Just hopping around different blogs and news orgs to see initial responses to tonight's debate. I think my own perceptions are confirmed: Palin delivered.
To his credit, Biden made no major gaffes tonight. Did he misstate facts? He did. But at least he didn't resort to any of his "Hillary would have been a better choice" thrillers. Big relief for Obama, I'm thinking. I sometimes wonder if Obama doesn't have those moments like Dan Akroyd in "My Fellow Americans." Oh, Lord. Please don't let him start quoting lyrics.
But where Biden has had a couple of months now to campaign for his new boss (and, subsequently, spend time backtracking on all the nasty things he'd said about Obama during the primaries), Palin has only had a bit more than a month to prepare for this one opportunity to meet her opponent in open combat.
Palin's preparations have included two of the biggest travesties ever called "interviews" with major networks. What Palin said was fine. The way the networks framed the questions, then edited her responses was criminal. That neither interview succeeded in tanking McCain's standing in the polls is remarkable, and says perhaps more about Palin's value to this campaign than any of her stump speeches.
Palin's strengths are two-fold: she has a command of the facts that support her positions (and, by extension, her boss's), and she has an engaging personality that probably makes many liberal alarmists want to hurl. Irrespective of debate rules, Palin disarmed Biden before the debate even started with her "may I call you Joe?" greeting. However much a man of the people Biden may try to portray, Palin could have just come straight out of a Connecticut kitchen; in command and ready to roll up her sleeves and work.
I don't think Biden quite knew how to parse all of that. And Ifill hadn't even asked her first question yet.
Were there cringe moments for me? Absolutely. I remain unconvinced about the bailout bill, and hope it fails to scrape enough votes tomorrow. I agree that certain restrictions are required in the mortgage industry, and all predatory practices need to be outlawed. Ditto holding CEO's accountable for their intentional stupidity. What worries me is the "oversight" built into the bill. Government interference ALWAYS equals higher costs passed on to the taxpayers, and this will be no different. Palin is a little too eager to support this deadly "rescue plan."
[Quick sidebar: Did anyone else choke when Alan Mulally of Ford characterized the auto industry's $85 billion bailout as "just a loan?" No? Just me, then.]
There were also the obvious efforts of Gwen Ifill to bail Biden out of uncomfortable exchanges. She threw him quite a few more life preservers than she did for Palin. To Palin's credit, however, she needed far fewer of them. The only frustrating part was that she thus missed a few opportunities to really put Biden in his place. She was gracious about it all, though, which wins her points on style.
Taken altogether, a very good performance by Palin tonight. I would hope that it helps give McCain a bit of a bounce in the polls, but I'll settle for him keeping the spread to single digits at this point. He still has two more debates of his own to handle, and we're not out of the woods yet.
The Minneapolis effect
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