Friday, October 03, 2008


Sarah Wins Expectations...Joe Wins.

As I said earlier, the Sarah Palin who showed up Thursday night couldn't possibly be as bad as the caricature she had become. Palin came across as a mixture of folksy cheerleader for John McCain and, yes, edgy barracuda going after Obama. Biden controlled his gabbiness, while connecting McCain to the unpopular Bush in a way that Palin wasn't able to decouple.

The governor started out wobbly, gained confidence in the middle -- even when the talk turned to Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel -- but sort of petered out as the debate concluded. Her non-polished approach clearly got under Biden's skin as the debate wore on. However, any annoyance that he may have demonstrated -- which could have turned off voters, he turned around at the very end when asked what he would do if something happened to a President Obama and his very closing comments where he teared up.

It's rather ironic that we live in an age where a male candidate tearing up is a sign of emotional strength -- where it would be weakness in a female candidate. Palin could have done herself much better had she recognized that moment. It would have cemented her role as the more human, less professional politician. Instead, against all odds, Biden had the most human moment. I watched on CNN where they had a people-meter divided by men and women. The women's line rocketed up at that moment (and the men weren't too far behind, actually).

She was strongest on the issue of energy independence and going after Obama-Biden on the "voting against the troops" issue and "your plan is the white flag of surrender." Biden deflected those attacks a couple of times, but Palin was relentless.

Considering how many debates Biden has been over the years -- in 2007-08 alone -- you've got to give Palin credit for holding her own. She wasn't in any way wiped off the floor by Biden. She certainly belonged on the same stage -- something that will undoubtedly be assuring to Republicans demoralized after a full week of Katie Couric interviews.

Palin's performance may not turn around numbers that have been trending in an Obama direction in the last few days, but she did, to use Rich Lowry's phrase, save her "political brand."

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