Live Thoughts on Biden v. Palin

By , 2 October, 2008, 3 Comments

There is a lot being written about this election as a watershed moment for the rise of new media political coverage. One reason is just timing: the election comes just as new media is really hitting its stride. Another reason is the many young people joining the political ranks after consuming gallons of Obama Kool-Aid. A third reason, however, is the level of micro-competition taking place here. By micro-competition, I’m thinking of the LONG campaign season due to the heavily fragmented primaries (some 15 candidates in all). That process created a culture where, even more than usual, little details mattered as voters tried to differentiate between candidates whose policy positions were often alike. That culture has fed into the general election, even though there are real policy topics to discuss now. With all that detail, in this nitty-gritty (or nit-picky, depending how you see it) campaign culture, new media has come to play a crucial role. Blogs are ideally suited to link together small items to help us see the whole. More importantly, they’re ideally suited to comment on small items in rapid succession: which is why if there’s one blogging practice that really exploded in this election, it’s the practice of live-blogging political events. With that, here are my live thoughts on tonight’s debate.

9:00 pm: Both candidates come out strong. Biden is forceful and makes himself the wonk–calls out Sarah Palin early for being fluffy by asking if HE can “get back to the question.” She’s articulate and poised, more confident than she has seemed in interviews with the press, and carefully steering the first question about the economy to her (professed) area of expertise, corruption.

9:20 pm: Ouch, Palin is using her stump speech again. “Government is too often the problem.” She is making a point of showcasing everything she learned in debate boot camp this week. “McCain’s plan is detailed, and I want to give you some details.” And she does actually know the numbers, impressive. If she could have said ‘detail’ again she would have. Not sure how credible it is to say the government is bad when you are running to join it, but hey, that’s just me. Biden is acing the delicate balance of being aggressive against Palin’s policy statements without attacking her and taking the feminist backlash by speaking to Gwen Ifill and not Palin directly. Biden’s best comment so far: McCain’s health care plan is “the ultimate bridge to nowhere.”

9:25 pm: Palin is doing well on detail. Still making that “I fought corruption in Alaska” case, but now citing the actual names of oil CEOs she has “taken on.” Wonder if any of them are McCain supporters…Biden is not taking the bait when Palin tries to blame Obama for oil company tax breaks; he laughs it off, PRAISES her record in Alaska, and then says HE and OBAMA will aim at something similar in Washington. Also, I think Gwen Ifill is, for lack of better language, rocking this. Says to both candidates “I don’t think you’ve answered my question.” And certainly seems to be taking them both on and citing alternative data of her own to challenge them. So much for the McCain campaign’s claims today that she is biased.

9:30 pm: Palin finally stumbles on the causes of global warming, says she doesn’t want to discuss that (since she doesn’t know what it is…) Biden laughs during her comments, not sure if that’s condescending or just a way to avoid getting angry, which he needs to do. However, he doesn’t seem to be taking a hit at all on the man v. woman front–CNN has a live focus group going and they are showing how men and women are reacting as a ticker on the bottom of the screen: so far, Biden is rocking the women, Palin is rocking the men.

9:35 pm: Good: news for America. When Biden gets positively choked up endorsing gay rights, so much so that he has to stop himself from including “marriage” as a right, neither the men or women in the focus group showed a negative reaction to that. Interestingly, Palin says she supports the same rights–“I’m a tolerant person.”

9:40 pm: Now the real contest–foreign policy. Biden gets soaring points from the focus group by saying “We will END THIS WAR.” Palin’s asked to respond and stalls with a long “um…” then rips from McCain’s stump speech, turning directly to Biden to say the Obama plan is a ‘white flag of surrender.” She’s doing pretty well in terms of taking him on directly at least, even if there wasn’t a lot of content to that attack.

9:50 pm: Pakistan vs. Iran: Biden says Pakistan is more dangerous. This echoes the argument made by Obama in last Friday’s debate that US troops should enter Pakistan to catch bin Laden, a bold stroke that surprised a lot of people. Seems that the Dems are making Pakistan a bigger issue to show they can be hawkish when they want to be, to balance their plan to end the Iraq war and avoid the white flag stigma. Palin doesn’t answer this one, instead generalizes about dictators who “hate America” and name drops Kissinger to give herself some credibility. Biden is getting aggressive and angry at last. On Iran–makes the very wonkish, non-soundbyte argument that Ahmedinejad is ultimately irrelevent to America’s Iran policy, since the theocracy is really in control.

9:55 pm: Big points for Palin here–she makes Biden go defensive, trying to prove his love of Israel. He gets so desperate he says he opposed elections in the Palestinian territories, something most liberals supported Bush on, and probably not a great stance to take. Biden does get a comeback, telling Palin to stop citing Senate votes from 2005: “Past is prologue. I want to know how John McCain is gonna be different from Bush and I haven’t heard anything yet.” Palin goes defensive on this, ASKING the moderator if she can change the subject!

10:05 pm: Palin is shrewd. She gets stuck after makes a long wonky speech that links Bosnia to Darfur to Iraq, so she calls Biden a flip-flopper and says “It’s so obvious that I’m a Washington outsider because I’m just not used to how you operate…I was for it before I was against it.” This argument fits when you see foreign policy in black and white and Palin reminds us that John McCain does plan to conduct foreign policy in terms of good against evil. This is a big big winner for her on the CNN focus group radar.

10:10 pm: Who’s more down to earth/Main Street? Biden tries to be Joe 6-pack (thanks to a friend for that nickname) by referencing Home Depot when he says ordinary Americans are fed up with Bush. Also has a great line about No Child Left Behind–“The NCLB Act got left behind because we left the money behind.” But Palin wins this one, by telling 1. a long sappy story about her family which everyone seems to love and 2. calling out BIDEN (and this the OBAMA/CHANGE campaing) for looking backwards in focusing on Bush. Way to steal their rhetoric.

10:15 pm: Palin gets a bit confused about what the Vice-President actually does. Says something about expanding the constitutional duties of the job, and reiterates that she wants to expand that power when questioned again about it.

10:25 pm: WOW. Winning stroke for Biden–Palin goes to her strength trying to claim she’s an ordinary working mom who understands (implication: as Biden does not) how to raise a family. Biden bares his soul–on the verge of tears, he reminds us that he DID rise from modest beginnings but ADMITS he is wealthy now, and that ON THE WAY, he lost a wife and a daughter and raised two sons alone for some time until he
remarried. He’ll definitely get bonus points for making this case, that fathers can and should play as much of a role and bear as much of the burden of parenting. Plus, he totally steals the “I’m a real person” line from Palin.

10:30 pm: Palin thanks Gwen for the chance to debate, and says she prefers “answering tough questions” in this context than in a media interview where her comments get “filtered.” Also amusingly she and Biden both say how nice it was to meet one another, as though this was a cocktail party. Biden closes out on the economy and reminds us, again, of his blue-collar route. That’s issue number one in this election, and he has some good lines on this too “When you get knocked down, get up. It’s time for America to get up together.”

Overall, seems to me that Biden had the much better debate in terms of skill and content BUT given that Palin was expected to screw up gloriously, and didn’t, she might come out with the bounce.

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3 Responses {+}
  • shahrzad

    im so happy you caught that biden win about “im a real person”

    epic fail for palin. epic. fail.

    i also have to say that my friend and i were sitting on my couch cringing and some of the things palin was saying. “john mccain is a maverick… what do you expect we’re both mavericks?” we could’ve played a drinking game with the amount of times that psycho said maverick… AND HOW THE HELL IS SHE A MAVERICK? DAMN.

    love,

    shahrzad

  • The Fast Talker

    Larry said…
    Nice work…I tried to stay up but conked out somewhere around 2.30am GMT, just when they were getting to climate change.

    Definitely impressed with Biden tonight. He didn’t degenerate into being a garrulous windbag, understood the need to appear emphatetic and made an effort to appear a ‘real person’, something Obama (wrongly) comes off as regarding as a not really worthwhile part of campaigning. Palin’s performance seemed steady but a combination of the hit-job done on her by Tina Fey, Huffington et al and her awful set-piece interviews essentially negates the boon the McCain camp might have received from it and continues to fix her image as a lightweight. This is a shame, as she had a great deal of potential to grow as a national figure, and I can’t help feeling an exciting prospect for the future has been snuffed out. The republicans are short of a deep bench at the moment and beyond Bobby Jindal and perhaps Eric Cantor, there aren’t any bright young things around on the right who might be able to present an interesting case on behalf of conservatives over the next four years.

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