Another Post VP Debate Analysis

Debates
Thursdays VP Candidates Debate

Thursday's VP Candidate's Debate

I know, everyone has a detailed post VP debate analysis.  Lots of focus groups out there saying who won or lost, pundits of every stripe analyzing who was folksier and who made contact with the “American Public.”  OK, here’s another one.  My take is slightly different than “who won.”  To conservatives, Palin won going away.  To liberals, Biden was masterful.  The real question for me was did each candidate accomplish the three goals of VP debating: don’t look like an idiot, hammer the other guy’s Presidential candidate while supporting your own and create a few fifteen second sound bites that can play over and over for the next few days.  Let’s break each one of these down.

The Idiot Factor

Both candidates were playing defense going into the debate.  Gov. Palin had a truly disastrous interview with Katie Couric and Senator Biden was trying to live down an FDR faux pas that brought back up a history of off-the-cuff verbal gaffs.  Here, both candidates executed perfectly.  Palin was the down home, folksy candidate the McCain team must have studied in their vetting procedure.  She steered every question to her favorite topics and hit them hard.  Biden gave her a couple of chances to go off script when he went after McCain and she wisely ignored them.  Likewise, Biden was cool and collected, ignoring Palin’s comments about Biden’s anti-Obama remarks during the primaries and showing a mastery of facts and figures.  He was ready with his own tales of shopping at Home Depot and talking to people at gas stations and kept all the hardball comments directed at McCain.  Call both candidates winners on this one, but no one really doubted Senator Biden has the stuff to jump into the Oval Office if he had to.  Governor Palin probably put some fears to rest, at least on the right.

Helping the good guy, hurting the bad guy and the 15 second sound bite

Once upon a time, this was the end all be all of the VP debate.  Convince the public that your guy would be a great President, make them fear the other guy and provide some clips that could play over and over on radio and TV.  Both candidates came out swinging with Biden offering

…it was two Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o’clock in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he said George — we’ve made great economic progress under George Bush’s policies.

Nine o’clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o’clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis.

That doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he’s out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.

and Palin responding

Now, Barack Obama, of course, he’s pretty much only voted along his party lines. In fact, 96 percent of his votes have been solely along party line, not having that proof for the American people to know that his commitment, too, is, you know, put the partisanship, put the special interests aside, and get down to getting business done for the people of America.

Palin also threw in repeated jabs about Biden’s previous comments criticizing Obama

I know that the other ticket opposed this surge, in fact, even opposed funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama voted against funding troops there after promising that he would not do so.  And Sen. Biden, I respected you when you called him out on that. You said that his vote was political and you said it would cost lives.

and

You also said that Barack Obama was not ready to be commander in chief. And I know again that you opposed the move he made to try to cut off funding for the troops and I respect you for that. I don’t know how you can defend that position now but I know that you know especially with your son in the National Guard and I have great respect for your family also and the honor that you show our military. Barack Obama though, another story there. Anyone I think who can cut off funding for the troops after promising not to is another story.

She did get in there with this Iraq comment that will see a lot of play on the conservative talk circuit.

Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not what our troops need to hear today, that’s for sure.

While that might not play well with undecided voters, that’s right in line with the conservative base.  But Biden routinely defended Obama eloquently and blithely ignored those previous comments of his.  His praise of Obama was especially solid in this passage after being asked how his administration would differ from Obama’s in the case he had to succeed him to office.

God forbid that would ever happen, it would be a national tragedy of historic proportions if it were to happen.

But if it did, I would carry out Barack Obama’s policy, his policies of reinstating the middle class, making sure they get a fair break, making sure they have access to affordable health insurance, making sure they get serious tax breaks, making sure we can help their children get to college, making sure there is an energy policy that leads us in the direction of not only toward independence and clean environment but an energy policy that creates 5 million new jobs, a foreign policy that ends this war in Iraq, a foreign policy that goes after the one mission the American public gave the president after 9/11, to get and capture or kill bin Laden and to eliminate al Qaeda. A policy that would in fact engage our allies in making sure that we knew we were acting on the same page and not dictating.

And a policy that would reject the Bush Doctrine of preemption and regime change and replace it with a doctrine of prevention and cooperation and, ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest ticket item that we have in this election.

This is the most important election you will ever, ever have voted in, any of you, since 1932. And there’s such stark differences, I would follow through on Barack’s policies because in essence, I agree with every major initiative he is suggesting.

Here is where Palin fell short.  Biden routinely scored with jack-hammer like critisisms of McCain like these.

I haven’t heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush’s.
I haven’t heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush’s.
I haven’t heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush’s.
I haven’t heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush’s.

and

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against — he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

He’s not been a maverick on the war.

He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Palin left these attacks unanswered.   Biden’s attempts to tie McCain to President Bush were met with lame comments about looking backwards.  Much of her defense of McCain was of the general baseball and apple pie type.  That’s probably not going to reassure those independent voters listening to Biden hammer away at McCain’s reputation for independence.

In the end, I think the average undecided voter is looking for assurance that the candidate they are leaning toward will make a good President.  I think Biden made the case for Obama while casting doubt on McCain.  I don’t think Palin did more than shore up the base.

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