Friday, October 03, 2008

VP Debate Reaction

Palin

Palin did much better than I expected and, admittedly, far better than I'd hoped. I was hoping she'd do so badly that the race would be over. That did not happen. Unlike Couric, Ifill did not (and could not, according to the rules as I understand them) press her for an answer when she was non-responsive, so she could just filibuster when she didn't (I assume) have a pre-scripted answer or just deliver an answer to a different question. So there were no deer-in-the-headlights moments, although that's a pretty low standard. She did not to my mind exhibit detailed knowledge of any topic and I'm not sure how her admission that she wasn't going to necessarily answer all the questions will go over.

I thought the message that she is an expert in energy policy was a strong one, especially for low-information voters who may take her at her word for it and not realize it's not actually true. Voters might think it's okay that she doesn't know foreign policy or Supreme Court history if they think she has a different area of expertise.

I'm not sure how her folksiness will play. To me, it seemed like she was trying too hard. I watched it with my (liberal) fiance and Palin was driving her nuts. Some of her folksiness was so over-the-top I have trouble believing that many women will fall for it. "Did she just wink at the camera?!" was one thing I said out loud.

The only real gaffe I noticed was that she kept referring to our military leader in Afghanistan as "McCellan." (It's McKiernan.) I myself couldn't recall the name, although I knew immediately that it was not McClellan. Biden didn't call her on it, although he was a little conspicuous about not using his name. I don't think it was an important mistake, but it may become one, depending on how it plays out.

Regarding the substance, I think she was (perhaps unknowingly) dishonest. The line about Obama voting for taxes on families making $42,000 a year is a lie that was debunked long before the debate. Her speech about being tolerant of gay people was nice, but I wish someone had asked her whether she agreed with McCain's vote against the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.

Biden

I thought Biden did great. His most important task was to assure older white voters that Obama is ready and not a scary Muslim or something, and I think he did that. He was also quite charming and even chivalrous and he did not do anything that could be perceived as being sexist or disrespectful of Palin. His thousand-watt smile may do to older white women what Palin's looks to do men of all ages.

The moment where he choked up will be remembered, and I think that combined with the fact that his son is going to Iraq, may soothe the worries of some voters about the Obama/Biden foreign policy. It was also a great reminder that Sarah Palin isn't the only candidate in the race with a family.

Biden did an excellent job of emphasizing the middle class. He gave a strong defense of progressive taxation with an implied attack on McCain's trickle-down economics, and his mentions of Scranton and his home town appeared genuine and may have established him as a "real" person in the minds of middle-class watchers. I think his explanation of McCain's health care plan was devastating as well.

He didn't have any major mistakes or gaffes. I laughed out loud when he said "Bosniaks," thinking it was a mistake, although apparently he used the term correctly. (It is the correct term for the ethnic Muslim in Bosnia, as opposes to the Serbs and the Croats.) And I was shocked when I thought he said he supports gay marriage, but he later clarified and said he does not. (Needless to say, I strongly disagree with Obama and him on that stance.)

Conclusion

All in all, Biden was the clear winner if we are to judge them by the same standards, but Palin will probably be held to the low standard of "she didn't humiliate herself and her party," which she succeeded on. I thought Biden seemed much more real and Palin appeared to be trying too hard to be folksy, but we'll see how that plays with the undecideds. Between Obama's serene and competent performance last week and Biden's charming one today, I think they may have sealed up the older white Democrats who may have been skeptical about voting for a relatively young Black man. I doubt Palin convinced anyone she's ready to be the backup president, but she at least stopped the hemorrhaging. In the end, the debate probably won't have a strong effect on the election.

11 comments:

Ezzie said...

Coming from the Midwest, her folksiness is not planned or fake - it would be coming from a coastal person, but that's how the rest of the country actually talks. Trust me, if people thought it was fake, she'd have been trounced way earlier. What she did was stick to it and emphasize that she wouldn't lose that by joining DC.

The only fake was the Reagan line, but that was obviously on purpose and meant to get laughs, which it did, most notably from Biden.

She only did the filibustering early, while Biden scrambled late for extra responses. Pretty sure both will be let go.

Biden was hit a little harder by the FactCheck types, particularly the claims about McCain votes which were simply untrue. Palin's 42k thing was singles, not families, but the substance was still true; of course, the difference in numbers was huge.

Biden's lines about it being about fairness resonate well with liberals, but not most people. Most people are NOT fans of redistribution of wealth, period. They want to know that if they get to that point, they'll still get their money.

The mentions of Scranton et al are shots to get people in PA, don't think those did anything.

His explanation of McCain's plan was not devastating at all, IMO, as I noted in my own post. The people who would agree with him on that already disagree with him on economics.

You have to view it from a middle POV, not a liberal one. He was good, but he wasn't as good as you think. What he did present well did not then sway people - it just made clear what he felt the issues were, and you can choose to agree or not. Palin was vague in the first half, but she did very well on gay marriage/tolerance; energy; taxes; Iran; Israel; and health care. Taxes was the weakest of them, but I don't think people buy that suddenly the Dems are the people of tax cuts.

Comrade Kevin said...

Biden knew his stuff.

But like you, I think this isn't going to make much difference in the long run.

Palin will live to see another day and if McCain loses, they'll try to run her for Senate or some other high elective office. I am disappointed because a clueless Palin performance would have ended her political career on a national level.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Regarding the substance, I think she was (perhaps unknowingly) dishonest

Here is an article on factual mistakes BOTH made

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081003/ap_on_el_pr/debate_fact_check

>Some of her folksiness was so over-the-top I have trouble believing that many women will fall for it.

I agree with Ezzie. That is her. And I grow weary of libs around me criticizing her for not sounding like some Harvard graduate. People forget that America is full of people that that were not raised in New England

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

Don't act like I said the problem is that she doesn't sound Harvard-educated. I'm talking about the "doggonits" and the "darn rights" and the winking at the camera, etc. Once in a while may be natural, but I'm having trouble believing she wasn't specifically emphasizing those mannerisms last night. Especially considering her main message is that she's not from DC.

You'll also never, ever find a Democratic candidate criticizing middle-America the way Republicans bash on those who live in DC, NY, or even, as Palin did last night, the entire East Coast. There's one party that thinks only have of America is the "real America" and it ain't the Democrats.

Jewish Atheist said...

"only have" should be "only half"

Freethinking Upstart said...

she was totally playing her folksiness.

I hope she does some more interviews in which she isn't allowed to play on her harp. Otherwise, she will have successfully saved herself with this "debate."

Orthoprax said...

"I doubt Palin convinced anyone she's ready to be the backup president, but she at least stopped the hemorrhaging."

Seriously. I was really thinking about switching to Obama purely due to the remote chance that she could be president. As it stands now, I'm far from thrilled at the idea of her being VP, but I don't think McCain is going to die so soon anyway.

Theresa said...

I guess coming from a different background, I didn't see her folksiness as at all excessive. In fact, it seemed as if she slipped into that when she got happy and excited as opposed to it being an act, the professional demeanor seemed like the act. Many people even in professional positions talk much more 'folksy' than that. To belittle the folksy talk doesn't help with the idea that the dems are for the urban elite.

Also, I got the impression that her wink was directed towards her family and or husband in the audience.

That being said, my fiance and I decided we should have a drinking game where we take a shot whenever she says "corruption and greed on wall street"

itsmypulp said...

It wasn't one wink; CNN had a video montage with seven winks from the debate. It was way over the top: the "doggonnits" and "betchas", and the cringe-inducing line, "Say it aint so, Joe" — CNN's panel of undecided voters dialed way down when Palin used that last line.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who wants to see women advance in our society could vote for Palin. I loved this reaction from an Andrew Sullivan reader. I think it characterizes Palin's debate performance just right.

As for Biden: In my view, the key moment of the debate came when Biden said he would be in the room whenever Obama holds an important meeting. That moment won't make anyone's highlight reel. But for voters who are nervous about Obama's youth and relative lack of experience, Biden's presence at Obama's side will provide a lot of reassurance.

Random said...

First of all, kudos to JA for writing a review that was a lot more evenhanded than I was expecting, and FWIW his final conclusion seems to be similar to what I've been hearing in a lot of places - Biden did better in demenstrating a grip of policy (even if a lot of this was due to an ability to look squarely into a camera and lie with absolute conviction, doubtless the result of 36 year's experience in the Senate) but Palin did better in coming across as a normal human being and also made progress in disproving the gross caricature of her that the media have been putting out. Something for everybody, in other words.

However -

"You'll also never, ever find a Democratic candidate criticizing middle-America the way Republicans bash on those who live in DC, NY, or even, as Palin did last night, the entire East Coast."

Erm, "bitter, clinging" anyone? Also I've heard many, many times comments from Democrats to the effect that the only reason they lose elections is because mainstream Americans are just too ignorant to know what was good for them - a few posts back one of the commentators here even linked - with approval - to an article that was a wonderful example of this sort of thinking.

One other thought (from itsmypulp's post)-

"As for Biden: In my view, the key moment of the debate came when Biden said he would be in the room whenever Obama holds an important meeting. That moment won't make anyone's highlight reel. But for voters who are nervous about Obama's youth and relative lack of experience, Biden's presence at Obama's side will provide a lot of reassurance."

Do you *really* find it reassuring that even Obama's pick for VP admits that Obama will need a babysitter whenever the tough stuff comes up? This is a doozy of a howler and I wouldn't be surprised to see it in a McCain commercial. Frankly I've never understood this leftist argument that experience is an irrelevant qualification in a potential president, but it's absolutely vital in a potential vice-president. But at least I'm pleased to see they're consistent enough to apply it to their own ticket as well.

G said...

Wait, wait, wait...so a politician was playing to the cameras and trying to sway public opinion by being less than true...I'm SHOCKED! SHOCKED!!!!