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Palin Vs. Biden

It was, without exageration, the most highly anticipated VP debate in anyone’s memory.

Moderator Gwen Ifill wore neither red nor blue, but aquamarine, perhaps to avoid any criticism or sartorial bias.

Joe Biden, wearing a black suit, powder blue tie and a small flag lapel pin, was all smiles. "Nice to meet you," said Palin as they shook hands at the center of the room, "can I call you Joe," she added. Biden said yes, then said for all to hear how pleased he was to meet her.

Palin, wearing a black suit  as well and with a larger, jeweled (I think) flag pin, tried to turn the debate to the hockey mom crowd immediately, saying that to find out the impact of the financial crisis, talk to a mom at a, I believe she said soccer game.

Palin began on sure footing, answering the question quickly, without a stumble and with a shout-out to the foresight of John McCain and feisty, and "darn right" folksy phrases to establish herself as the common people’s reformer.

I did not have a Palin Bingo card, but there was one available online for debate parties, where players could check off boxes containing buzz words like "maverick" and "Ossama Bin Laden," "Alaska" and "bridge to nowhere."

FYI: I have counted two "mavericks" so far but it takes five across down or diagonally for a bingo, and I don’t even know what I would win.

I may not answer the way you or the moderator want to hear, she said, but I will talk straight to the people, she said at one point, again trying to defend her populist position, and arguably to explain why her answers might not exactly foolow the question, though Joe Biden also turned questions to the answers he wanted to give.

Palin was on her game with an answer on McCain’s healthcare program, answering confidently and rapidly, the words tumbling out as if to show she could do it.

At times, it seemed like" Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones Go At It In Washington," with both suggesting they connect with the average Joe or Jane. Palin said that credit markets is where "mainstreeters like me" would feel the effects of the meltdown.

I just heard "Alaska" which I think would have gotten me two in a row on my Palin bingo card. Let me check. Darn it, wrong row. I need either "tax relief" or "earmarks."

It’s 25 minutes in, and so far Ifill has not donned an Obama button or asked Palin about moose hunting or what newspapers she reads.

BTW: The wide shots of the set were almost tough to watch the blue of the walls and the red of the carpets were so electric. I am as patriotic as the next guy, but is there an unwritten rule that debate sets must be wave their colors like a flag or wear them on TV’s lapel.

Palin’s delivery continues to be rapid fire, with hardly a breath between statements. Palin said she didn’t want to argue about the impacts of climate change, though she suggested some of it had to do with cylical changes. But again, the delivery is almost too rapid to process. Clearly, the goal of her debate coaches was to come up with fast and full answers given the grief she took over vague and sometimes circuitous responses to Katie Couric.

Palin may have just run out of steam, but her answer on the Iraq war was more measured, but still clear and concise.

Halfway through the debate, Palin is the clear leader if the bar is lowered expectations after the Couric interviews, but even starting from the same point, it would be hard to pick the winner. 

Biden hasn’t missed a beat, neither has Palin. Oops. Did she just say "Obama and O’Biden?’ Palin just called Obama’s war strategy a "white flag of surrender."

Sparks over the war and the fact that both Barack Obama and John McCain have voted against funding the troops at one time or another. Each scored points, but Biden is scoring points with some rapid fire delivery of his own.

No! Nooooo!. Palin says "nucular," continuing in the maddening tradition of politicians past and present, including George W. Bush.

It may be Palin’s tone, or Biden’s, but he seems more on the defensive than she. Now Biden is on the attack on the issue of negotiating with foreign powers. Neither has gained a noticeable advantage, but Palin continues to answer confidently if so rapidly that she sometimes seems to be unspooling each answer, which takes on a momentum of its own.

On the occasional split screen, the two sometimes looked like an attractive power couple, particularly when both smiled, with Biden outshining her with a set of pearly whites that shown against his even, though somewhat fading, tan.

Biden just banged the mike, talking about arms control but unable to control his arm as he made a sweeping gesture. If Palin did say O’Biden, that is one for one in nitpicks.

Palin got a little testy on Afghanistan, with Biden back on the defensive brifely. If this were a prize fight, Palin would be the boxer who tries to land the most punches to score points and Biden would be the more measured fighter who picks his opportunities to land clear winners.

Some of her answers weren’t exactly on point, but they were on some point.

Palin throws in an occasional "aw shucks, I just don’t thnk like you Washington types" to remind voters she is on her side against the entrenched Washington crowd.

Again, she is well prepared. Whether that means she has been well coached or has simply returned to the confidence of her acceptance speach, but she seems a different Palin from the one who seemed lost in some of her Couric answers. Could she have been purposely lowering expectations, which certainly both sides attempt to do to make the victory bar that much more reachable?

The heartbeat away question, and an interesting one. "How would a Biden (or Palin) administration be different from the top of the ticket if the unthinkable happened?"  Ifill asked. Biden wasn’t biting, saying he would follow Obama’s lead, then ticking off Obama policies. In essence, I agree with every major initiative he suggested."

Palin said they were a team of mavericks and they disagreed but she, too, wasn’t going to start outlining the Palin Doctrine. She said she would continue McCain’s good works, with an eye toward of getting government out of the way of plain old folks like her.

Biden wasn’t going to be out folksed, saying you just needed to walk with him in his old neighborhood in a steel town and they will tell you they have gotten the short end of the stick.

"Now doggone it, say it aint so,Joe," she replied, giving a shout-out to an Alaska elementary school, saying they would get extra credit for watching the debate. For a moment, you couldn’t step without putting your foot in an apple pie.

I just heard "special needs" from Palin, that’s two in a row. I don’t get credit for more than one "maverick" on the bingo card, which I am not sure is fair. But there is a free space in the middle. It is a picture of Palin with ‘Air Space" inscrbed across her forehead, which seems to me to be a diss, but that may just be me.

Biden said he hasn’t changed in 30 years, then said he would put his record of change up against anybody. I knew what he meant. One was that he was consistent, the other that he worked for change. But it came across as a bit of a nonsequitur.  Two nitpicks for Biden. One for Palin. Make that two for Palin. She had to vamp and recover for an answer about what a VP does. She recovered well, but it was almost as though she were searching for a preprogrammed answer.

Is there some "Stepford candidate" flavor to Palin’s disgorging of answers. I don’t know. Biden does some of that, too.

I jsut switched to CNN and I find somewhat distracting the ‘Uncommitted Ohio Voters’ graphic that looks like one of those medical readouts on ER or Grey’s Anatomy, both of which iu am missing at the moment.

It is a real-time readout on how a panel of those voters is reacting to what the candidates say. I don’t know how helpful that graphic is. Certianly surfed to without explanation it takes a few moments to figure out what the undulating lines mean. I think at the moment the women–yellow line–like Biden’s closing statement more than the men–green line.

Palin’s closing statement began with a point she has hammered home of late. She said she liked speaking directly to the people without the filter of the mainstrea media. After a solid if unspectacular performance, that sounded more petty than populist from where I sit, though of course that is the desk of a mainstream media type.