Biden vs. Palin – Who won?

3 October, 2008

My initial impression of the vice presidential canditates’ debate was that there was no clear winner. Palin spoke in complete sentences, and seemed upbeat and basically coherent. However, she sometimes gave long answers that didn’t address the question and seemed to be an assemblage of rote learning. Biden made a couple of verbal slips early on but was generally solid and specific, and seemed like a guy who knew what he was talking about.

Details? I don’t think many points were made in this debate that haven’t been aired many times recently. In regard to energy self-sufficiency, Palin repeatedly dodged the issue of alternative fuels, and said voters wanted her to “Drill, baby, drill!” I’m guessing that will be the title of a porn video in the very near future. Biden, establishing his “struggle-street” credentials, talked about coping with the death of his wife and daughter and having to raise his boys on his own. This was new information to me, and made him seem like more than just another Washington suit. He also choked up a bit when referring to one of his sons’ imminent military tour of Iraq. On rights for gay couples, Biden said he and Obama were for equal legal rights but not in favour of gay marriage. Palin surprised me (and probably a lot of the Republican base) by emphasising she had nothing against gay people and thought they deserved equal respect.

On radio, I think the consensus would be that Biden came out ahead, but this was televised, and while Biden might have won the debate, Palin won the show. Whatever she was saying, she kept smiling straight into the camera, even winking at one point, and I think people who aren’t that bright will automatically think, “Hey, she likes me!” This tactic would not have worked, by the way, if Palin hadn’t been a young conventionally good-looking woman (with a permanent smile), but as things are, Palin is able to count on people actually feeling protective of her when she is less than adequate. Not a great way to pick a national leader, but then democracies tend to elect the idiots they deserve.

Will Palin’s personableness be enough to swing the election? It’s obviously too soon to say, and the two presidential candidate debates to come will be important. But the VP factor in this election has turned out to be surprisingly large, thanks to McCain’s risk-taking choice, and all other things being equal, Palin’s down-home persona might get her past Biden’s fairly bland appeal and over the line.

Comments on the internet subsequent to the debate were disappointingly partisan – I guess I’m not yet used to disappointment. Apparently Karl Rove has put it about that Biden’s answers were full of errors, but given Rove’s lack of familiarity with the concept of “the truth”, this will probably only have credence with the hardcore base. I’m looking forward to someone more knowledgable than myself posting a point-by-point analysis of the debate on the internet.

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