winner. Unfortunately for Palin, we judge debates on substance.

Biden, Democrat Barack Obama's running mate and the senior senator for Delaware, was more substantive. His deeper understanding of the issues was glaringly apparent. He made a clear case against a McCain administration while remaining friendly and cordial toward Palin. He outlined to the American people why they can't afford to re-elect the Republicans, and spoke of a better future offered with an Obama administration.

Biden also seemed to have a better understanding of the role of a vice president. While Palin argued that the Constitution allowed for an expansion of the VP's role, Biden countered that Vice President Dick Cheney "has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history."

Other standout moments found the governor and senator practically agreeing on their respective stances against same-sex marriage, followed up by stark contrasts on foreign policy. "Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq," Palin told her opponent.

It was an interesting debate and seemed to captivate a large audience, but historically vice-presidential debates haven't had much, if any, of an effect on the outcome of an election. Eileen Smith at Poll Dancing sums it up nicely:

In the end, do VP debates matter? Probably not. Palin had the most to lose, and could have possibly done damage to the ticket, if she had given a lackluster performance. But she didn’t. Biden didn’t all of a sudden turn into Rick Lazio, and there were more than a few opportunities for that to happen.
So, Biden did well and Palin did well, and nothing changes. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming, also known as McCain versus Obama.


DB said...

Palin was deceivingly good during this debate. I say deceivingly because she was able to give the impression that she knew what she was talking about, but the reality of it is that she did not. Biden on the other hand seemed more Presidential than the top of his ticket. I was surprised on that part.

Anonymous said...

i can't to see those additional VP debates that Palin promised