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Biden, Palin Spar In VP Debate

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 3, 2008 4:12PM

Anyone looking for a train wreck at last night's Vice Presidential debate came away disappointed. Democrat Sen. Joe Biden didn't ramble too badly and Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations by solidly, if uninspiringly, standing her ground. Gone was the Palin who looked in over her head in interviews with Katie Couric and, instead, was one who had her answers well-prepared answers and deftly dodged the questions she didn't want to answer, saying at one point, "And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear..."

Palin's broadcast journalism and beauty pageant experience also came to good use, as she addressed the camera — and by extension viewers at home — directly, often winking at the camera and turning up the folksy charm that sent her Q ratings soaring after John McCain made her his VP pick. It looked as though Biden initially would let Palin frame the debate with style over substance. But he took her measure for the first ten minutes and came back, attacking McCain's positions on everything from the Iraq war to offshore oil drilling.

Soon, the candidate's game plans became evident. Palin worked feverishly to frame McCain as a "maverick," an agent of change for voters. Anyone who had "maverick" in their drinking games was blitzed beyond recognition. Biden bit into McCain's record like a soft chew toy, refuting Palin's arguments at every turn. What surprised us was that, by comparison, Palin didn't attack Obama's record (or lack thereof) with the same fervor, nor did she try to attack Biden as a Beltway mainstay. The two candidates took no shots at each other.

Toward the end of the debate, Biden became emotional when recounting the car accident that claimed the life of his first wife. It could have been a Hillary moment or reminiscent of Edmund Muskie. CNN indicated that undecideds were swayed heavily by it. Overall, it was a spirited debate that did not make John McCain look good heading into next week's debate with Obama in Nashville.

The lowered expectations helped Palin. ABC7's Andy Shaw practically gave the debate to Palin, while GOP strategist Todd Harris, who worked for McCain during his 2000 Presidential run, said that Palin's performance will "stop the bleeding. But this alone won't change the trend line, particularly in some battleground states."

In case you missed it, or if you feel like watching it again, here's the complete debate.

Chuck Sudo also contributed to this post.