October 2, 2008

Bitches Ain't Shit: Commentary on the Vice Presidential Debates

Mistake number 1: Sarah Palin: "Has this been a good time or a bad time in our economy?"

And with that Sarah Palin's readiness for the Vice Presidency fails.

To be fair, the Vice Presidential debates have rarely affected election outcomes. Even Lloyd Bensten's attack on Dan "Not Jack Kennedy" Quayle did not significantly change the outcome of the 1992 election. But tonight, for once, that might change. Because Sarah Palin, not John McCain, has been the focus of the Republican campaign for the past few weeks, this debate will be key. If Palin appears to have won this debate, then Republican momentum has a chance to shift towards a victory this November. Failure here will mean that there is no chance for the Republicans to change the outcome of this election: the loss of this debate will mean that no more opportunities to shift the election narrative will exist for the Mccain campaign.

Biden started off strong, slamming Palin on several key points. He appeared to be more in control and ran a narrative more conducive to American voters. Palin did not make huge gaffes, but because she stuck to many standard attack points of Republicans, she was unable to connect with more voters.

On the topic of energy, Biden managed to successfully turn Palin's argument about her accomplishments in Alaska with regards to oil companies (like the windfall tax) against John McCain, continuing the job that he has to do in this debate. As long as he focuses his attacks on McCain, Biden is creating a win-win situation: he gets to attack the ticket, but he also manages to avoid charges of sexism.

As the debate got on longer, Palin's hand strengthened simply through her continued ability to not screw up. Biden weakened slightly as his responses continued to get longer, but he held on to still be the leader in this debate. Palin appeared to be more knowledgeable than expected, and as a result she improved her image regardless of what else she does.

Mistake number 2: Sarah Palin: "There have been huge blunders in this administration."

One of Palin's strengths was her ability to rally the base, but with a comment like this, Palin risks alienating conservatives who were excited by Palin while providing fodder for the Democrats.

Palin's strategy shifted towards diverting attention away from George Bush before the debate became more substantive. In the end the debate became a serious fight between two candidates, though because of the early strong start by Biden, he has clearly won this debate.

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