Handicapping Tonight’s VP Debate

UPDATE: post-debate analysis and polling in the comments section.

I am the rare Democrat who is not particularly looking forward to tonight’s Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Biden, long-respected in D.C. and across the country as a solid officeholder and seasoned foreign policy expert, has a high bar to clear. This gaffe-prone candidate must avoid misspeaking, and he must do it while squaring off against a semi-likeable woman, which is always a bit more tricky.

Meanwhile, all Palin must do to exceed expectations is avoid spitting up on herself a little. The public expects her to know nothing, and to be able to articulate even less than that. She is bound be able to exceed that expectation. And to the extent she fails to deliver a clear answer to a question, you can bet she and the backroom spinners will blame it on Palin being “picked on.”

Biden debating Palin is like a table full of very good poker players, with one idiot greenhorn at the table who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Often, the greenhorn will mess up the entire game so badly that nobody is able to play well. In that context, Palin would be best served by getting agressive early, and staying on the attack. She’d be seen as “fiesty” on her own merits by some, and meanwhile it would throw Biden off his game so badly he might be unable to score many points of his own.

Some pundits are expecting the debate tonight to be the beginning of the end (or, after the last several days, maybe the end of the end) for the McCain campaign.

I just don’t see that decisive of a play in the cards tonight. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if after watching, everybody I know declares Biden the clear winner of the debate, only to find in overnight polling that voters across the country liked Palin’s performance better.



4 Responses to Handicapping Tonight’s VP Debate

  1. Anonymous October 3, 2008 at 8:37 am #

    Is the photo on this article, Palin’s photo?

  2. whiskeydent October 3, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    And the survey says: Biden 51%, Palin 36% (CNN).

    Really, it was a tie, so we win.

  3. FUBAR October 3, 2008 at 1:48 pm #

    I think both sides won, able to take something away from it.

    Conservatives were pleasantly surprised that she was as articulate as she was. Everybody else was surprised that Biden gave the performance of his life (which turned out to be a damn good thing, given Palin’s surprisingly strong performance).

    The overnight polls:

    Who did the best job:
    Biden: 51
    Palin: 36

    Who exceeded expectations?
    Palin: 84
    Biden: 64

    Who was more likeable?
    Palin: 54
    Biden: 36

    Palin also failed in stressing the one thing left which might cause Obama to lose, which is to help gain traction to the notion that Obama is a risky choice. She probably did succeed in at least partially quieting the deep concerns of Republicans that Palin might embarrass them.

    All-in-all, Whiskeydent is exactly right. As a stand-alone event, the advantage may well be to a slight Palin net advantage (because she came into it so far in the ditch), but as part of a greater political process, it was indeed a virtual wash, which prevents the event from being the game-changer the McCain campaign desperately needed.

  4. Eric Bearse October 3, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    Say it Ain’t so Joe

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