Analysis: The Vice Presidential Debate

October 2, 2008

In what was anticipated to be a debate of gaffes rather than politics, the first and only vice presidential debate was of more depth and quality than then its preceder — the presidential debate. I say this not in my political view, but of the nation’s vibe preceding the event. And this is essentially because of hype. 

There is no disputing from either party that the preparation for tonight was unbalanced. The public, mainstream media, and bloggers alike were seemingly convinced two different ways: the first that Palin would gaffe, and the second that she would be surprisingly intelligent. In a sense, both were right and wrong. 

John McCain had Palin prepared, but from any perspective he knew Palin would be Palin. The Governor, policies aside, has a distinct personality that he could not change no matter how much she was prepared. In a non-partisan sense, Palin has a not only unique personality, but a certain way of bringing out her points, and that is what has made her successful on the political stage. 

However, the McCain campaign could and did save her from a gaffe. Again staying non-partisan, Palin has and is so closely examined that she (as a completely new national politician), could very well send off a misjudged point or flat out gaffe that would explode onto the MSM stage. My case in point would be Palin’s disastrous CBS interview with Katie Couric. 

And because of this, one of the few things that the McCain camp had the ability to do before the debate is give Palin a response to Biden’s likely attacks so that she didn’t gaffe. That was definitely apparent tonight.

 And this leads us to the debate, which I will flat out say that  Joe Biden won. In simple text, Palin was rehearsed, but  Biden knew which points to pursue and picked his fights. 

 Biden came into the debate as an underdog to win.  What I  mean by this is that the press essentially predicted Palin to  decide not the winner or loser, but rather if she would lose  well or collapse. Biden, however, was never perceived to  walk out of the door with a loss. 

And this changed dramatically with the start of the debate. A main point that I would like to get out is the fact that I sensed a feeling of renewal. Despite the fact that the media had called for a one-edged debate with a gaffed ending, both candidates were place on the same level. 

This is what gave Palin a boost out of the gates — no one expected anything, and because of this, Palin showed a surprising degree of fluentness in her points, something that took everyone off-guard. And in a sense, Palin used this to run away with the first topic — the economy. 

Then came foreign policy.

The main turning point in this debate was exactly what Biden needed — a direct soundbite — coming after Palin’s first talking point on foreign policy in which she essentially backed up her ticket but never gave examples.

Biden answered in what I would call the best way possible — reading:

“With all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan”

In this quote, Biden both found his grip on the debate and swept Palin off her feet for the first time. The quote itself was simple, but orchestrated what is essentially the biggest difference with both tickets as far as foreign policy — ending the war and winning it. He took advantage of a bad talking point from Palin, and then turned it into a much needed soundbite.

From then on, Biden rode the wave of confidence, further taking chances with the crowd and the public, in example — quoting that Dick Cheney has been the “worst vice president” the US has had, and later in the debate jumping on a softball question about what would happen if he would replace Obama in president if something were to happen.

In short, the debate showed its ups and downs, but in the end Palin lost not because of a gaffe, but rather through a single quote.

27 Responses to “Analysis: The Vice Presidential Debate”

  1. scarlet Says:

    Good analysis! You got to the point of the debate. Palin was confident and got back on her feet after her disastrous interviews but she kept to the same comfort points which did not include a plan for the issues that were brought up.

    This debate was much more fun than the presidential debate. Hopefully the next presidential debate will have some substance.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Palin was well rehearsed. But, at the end of the day, I feel the same. Whatever talents she has would be better applied to a cabinet post. To suggest that she is ready to be vice president, or president, is irresponsible.

  3. It was the student trying to debate the teacher–though the teacher wants the student to end up “smarter” Palin simply does not have the depth or intellect to pull it off. When she was shuffling through the cards Randy Scheuneman made for her, she should have been listening to Biden’s heart-wrenching story about being a single father–Biden won the debate and he and Obama won this election in that instant.

  4. pacer521 Says:


    Thanks for the compliments. I agree with you in the most part — while I don’t think calling a debate “fun” would be right, it did have more substance.

  5. pacer521 Says:


    I agree, she was very rehearsed. It’s your opinion to call her pick irresponsible, but in mine, I agree with you. I don’t think she is ready to lead our country.

  6. pacer521 Says:

    Above the Clouds,

    I agree with the student/teacher reference. Biden was more personal, mostly because he didn’t need to stick with the cards.

  7. pipsorcle Says:

    I think Sarah Palin’s performance at the debate was just android-like and therefore, she lost it because of how she debated. I never got a sense that Palin was injecting any real passion into what she believed in but rather was citing what she was briefed on. She came across as nothing more than just your standard GOP spokesperson.

    Joe Biden on the other hand didn’t seem to need to practice that much. As with foreign policy and other issues, clearly Biden came across as the person more passionate about public service. He’s done it for years and hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for it. I clearly got the notion that Biden cares A LOT for the U.S.

  8. jeverettphoto Says:

    I wanted fireworks, however I knew that I wouldn’t get them. Biden did an excellent job he limited himself to the question asked in most cases and didn’t ramble to long. His emotional response about his son was touching and seemingly genuine. Palin exceeded my expectations and I’m not happy about it.

  9. pacer521 Says:


    I think that Palin was obviously reading off of cards in her head, but I wouldn’t call it android-like. I do agree that she lost by way of debating.

    Biden had the advantage of experience. He didn’t need to cram in polities, and because of this he had the chance to pounce on personal issues and he did successfully.

  10. pacer521 Says:


    Everyone wanted fireworks, but Palin was simply too generic to deliver a gaffe. His emotional response really won the crowd, I agree.

  11. I found the whole debate a breath of fresh air. They kept it pretty sunshine and respectful, they answered more questions than the presidential noncommit-fest, and I didn’t catch any WTF-gaffes, (though there was an amusing comment by a pundit afterward that the gay marriage answer is going to make evangelicals turn pale… I couldn’t tell ya if that’s going to lose any base.) It’s like both candidates went into game theory’s “The Prisoner’s Dilemma,” started off nice, and kept it nice most of the time.

    This debate was broadcast abroad, and fortunately, probably didn’t turn into an enormous embarassment for the USA, which it easily could have given the last couple of weeks. I think Biden won on substance (helps that I agree with him on a lot of issues) but for the first time, I felt really good about him.

    Watching his DNC speech, I wasn’t electrified, he seemed kind of “Generic Senator(tm)” built up with the video bio beforehand and dragged onto the ticket to lend legitimacy. Then all I saw was one-liners of stump speech clips for a few weeks that never totally sold me on him. But the guy really seems to know his stuff. I’d definitely put him over Gore or Kerry for prez, and miles above Edwards, who, frankly, I thought hurt the Kerry ticket more than people wanted to admit in his ’04 debate.

    Good job, Senator, Governor… now… briiiiiing on the fact-checking!

  12. Mridul Chadha Says:

    Was waiting for this post, pacer.

    I think Biden clearly won the debate, he looked very comfortable even when Palin tried to push him on certain issues. For Palin it was more about damage control and she succeeded in that, for me she didn’t score any extra ‘grades’ for the debate.

    Palin’s remark that she’s been around only for five weeks was a low point so was her continuously going back to energy (she talked about energy when asked about mortgage and bankruptcy issues).

    Biden, in addition to his experience and command over various issues, also exhibited his ability to connect to the people. It was a great moment when he got emotional while talking about his wife and kids.

    Palin, i believe, just threw up what was stuffed into her by the campaign staff before the debate. Biden, on the other hand, was dynamic. He showed command on all issues, addressed all issues, answered directly and did great in connecting to the people.

    All in all, Biden helped Obama and his campaign while Palin only helped herself.

  13. xantica Says:

    Well gosh darnit she went up there and tried her best, and she was glad to do it without being filtered by those crazy liberal elite in the media dontcha’ know!

    Okay that was just oozing with sarcasm and now I feel dirty because of it.


  14. Unknown Nobody Says:

    I think everyone of us viewed this debate pulling for one or the other. We already have our opinion; we already know who we will vote for.

    Last week Obama “won” because he wasn’t expected to win. The news media claimed that he won because he didn’t lose. How come Palin isn’t getting the same treatment. I think she did just as well as Joe though she wasn’t expected to win. So I agree with ABC’s tactics and I declare that Palin won because she didn’t lose.

  15. Phil Says:

    Palin’s performance very much reflected the basis for her selection as VP. If you liked her before the debate, you loved her performance. If you hated her, you thought she debated poorly.

  16. mwmusicvt Says:

    I confess to being partisan (in favor of Palin), but I don’t think that Biden won the debate any more than I think Palin lost it.

    I do think that Palin scored a victory against conventional wisdom that said she was going to get crushed in the debate.

    Palin was strong on the war and foreign policy in general. She was also strong on energy issues. She did miss an opportunity to take Democrats (and the Washington establishment, in general) to task over the current financial crisis. That was her first question of the night and even though she should have expected it, she was probably wondering if her tongue was going to stop cleaving to the roof of her mouth.

    She tried a tactic of looking to the camera for most of the debate, and while I don’t care for it, I think it may work for some undecided’s out there. I also think she had another missed opportunity by not acknowledging Biden’s emotional moment in reference to his personal life. A simple acknowledgement would have shown a great deal of class and negated whatever empathetic boost Biden may have got from his visible emotions.

    I do think that Biden was almost neurotic when he kept mentioning George Bush by name many times in a row. It hinted at Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    I wish there would be another VP Debate for Sarah’s sake. I suspect having had this experience once she would be more relaxed (not that I thought she was robotic or visibly nervous).

    I think Dennis Miller said it best on his radio program the other day. If McCain-Palin try to play Obama at his game with their own version of smooth talking and lofty rhetoric, then they’re going to lose. They need to show up at their next event in (proverbial) jeans and t-shirts and show that they’re “real” people who are ready to take up the leadership role.

  17. pacer521 Says:

    Not on My Watch,

    I can see what you are saying. In truth, this debate wouldn’t make any major waves unless there was a big enough gaffe by McCain or Palin. And in that respect, we must now look at the little things.

    Thanks for the comment!

  18. pacer521 Says:

    Mridul Chadha,

    Great, I had some homework to do, so that’s my excuse for not getting it up fast enough…

    Palin didn’t get any grades from me either. In a partisan respect, Palin was telling me the same things as always, but because she was prepared, she didn’t stumble saying them. So in a sense it was about damage control, good point.

    Biden, however, has the ability to connect with the crowd because he didn’t need to focus on not gaffing. And because of this, I think he used his personality to his advantage.

    I disagree with the last point. I think that to us bloggers and political buffs, (including me) we could see through Palin’s rehearsal and know that she was only helping herself. But I doubt that the whole country will see that. Biden, however, clearly helped the Obama campaign no question about that.

    thanks for the comment as always, Mridul Chadha!

  19. pacer521 Says:


    Well, you got your point out, hehehe.

    I think that Palin did try her best and did a better job than I expected, but the reason she is being bashed by the media is because she both 1. won’t tell anyone about herself (ex. she only has done 3 television interviews 2. talks like a 1st grader teacher and is a woman. Its sad, and I hate them for doing it, but its true.

  20. pacer521 Says:


    I can in a sense see where you are coming from, but as I said in my post, there was a little more of a clean slate than the first debate.

    thanks for the comment.

  21. pacer521 Says:

    Unknown Nobody,

    like I said above, I think that there was more of a clean slate, but besides that, if you strongly were a Biden supporter, you would think of him to win, and vice versa.

    I disagree that Obama won last week because he was the underdog. I think that it helped, but he truly earned it.

    ABC did throw out a pretty interesting point — I agree with the part that Palin won…for her party that is. She definitely lost the debate to Biden. But she didn’t lose, Biden won. And that will give her party something to jabber about.

    thanks for the comment

  22. pacer521 Says:

    “I don’t think that Biden won the debate any more than I think Palin lost it.”

    I disagree with that. I think that Biden earned the win, and from a public standpoint so did Palin, but if you look into the specifics of it, from either party, Palin said that same things as usual. And that in itself is a win for biden. not a loss for palin.

    Other than that, I agree with your entire comment, I love to hear other tactics rather than the policies sometimes. Great comment. and thanks for commenting…


  23. I was anticipating the analysis following the debate but I have NEVER ever seen such polar opposites in media than the coverage from both networks. MSNBC ignored Biden’s errors, Kieth Oberman was focusing on Palin’s errors, especially her not knowing the name of the military head in Afghanistan (which is pretty dumb). However, Fox News was obnoxious, having a segment with Karl Rove where he pointed out 16 Biden errors.

    Heres the youtube link:

    One of them, Rove twists Biden’s words around claiming that Biden said that Article I of the constitution outlined the Executive Branch (it outlines the Legislative). The smear here is that Biden was responding to Senator Palin’s disturbing dream for expanding the already bastardizing power of the Vice President, saying that Palin is wrong and that the Vice President’s role in Congress is only to break a tie.

    As Biden said, in Article I. Article I, sec 3:

    “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.”

    Rove also criticized Biden’s comment that Obama’s tax cuts are as low as they were under Reagan. He then takes this comment out of context and compares Obama’s taxes to Reagan’s on the highest income bracket (<$2.1 million annual income). Now making that distinction is ridiculous.

    Thats all I got right now.

  24. angryafrican Says:

    I can’t vote, but have an interest. So I looked at the two candidates with two questions in mind:
    1. Who would best be able to help a President achieve the change he is promising?
    2. Who would you want to make the decisions and represent your country if the President isn’t there?

    That should be easy.

    People say the VP decision isn’t that important. I beg to differ. The second most powerful person in the US government and not seen as that important? Do you want to run your company with a good CEO but a CFO who knows nothing of how finances works? Or a COO who knows nothing of commerce? Maybe not.

    I agree with your analysis. Biden won. Not because of being cutsey or choking up. But because he ticked those two questions I asked myself.

  25. meretricis Says:

    She did stay within her comfort points and it was noticed by many. Why don’t we just vote for her speech writer.
    I don’t believe the people want another puppet, we want someone who will challenge through action, Washington’s status quo and it boils my tea [to say it kindly] when she plays the Disney role of hockey mom coming to the capital to shake things up.
    Wait until she gets knee deep in true politics, there’s no shaking it up.

  26. pacer521 Says:


    I see. Of course, this year is obviously a big election in total, but because of McCain’s age and Obama’s “inexperience” claims, both parties are keeping quite a few notes on the VEEP candidates.

  27. pacer521 Says:


    Exactly. The speech writer is really doing all the magic here, that’s a funny note.

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