An estimated 50 million people tuned in to watch the Vice Presidential debate last night between Senator Biden and Governor Palin. I opted to watch the debate at my close friend’s house on their 47” big screen tv. I had also watched the Presidential debate with them. Scott and Sean are a gay couple who have been living together for almost a year. Originally backing McCain (which caused dangerously heated debates within our circle of friends), they switched to Obama after McCain chose Palin as his running mate.
Armed with drinks and prepared for an all out battle, we settled in for what we were sure was going to be the trouncing of Sarah Palin. Instead, we were met with a slight yawn fest that did absolutely nothing to change our current opinions. What they did do; however, was solidify each of their own positions on their respective party’s ticket.
I believe Joe Biden was the solid winner. He not only looked Vice Presidential but Presidential as well. He provided well thought out responses to the questions while repeatedly attacking McCain by connecting him to Bush. He consistently hammered home his party’s message while confronting Palin regarding her repeated avoidance of answering the questions directed to her. By not engaging in Palin’s tit-for-tat approach nor attacking Palin directly, and instead, focusing on Obama’s strengths and McCain’s weaknesses, Biden solidified his position on the ticket as an experienced and hands-on supporter of Obama.
My expectations for Sarah Palin were extremely low. After Katie Couric’s effortless unraveling of Palin in a previous interview, it seemed almost certain the Palin would fall flat on her face during the debate. Of course, she did not. Armed with a limited amount of facts, Palin danced around questions with the ease of beauty queen contestant, opting to change the subject and attack Obama whenever she couldn’t respond to the question at hand. She even blatantly admitted that she was only going to answer questions that she wanted to answer and was happy to be able to speak directly to the American public without being hassled by the “liberal press.” Her approach was not Vice Presidential at all, coming across instead as smugly gleeful in her attacks on Obama and her ability to avoid answering any question with substance.
In the end, both candidates did what they needed to do. Biden established himself as an experienced running mate and drove home the message that McCain=Bush. Palin succeeding simply but not falling on her face. She moved up on the credibility meter one notch from deer-in-the-headlights to apprentice puppet. The ultra conservative members of her party who were at first elated at her selection and then horrified by her two televised interview failures can now relax a little. By not providing her detractors more ammunition against her, she has given McCain a little breathing room to focus on other things rather than his running mates’ qualifications (or lack-thereof).
So Joe Biden wins but Sarah Palin doesn’t lose. I’ve read quite a few articles where it is stated that the VP debates don’t really matter, that in the end, voters select the Presidential candidate they like best, regardless of that candidate’s running mate. But I’m not so sure of that. While we were watching the debate, my friend Sean told me to take a good look at Palin when she was on the screen. “Even the remote possibility that that woman might become President someday,” he earnestly expressed to me, “scares me more than anything else going on in the world today.” Yea, it scares me too, Sean.