Mad Dogs and Barracudas

After a night of sleeping on it and some reflection through reading others’ responses to the debate I’ve decided that since this was virtually an error free showdown in the Gateway City (and by “error free” I mean “nightmarish gaffe-free”), neither veep pick did any real damage to their respective campaigns.

Joe Biden was a Mad Dog with manners. Sarah “Barracuda” Palin was biting, but didn’t leave many marks because she had to prove to everyone, from her base to the pundits, that she was ready for primetime.

She may have stemmed the tide on The George Will Revolt, even reversed the trend on a few of the weaker ones. Peggy Noonan was didn’t bleat “It’s over.” Kathleen Parker, who called for Palin to bow out has a column running Friday detailing how she’s received death threats for her “betrayal” of the Republican Party.

She gave the Dixie Chicks a shout-out for now knowing what it’s like to live in Stalin’s America. This column was written pre-debate though, so she might be back on the McCain-Palin bus today.

A lot of articles and columns mention Palin’s proclivity to bust out the folksy talk and her audacity to even wink at the camera a few times, perhaps unaware that she was turning into Tina Fey’s parody of her during those moments. While this probably endeared her to her die hard fans, it seems it grated almost everyone who reads this blog and the uncommitted voters at CNN who’s ratings meters took a nose dive at first sound of a “shucky-durn.” Perhaps it was because we’d all seen this show before and wanted something different — something that perhaps included some facts and substance to go with those talking points.

Or maybe it’s because the current occupant of the White House is also known for his hucksterisms which were really a ploy to make up for his incuriousness and intellectual shortcomings. Maybe everyone was just coughing loudly into their hands “ahem … bullshit!” every time she went into her “say it ain’t so, Joe” doing her best George W. Bush-Ronald Reagan-Ross Perot mash-up.

Mabye Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should run for president. Or James Carville. Or Fred “Foghorn Leghorn” Thompson.

Oh wait. I think that last one did give it the ol’ college try. Never mind!

But who cares what I think! (Biden won decisively, if just for answering the damn questions!)

What did all the insta polls, reporters, editors, columnists, pundits and political operatives think?


It didn’t hurt that he didn’t declare that he was just going to answer the questions any ol’ kinda way, then proceeded to give no specific in the most important election since never.

Reported The Associated Press: A CBS News/Knowledge Networks Poll of uncommitted voters who watched the debate found 46 percent thinking Biden won, with 21 percent siding with Palin. A CNN poll found respondents judging Biden the winner by a 51 percent to 39 percent margin.

Consensus: Biden won. She won. McCain lost, to paraphrase Slate’s John Dickerson

Tie goes to the hockey mom. Who won last night’s vice presidential debate? The answer depends on which ticket you support. If you like Obama-Biden, then Joe Biden won. If you prefer McCain-Palin, Sarah Palin did. That’s how you can tell a tie. That’s what this was. And since Biden was supposed to destroy Palin, and didn’t even come close, this was a good night for the Republican. (Rueben Naverrette Jr., columnist/contributor, CNN)

Palin’s answers in this debate vacillated between disappointing and incoherent. On the most pressing issue facing Americans this week — the economy — she had surprisingly little to offer. She repeated the McCain tax cut plan and health care plan. (Hillary Rosen, political director The Huffington Post, CNN)

My gut tells me there will be a partisan response to this debate with Democrats arguing Biden won, and Republicans reassured by Palin’s performance. However there was nothing to this debate that is likely to change the trajectory of the race. (George Stephanopoulos, ABC News)

The whole debate was about Sarah Palin. She is not a person of thought but of action. Interviews are about thinking, about reflecting, marshaling data and integrating it into an answer. Debates are more active, more propelled—they are thrust and parry. They are for campaigners. She is a campaigner. Her syntax did not hold, but her magnetism did. At one point she literally winked at the nation.

As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic “talk over the heads of the media straight to the people,” and it is a long time since I’ve seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in p
olitics. But it was an effective infomercial. (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)

Palin did not defend, or even attempt to defend, McCain’s plan to begin taxing health-care benefits–a plan that most experts agree would end up costing families thousands of dollars a year. Nor did she defend in any detail McCain’s proposal to cut $400 billion in corporate taxes over the next decade (a plan that Biden brought up repeatedly) … As aggressive as her performance was, it is unlikely that it moved the overall horserace numbers. But she did show that she not only knows how to field dress a moose, but to stand toe to toe with a senator. (Howard Fineman, Newsweek)

Was she capable of being vice president? Based on her debate performance, the answer was yes. Not that she came close to matching Biden’s experience or extensive knowledge of issues, especially foreign policy issues. But she was conversant with every issue, domestic and foreign, that came up in the 90-minute debate and talked with seeming confidence about them. (Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard)

Maybe she doesn’t want to talk more about global warming, or about what vice presidents do, or about who’s commanding US troops in Afghanistan. Perhaps she isn’t entirely clear on where her running mate is on everything (it’s only been, like, five weeks). Maybe (definitely) she really, really wants us to think she and McCain are “mavericks.” But Palin returned to the source of her popularity Thursday night at Washington University in St. Louis — the folksy, aw-shucks, look-who’s-running-for-vice-president appeal that reminds us that shortly before she was a drag on the ticket she was a phenom in her own right. (Rick Klein with Hope Ditto, ABC News)

It was, in the end, what viewers might have expected from the man who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — much as what they got from Gov. Palin was what they were led to expect from her widely heralded speech to the Republican national convention just a few weeks ago. It was a fascinating byplay — but not necessarily one that changed many minds. (Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal)

A more conventional vice-presidential candidate could have used the platform of the debate on Thursday to go after Mr. Obama and turn this night into a referendum on Mr. Obama. And Ms. Palin certainly tried, attacking Mr. Obama repeatedly for his views on national security, and taxes, prompting equally passionate rebuttals from Mr. Biden. But she had become such an outsized figure since her explosive introduction to the country by Mr. McCain that the story of this debate was always going to be about Ms. Palin, and not Mr. Obama. It seems fair to say that Americans who tuned in to this debate watched to get their impression of Ms. Palin, and not to hear what she had to say about Mr. Obama. (Adam Nagourney , The New York Times)

At times it was effective (Palin’s folksy charm), (b)ut more often, with her facial expressions and aw-shucks asides (she even winked at the camera at least twice), it seemed out of place. But Palin didn’t need to hit this one out of the park, she just needed to be steady and mistake-free, and she largely succeeded. If Palin was steady, Biden was strong. There aren’t many who doubt the Delaware senator’s knowledge on most issues but there have been nervous Democrats who worry about his tendency to go on for too long and step into gaffes in the process. He sometimes seemed conscious about those problem areas, mentioning twice that his allotted time was close to expiring, almost as if to remind himself to stop talking. (Vaughn Ververs, CBS News)

Palin and Biden were each appealing in their own way — and in ways that neither McCain nor Obama were in their first debate last Friday. Palin wore a bright smile throughout the exchange and carried herself with confidence … Biden was direct, not verbose, and his answers came crisply in contrast to Obama’s more studied and sometimes pausing style of speaking … And he, too, flashed his smile to good effect. (Dan Balz, The Washington Post)

Palin broke no new ground, though she toured the landscape of McCain policy positions with surprising fluency. Like the last debate, this one was surprisingly wonky — a lifetime subscription to Congressional Quarterly. Palin could not match Biden when it came to policy detail, but she never obviously floundered. (David Brooks, The New York Times)

For some viewers, her autopilot replies might be a turnoff. But for conservatives and independents who want to like her, she probably performed well enough–and she probably performed well enough to stop the hemorrhaging she had caused the campaign. Which means that perhaps John McCain will return to center stage, as Palin–and her uninformed responses to Katie Couric’s questions–becomes less of an issue. (Kevin Drum, Mother Jones)

Everybody wondered how Palin would do. At least as important, or more, was that Joe Biden did a superb job. He deftly stopped Palin from distorting Obama’s views. He won the tax cut argument– Democrats usually don’t. He won the health care argument; Palin just gave up. She wouldn’t — couldn’t — answer the questions; she wanted to talk about energy, which she’s supposed to know something about, but she even lost on that . Often she didn’t know or couldn’t say what McCain’s policy is. And on foreign policy, she must have been staring out the window when she sat down with Henry Kissinger. She “loves” Israel but can’t discuss mideast realities in one inch depth. She can’t even articulate basic conditions for the use of nuclear weapons. (Robert Shrum, Real Clear Politics)

Palin’s syntax is odd, and she has noticeable verbal tics, saying “here,” “there” and “also” too much. Occasionally, she gets lost in a blizzard of her own words. But the quirkiness makes her more vivid, setting her apart from the rest of the political establishment. By the end, as she got even more comfortable, she seemed to become more winsome by the minute – her smile sparkling as she even threw off the occasional wink. She jabbed Biden with a good-natured, “The
re you go again, Joe.” And Biden himself seemed genuinely charmed. (Rich Lowrey, New York Post)

As the debate wound down, it was clear that neither candidate would land a knockout punch — or coin one of those lines that linger in political memory. Palin had disproved the worst fears about her competence. Biden had revealed himself as a disciplined combatant rather than a loose cannon. But their debate had not changed the dynamic of the campaign. (Editorial, The Rocky Mountain News)

Altogether, they clashed in a spirited debate that was far more illuminating than the conversation between their running mates last week. The public benefited, but perhaps no one benefited more than Palin in showing that she could comfortably hold her own with a six-term senator who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. The hockey mom played a great game. (Editorial, New York Daily News)

We cannot recall when there were lower expectations for a candidate than the ones that preceded Sarah Palin’s appearance in Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate with Joseph Biden. After a series of stumbling interviews that raised serious doubts even among conservatives about her fitness to serve as vice president, Ms. Palin had to do little more than say one or two sensible things and avoid an election-defining gaffe. By that standard, but only by that standard, the governor of Alaska did well. But Ms. Palin never really got beyond her talking points in 90 minutes, mostly repeating clichés and tired attack lines and energetically refusing to answer far too many questions. (Editorial, The New York Times)

Mrs. Palin couldn’t match Mr. Biden’s fluency on Bosnia or Darfur last night, but not too long ago neither could Barack Obama. The Republican nominee more than held her own on foreign policy in general, and in our view won on points at least on Iraq and Afghanistan. She didn’t let Mr. Biden get away with interpreting the comments of a U.S. general in Afghanistan as a rejection of Mr. McCain’s strategy. And on Iraq she exposed both Mr. Biden’s change of heart on the war, and his change of heart on Mr. Obama’s views on the war. At times Mr. Biden even looked a little frustrated — as if he couldn’t quite believe he had to share the stage with someone who hasn’t hung out with Dick Lugar or . . . Mike Mansfield back when the Senate was still a civil place. Or someone who says “doggonit.” (Editorial, The Wall Street Journal)

(S)he got out alive, though there were white-knuckle moments along the way: questions that were answered with painfully obvious talking points that betrayed scant knowledge of the issue at hand and sometimes little relevance to the question that had been asked. But recent days have given John McCain’s team little reason to suppose that not-that-bad is good enough. The Republican ticket’s sliding polls and narrowing electoral map gave it a different imperative in Palin’s showdown against Joe Biden … Absent new polling, there is little reason to think she cleared that bar in St. Louis. (John F. Harris and Mike Allen,

But regardless of who won or lost, a vice-presidential debate doesn’t matter unless it produces a major gaffe. This one didn’t. So, people will vote on the person at the top of the ticket, and by that criterion, even if you think Palin won the debate, it’s hard to see how she changed the race much. That’s not great news for John McCain. Both national and state polls are going in the wrong direction for him. (John Dickerson,

From the moment Palin walked onstage and asked Biden, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” she projected a folksiness that constantly threatened to tip over from “authentic” to “a little overdone,” all delivered in the kind of nasal snow-belt honk that won Frances McDormand an Oscar in “Fargo” … That tipping point probably came around the time she spouted this line, which sounded like something out of “Leave it to Beaver” meets “Hardball”: “Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You [prefaced] your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now, doggone it, let’s look ahead.” Sometimes her folksy language got a little garbled — like when she used what is evidently a favorite phrase and said mortgage lenders were “rearing that head of abuse.” (Mike Madden,


Real Clear Politics has Obama up nationwide by 5.8 percent in their poll averages. But we’ll know if the debate moved the goal posts later. By the way, Obama’s up by 10 in Michigan and McCain has pulled out his troops.

15 thoughts on “Mad Dogs and Barracudas

  1. Two words sum up Palin’s efforts at the VP debate ENERGY AND ALASKA.She did exceed the public’s expectations, but that is only because she didn’t do her usual and have no answers at all. Last night she had actual answers and they were Alaska and Energy…for almost every question.However I think that Palin feels she did pretty well, after all she has no clue about the real issues anyway, so as far as keeping up appearances is concerned she feels like she scored.

  2. I think the best moments of the debate were Biden’s response to the VP question and his very emotional moment about his family.She was like, there’s nothing wrong with Cheney. Biden nailed it to the wall.Then, her response to Biden’s emotional moment was stunning, and I mean in a bad way.

  3. Was I the only one waiting for Biden to gut punch her?She kept running her trap about nothing. But I’m proud he held his temper. My favorite part was when he broke down the definition of the VP according to the Constitution.A brilliant use of being over educated and bougie. But,Ah, how I DON’T mess Constitutional Law I class…But you ask me I can name at least 15 cases other Roe V. Wade. Hell, I got a degree and some grad hours,why J-Mac didn’t pick me to run since he was picking names out of hat for a running mate?I agree that Biden the best debater out all four. Obama tend “uhm” and “well..” but everybody has there own style of debate. Especially Sarah Palin who almost put me to sleep with her repeativeness.She’s plain wack, nuff said. After this all over, maybe she should go back to Alaska and take some Poli Sci Classes instead of getting her CDL license to drive tanker trucks across the state.

  4. I’m starting to figure Palin out. She’s really two people. At interviews and in person, she comes across as a major dork. “Oh, I read the newspapers and magazines all the time,” and then she can’t name a single one. “May I call you, Joe? Huh? Is that okay?” Yikes. When she gets on a public stage she seems to bask in the limelight and performs like a highly trained seal in front of an audience. I could hear her barking and flapping her flappers, as she’s waiting for a fish or approval from an adoring crowd. At the close of the debate, I was almost expecting McCain to come and pat Palin on the head, while feeding her a herring for rising to the occasion and putting on a good show. Nice, Sarah. That’ll do seal. That’ll do.

  5. palin did better than i expected her to do, and i’m glad she toned her shrilling voice down a notch…that being said,biden had facts and figures… i can’t recall her answering any questions without throwing in “alaska” and “energy”…biden got her good when she tried to pull “but i’m a mommy” and he talked about him being a single dad after his first wife and child died…and he broke down how mcbush isn’t so “mavericky” when it come to things that matter to american people..and i just have to say, her so called “cute” remarks such as “gosh darn it” and “you betcha” made my lower parts pucker…

  6. During the last debate, I felt that the tie went to Obama. But the difference between the Prez and VP contests is that <A HREF="“ REL=”nofollow”> Palin does not have the intellectual curiosity or intellectual capability to grasp the multitude and magnitude of issues that are part and parcel of the Presidency whereas Obama does. So, IMO, she does not get the benefit of a tie…she won SOLELY on style and has very little knowledge of domestic and foreign issues.Palin, while folksy and friendly, is woefully unqualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

  7. I’m with chocolate chiq on this one. Sure, Palin is telegenic and can deliver a prepared speech – so give her a talk show and she can take on Oprah.Nothing I have seen, heard, or read about Gov Palin gives me a shred of assurance that she can handle the job of VP, much less step in as president if necessary.She is GW Bush II, with even less curiousity about the world and an even more limited personal background.Sarah Palin may be fine as governor of Alaska (I know she couldn’t even get elected mayor of any major city in the lower 48), but she would be eaten alive on the international stage. If I want folksy and down-home, I’ll watch a Reba rerun. If I want to hear a well read political speech, I’ll watch C-Span. Sen Biden came out of the debate looking like a statesman. Gov Palin came off like the head of the Wasilla PTA. We suffered through 9/11 with our doofus president; he bumbled into Iraq, crushed our economy and is leaving the US Treasury completely empty. To paraphrase Palin, “never again, never again.”

  8. So Palin’s ability to regurgitate crammed in facts like a political bulimic makes her VP ready? Big deal. She can memorize, shuffle through prepared fact cards, and make eye contact with the camera. The chimp who can communicate with sign language could meet those VP qualifications.BourgietopiaBecause “elitist” is the new “uppity”

  9. Was I the only one who came away from that debate feeling like I just left a used car lot? The pundits might have liked the “folksy” stuff, but it didn’t play well with me at all. Maybe I’m an elitist (read: uppity), but it’s not in my nature to trust anyone who grins at me that much. And then there was the winking. Every time she finished a sentence, I felt a strong need to verify if I still had my wallet.

  10. ericka: I too cringed at the folksy chatter. Especially since I know that if Barack were a black southerner who talked in a down home manner he’d be laughed off the stage and ridiculed as being “simple.” Even Geraldine Ferraro would have received similar treatment in 1984, being accused of being unprofessional if she’d spewed a bunch of New Yorker/Jersey spiel.I think the only reason everyone went so light on her was because the expectations WERE so low and the Republicans had successfully buffaloed the media, accusing them of mistreating and picking on their girl. Of course, this was pretty sad considering their main criticism of Hillary Clinton was her clinging to victimhood, even when she wasn’t. It’s very lame and seems to be a ploy, a shifty cover like something out of “All the Kings Men.”Check your pockets and purses for your wallets indeed.

  11. i do wonder which debate most people were watching. how in the sam hill was this a tie? the woman gave a shout out, for christ’s sake. she kept calling him senator o’biden! she did not wink 2 times–she winked four times!! four goddamned times!! while her coaches coached her on how obama voted on various measures, they never gave her mccain’s stats. so where one of your quoted pundits said she didn’t make any noticeable gaffes, uuuuhh, she did–palin: obama voted against funding for troops!!biden: so did mccain . . .palin: {{{{{{crickets}}}}}} how about this one–palin: john mccain went to vietnam. he knows how to win a war!does that need any comment?? i don’t get what about her style is any different from what i saw, like, 15 years ago in tommy lee jones’ award-winning turn in the fugitive, and she is no tommy lee! jesus! joe wiped the ice ring with her. can we all just agree on that already??

  12. TALK IS CHEAP … CHECK OBAMA’S RECORD !!!A candidate’s track record, and associations are always a legitimate issue when running for President. Let’s take a look at the qualifications, judgement, and experience of Obama, who is running for President. Obama had 25 years to fulfill the potential he displayed as a rising start at Harvard Law School … and, how did he live up to that potential? … He chose to align himself with anti-American racist, Jeremiah Wright for TWENTY YEARS … along with Ferrahkan, Rezko, Ayers, and others. As a community organizer, he registered thousands of voters in Chicago … then, when he ran for the state legislature, he took away their votes, by disqualifying his opponent (a black woman) on a technicality. As a U.S. Senator, he voted present 160 times … he never called a meeting on the Afghanistan committee he chaired (although he NOW says we must shift all our military from Iraq to Afghanistan). He claimed Foreign Policy experience from a 9 day whirlwind photo op to 6 countries. And, he spent almost half of his tenure neglecting his responsibilities as a U.S. Senator, so he could run for President. Senator McCain served America honorably for 22 years in the military. He proved his love for America, as well as his honor, integrity and character, by refusing early release as a P.O.W., even while being tortured. He served America as a ‘contributing’ U.S. Senator, working across the aisle, for 20 years. If Obama’s Twentyfive year track record shows he lacks judgement, and can’t be trusted, who cares what he says about Health Care and the Economy! What Obama never learned is Character. He simply can’t be trusted … ask Jeremiah Wright, a friend of 20 years, who Obama betrayed for personal ambition … and, you Obama supporters really think he won’t betray you If he gets elected??? If he gets elected, you Obama supporters will be facing a HUGE disillusionment !!!

  13. Okay, we have another McCain mole inside the site. Start checking ID badges everybody. I don't care if McCain has a reputation for working both sides of the aisle. A lot of that is just talk anyway. When it gets down to it, he sides and votes with Bush, his bosom buddy. Don't you see all those pictures of them making lovey dovey? And you Repubs will believe Obama is a commie just because he had dinner with one 5 years ago. That's bullcrap. I don't believe in guilt by association, but I know Repubs practice it as an article of faith. I think most GOP associations as formed in backrooms, hidden from public view because they're sneaky that way (this is hyperbole, I'm not judgmental). Some people are prejudice, although you would never know it because they cleverly hide it. Trust me, I've seen it and I know you have too. What about McCain's refusal to take an early release from a POW camp? If your father were a high-ranking naval officer and you wanted a political careeer (McCain had his eye on the prize early on), would you have walked out of Hanoi Hilton? Of course not. I'm a heretic because I don't immediately fall down on my knees and do obediance whenever someone brings up McCain's war record. To me, if you're captured and tortured, you get benefits, a medal and a thank you. It doesn't mean you're qualified to be president. Personally, I would give you two medals if you returned in one piece and brought that expensive fighter plane back with you. Well, I guess anybody can't be a great pilot. McCain did safely bail out of the awful fire on the USS Forrestal, where eyewitnesses say he was goofing around in his jet when it mysteriously started. You see, association is a somabitch. His daddy got him into the naval academy and probably got him out of that mess too. Talk about character. By all accounts, Obama is faithful to his wife. Despite McCain's denials, there's enough evidence to suggest he's been double-dipping. So watch McCain look at Palin the next time. He does have an eye for the ladies (wink). Let's not forget about the S & L scandal. He got out of that one by the skin of his teeth. If loving Obama is wrong, I don't want to ever do right. And if he's using me, he can go on and use me up.

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