So who won? Polls and pundits give it to Biden and I think this is fair. If you’ve read my trilogy of Joe Biden problem posts you’ll know that I was apprehensive about his chances. However, he performed admirably and his performance, whilst not finishing off McCain and Palin, will surely consolidate Obama’s lead in the polls.

As regards Palin, I predicted she would do better than the media’s rock-bottom expectations of her and I had a prepared line for this blog – it went along the lines of “Governor Palin did better than expected, but there’s a difference between doing better than expected and doing well, especially when expectations are so low”. However, having seen the debate, I have to admit that Governor Palin actually did reasonably well-she was generally clear and concise and she was confident in herself and her facts and didn’t make any serious gaffes. However the devil, as they say, is often in the detail and a closer analysis shows some problems. I’m going to get a little self-indulgent and start by comparing her performance with the predictions I made in my post The Problem With Joe Biden III:

1. Did she “pad her limited knowledge out with lots of “folksy common sense””? You Betcha!! Mention of not just the predicaments of hockey moms, but also soccer moms – she appeals to a very varied demographic, does our Sarah – oh I almost forgot about Joe Six-Packs. (Wink)

2. Did she “ say something along the lines of “we have a saying in Alaska…””? No, but she did give a shout-out to some third-graders in Alaska.

3. Did she say “”the terrorists must not win” or “we will bring democracy to those who want it””? Not quite, but she did refer to the Obama/Biden plan for withdrawal from Iraq as “a white flag of surrender”. Did she refer to America as “a beacon of hope”? You Betcha! 

Along with this there was her view of taxation which essentially amounted to a dogged defence of the tax cuts given to those earning over $250,000 per year, i.e. if Plan A doesn’t work, fall back on Plan A, only expand it. She also seemed unsure whether Government should stand with the people or get out of their way. Her foreign issues knowledge was reasonable but ultimately uninsightful.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, consistently hit the right note. He displayed a vast knowledge of the issues and was able to protect Obama from the sweeping attacks on his record (eg 94 tax increase votes, opposing spending for troops) by quickly explaining the procedural issues behind them and comparing them with McCain’s record on the same issues. He, very cleverly, focused most of his attacks on John McCain and smartly dismantled the maverick tag near the end and treated Governor Palin with the appropriate level of respect, leading him to appear like he was really enjoying the debate. He stayed calm and focused on issues but yet came across as passionate about people.

There was a moment when I got worried as he seemed to stumble over the word characterized. That was until I realised that he overcame a stammer and that this was probably a manifestation of it and only made him seem human. And of course when he spoke about his family it was a real lump in the throat moment. Some might say it was a cynical attempt to gain sympathy but I don’t think so because of the immediate context. Palin had just used her family situation as an example as to how she, as a Mom, could identify with ordinary Americans and I think it was an immediate reaction on his part. Hell, he even made the Senate sound human when he told the story about being wrong in questioning Jesse Helms’ motives.

So whilst Palin’s performance has deservedly received some plaudits, it was Biden who showed himself as better prepared for the high office these two candidates aspire to and I think people who watched the debate heve recognised this, with 98% thinking he is ready, as opposed to 44% for Palin.

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Comments
  1. electiondebates says:

    I agree with your assessment. In fact, I find it strange that in a two person debate (where Biden was so strong), the media seem to be reacting as if only Palin was speaking. Our expert adjudication panel agrees that Biden won the debate. Our views can be seen at http://electiondebates.wordpress.com.

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