Having a few hours with which I can perform my civic duties and knock out a blog post, I decided to start a continuous post on tonight's vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden from Delaware and Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska.
As I see or hear anything worth commenting about, I'll update the thread.
9:04 pm:Biden ignores Ifill's question about Congress to launch into an indictment of George W. Bush and to promote Barack Obama.
9:06 pm:Palin's first comments are pro-McCain, punctuated with folksy touches like her references to soccer games and her use of the phrase "I Betcha."
9:08 pm:Biden brings up McCain's "the fundamentals of the economy are sound" gaffe, and Palin takes the bait. On the defensive, she spends a portion of the time having to explain McCain's statement.
9:10 pm:Palin, in a question about the housing and credit crises, said that predatory lenders are partly to blame for people who bought "$300,000 houses when they could only afford $100,000 houses." I wonder how this will play with millions of voters for whom a $300K house must seem like a mansion, and that Palin is out of touch with housing costs.
9:13 pm:Uh-oh...Palin's response on the economy were a bit on the rambling side; not as bad as the infamous Katie Couric interview, but unpolished and unsure.
9:15 pm:Biden is doing a much better job with time management - he has ended each question so far with a polished statement, while Palin has been caught twice so far being cut off before finishing her answers.
9:17 pm:Palin has been addressing Biden directly more than the Senator has been addressing the Governor. I think Biden must be avoiding creating the appearance that he is being condescending or mean-spirited to Palin.
9:20 pm:Biden - who has a reputation as a more polished debater - is doing a better job of helping viewers follow his arguments with phrases like "Number one: I think that..." and "number two: John McCain said..."
9:23 pm: Palin seems unsure of herself duing the question about energy - a lot of pauses, convoluted phrasing, and difficult-to-follow arguments.
9:26 pm:Biden gets in a back-handed zinger, praising Palin for supporting a windfall profits tax on oil companies and simultaneously slamming McCain's support of tax breaks for oil companies.
9:29 pm: Biden's delivery is relaxed, smoother, and easier to follow than Palin's forced and tense answers. Still, Palin has held her own to this point, and there have been few moose-in-the-headlights moments.
9:31 pm:Hmmmm...maybe I spoke too soon. Palin's mangled answer on energy independence and global warming was her worst performance so far, like a Ju Ju Be stuck in the braces of a fourteen-year-old in gym class.
9:38 pm: Palin seemed awkward in the answer of same-sex benefits to couples, trying to switch the topic to gay marriage.
9:40 pm:Did Palin just say that al-Qaeda factions in Iraq are "Shi'a extremists," or did she just lump Shi'a extremists and al-Qaeda factions together as enemies of U.S. forces? BTW - I know it's just me, but Palin's pronounciation of Iraq as "eye-RACK" drives me batty. Palin did get in a good shot in about differences between Biden and Obama on troop funding.
9:46 pm: "Nookular," says Palin. Is this a conscious inflection, or has Palin always pronounced nuclear this way?
9:50 pm: Biden's rebuttal on the Iran-Pakistan question was very strong, and his attacks on McCain's refusal to sit down with Iranian or Spanish leaders was a bullseye.
9:54 pm: "Building our embassy in Jerusalem," said Palin. Odd statement - is this meant to provoke Iran?
9:55 pm:Biden: "the country to the north of Israel." Uh, Joe? That would be Lebanon. Still, an otherwise solid answer about the failures of the Bush administration on Hamas and Hezbollah.
9:56 pm: Palin's Middle East answer was too filled with "change is a-comin'" and "never again" fluff. Her "nookular" question was a meandering, choppy chuck of rhetoric that said nothing beyond the equivalent of "nukes are bad."
10:02 pm: Palin looks like she is smirking as Biden answers the question about interventionism. Is she planning something, or is that just a forced smile that just looks strange?
10:04 pm: Yes, it was an attack smirk. Palin gives Biden a sort of passive-aggressive, smiling-dagger haymaker about Biden changing positions on the war. However, her "I must not be a Washington insider" was too transparent. She would have been better off being folksy, but not being so obvious.
10:08 pm:The "hearbeat away" question was a little creepy, but it needed to be asked. Biden tossed off the perfunctory "tragedy of historic proportions" comment, and then moved to the talking points. Palin was much more polished on this answer, and she gave a coy wink during the "we're a team of mavericks" that did not seem rehearsed.
10:14 pm: An exchange during the education question in which Biden and Palin tried to out-middle class each other, with Joe thumping his chest about his Scranton roots and Sarah mixing in "gosh darns" and "near and dear to my heart." A draw.
10:16 pm: Palin's answer on the question of the constitutional duties of the vice president was rambling, while Biden went on the attack against Dick Cheney.
10:19 pm: On the Achilles heel question, Palin's answer was a bit strange, and she never answered what her "true" Achilles heel is. Lots of "this is a great country" and "John McCain and I are a great team" yawners. Biden came across as self-deprecating and human, and his oratorical skills far outclassed Palin. Whoa - Biden looked like he was going to bawl, and it looked, well, kind of real. Ed Muskie flashbacks for a millisecond.
10:27 pm: On the question asked about a time that the candidates have changed their positions, Biden spoke about judicial hearings, while Palin spoke about the Wasilla city council and the city budget. Unsure how this will play out - does she seem insignificant, or does she paint a real contrast between DC and Alaska?
10:30 pm: The closing statements of Biden and Palin were filled with down-home, folksy colloquialisms, and Biden edged out Palin in this last exchange.
Final assessment: No knockout punches or major gaffes by either candidate. Palin avoided making any of the sorts of groaners as in the earlier interviews, so she met party expectations. However, I doubt that Palin won over many undecided voters tonight, while Biden's polished presentation was more effective in reaching out to independents and soft Republicans.