The VP debate between Biden and Palin went pretty much as expected, although it was well worth watching. Both candidates came across as likable and made no major errors. These days, that is considered a win.
Biden, restricted by the set time limits, managed to avoid his usually Achilles heel: talking to long and getting off message. Overall, he came across as competent, informed and ready to be VP. He did have a disconcerting tendency to refer to himself as “Joe Biden” rather than using the first person approach. I tend to associate that sort of thing with large egos and/or mental illness, so that worried me just a bit. Biden also did the usual thing politicians do: if he didn’t like the question or if it didn’t fit his talking points, he just talked about the topic he wanted to talk about. While the moderator did a competent job, she should have been more aggressive about keeping Biden (and Palin) on the question.
Palin went into the debate with one main goal: damage control. After her horrible interviews she needed to establish an image of competence. She had clearly been well coached and had an array of pre-packaged responses ready to present. This shows that she can be trained to repeat what others have told her and that she can handle basic questions when properly prepared. Even somewhat more than Biden, she would go to her talking points rather than focusing on the actual question.
The consensus seems to be that Biden won the debate and that people liked Palin. It is not clear how this will impact voting behavior, if at all. In general, both candidates accomplished the main goal: they came across as up for the job of VP and made no serious mistakes.
Tonight is the debate between Biden and Palin. Naturally enough, the media is speculating about how it will play out. Being an experienced debater (two state championship titles-Maine and Ohio), I think I might as well present my own assessment.
In Biden’s favor is the fact that he is an experienced politician. He also seems to have a quick wit and a sense of humor, which will help in presenting that critical positive image. On the minus side, he is famous for his gaffes and mistatements. The debate setting provides him with an excellent opportunity to add some truly memorable gaffes to his collection. Of course, the gaffes never quite seem to stick in a truly harmful way. Perhaps Biden has a small piece of Reagan’s teflon coating in his pocket. Or perhaps he seems like such a likable fellow that people tend to see the gaffes as mere quirks.
The debate setting also helps Biden in that the time limits help deal with one of his main problems: his tendency to ramble on. Once he gets rambling, he tends to get off message and sometimes (like in the infamous clean coal incident) he says things that contradict the official positions he is supposed to hold. Biden, I suspect, will be saved by the bell tonight.
One challenge Biden does face is the fact that he is debating a woman. For all the talk about equality and women being just as good as men, it will cost him points if he is seen as being too rough on her. After all, many people still feel in terms of the classic gender roles, even if they consciously try to think in terms of the more liberated new roles. Of course, he cannot be too easy on her or otherwise act in ways that might be perceived as patronizing. That would also cost him points-especially with female voters.
Biden thus faces a serious challenge. He must come out ahead of Palin without seeming too aggressive or patronizing. He cannot fully treat her like a male oppponent (this would be seen by some as being too aggressive), but also has to avoid seeming to treat her in a special way because she is a woman (which might be seen as sexist or patronizing).
In Palin’s favor is the fact that some people find her likable and that she is clearly a fighter. On the minus side, her recent interviews have been horrible. They seem to show that she is woefully unprepared for the job. For example, other than Roe versus Wade, she does not seem to know anything about the Supreme Court decisions. Even more disturbing, she doesn’t seem to know what she reads for her news about the world. While she did great when reading a pre-written speech in a friendly setting (the RNC), she does not seem to be ready to think on her feet. This bodes ill for her performance in the debate.
She has, however, been coached extensively and this might help her. Also, she seems to do poorly when she is closely handled by her keepers. If she is able to be herself, she might do very well. Or she might not. After all, it is unclear who the real Palin might be-there is just not enough known about her.
She can use the fact that she is a woman to her advantage. As noted above, Biden has to steer between the Scylla of appearing too rough and the Charybdis of appearing patronizing. If Palin can push him either way, she can score political points.
Of course, the importance of the VP debate might be overblown by the media. Perhaps they will have a ho-hum exchange that will have little or no impact on the polls. Even if it is a memorable event, it also might be fairly insignificant. After all, people seem to be most influenced by the Presidential candidates rather than the VP candidates.
In any case, I’ll watch the debate. But, it will be mainly for the reason people watch Nascar: I’m hoping for a memorable disaster.
I saw on CNN that Biden claims that the University of Delaware will beat Ohio State. Given the thrashing that OSU took recently, that seems likely. Biden is a graduate of Delaware. I graduated from Ohio State.
An article on the CNN web site seems to try to convery that his remarks (given at his old school) were a serious political mistake. On one hand, they might be right. After all, politics is primarily a matter of emotion. If his support for his old school annoys OSU football fans, they might become upset to vote against him in a couple months. While that might seem irrational, people seem to often vote in irrational ways.
On the other hand, it seems ridiculous that an OSU fan would fault him for supporting his old school. After all, that is what people do. A politican should, just like anyone else, have the right to be a fan of his old school. Being a fan sometimes means talking smack against opposing teams. That is the way sports is-it is all part of the game. I think most fans know this. Actually, supporting his team might actually help him a bit-no one likes a fake fan who just cheers for a team to make people around him (or her) happy. Talking smack is something sports fans can, in general, respect. They obviously don’t like it against their team, but as long as someone isn’t too big of a jerk, it usually isn’t taken personally. I lived in Ohio for eight years, so I have a reasonable good idea how this works in the Buckeye State. So, it seems likely that the media is once again trying to whip up controvery where none really exists.
On a personal note: “Biden, Ohio State is going to kick Delaware’s ass. You can take that to what’s left of the banks.”