So, now that a few days have passed (and the SNL skit has run), we can better digest the VP debate and predict what to expect from the second McCain-Obama debate on Tuesday. Let's go back to my criteria, and then I will add two more that I recalled during the debate.
- Jargon: For Joe Biden, it was a struggle not to sound like the chairman of the foreign relations committee. For Sarah Palin, the goal was to sound like some one who knew what the foreign relations committee did. For the most part, Biden sounded like a normal, educated person. Palin, in an effort to sound educated, rattled off the names of people she met at the UN the other day and those that were on her cue cards. It was a rare time that her sentences had a coherent thought. Biden spent his time explaining (without condescension) the 2005 Bankruptcy bill, the 2005 Engery Bil, how McCain's vote and Obama's vote were equally "against the troops" and how McCain is no maverick/different than Bush. Advantage: Biden
- Talking about unpopular things: Palin went back to the old "But the Surge is working!!" crap, but did not dwell on it as long as McCain did, showing that it is his obsession, not the Republican Party's. Biden had to spent time explaining how his position on the war was different from McCain's and the same as Obama's. Advantage: Palin.
- Look them in the eye and tell them that they were wrong: Palin had her "oh no Joe, there you go again!" line and a couple factually inaccurate ways of attacking Obama and Biden. Biden smartly (more on this later) did not directly attack Palin, rather he praised her when she "supported" something McCain opposed, like a windfall profits tax on oil companies or same-sex couple property rights. Instead, he looked into the camera and attacked McCain, which is a VP candidate's job. Given that Biden's attacks were crisper and more factually based, Advantage: Biden.
- Gimmickry: Calling yourself a "Maverick" and referring to middle class voters as "Soccer Moms" and "Joe Sick-Pack" makes people wonder how regular-guy/gal you really are. Given her dearth of knowledge of public policy and current events (despite her claim that she reads all of the world's newspapers) might make her seem average, but then her ability to drop G's like they were dollar bills and other repeated folksyisms lend an aire of phoniness. My contrast, Biden gets a softball thanks to Palin (who must not have been briefed on Joe's personal tragedy) to choke up and talk about being a single dad worried about his children surviving. Her response to this signature moment? Recite her drinking game words. Advantage: Biden
- Moderator's pet peeves: At least ten times, Palin opted to explicitly not answer the Gwen Iffil's question and to go to her talking points. While Ifill was powerless (given the debate format) to call Palin on it, she sure was pissed. “Blew me off i think is the technical term,” Ifill said today on Meet the Press. Answering questions is not an odd pet peeve, it is the point of the debate. Otherwise, it is just a cue card recall competition...oh wait. Advantage: Biden
- Hold your tongue judiciously: Joe Biden's preppers proudest moment, I learned today, was when Palin confused the name of the general in charge of the war in Afghanistan with the worst Civil War general for the union. Why? Because you could tell that this error irked Joe, but said nothing about it. The old Biden would have given a 10 minute lecture about the subject and come off like a blowhard know-it-all. Thursday night's Biden let Palin hang herself with her own rope. Advantage: Biden
- Treat her like a lady: [New point number 1] When a male politician debates a female one, it is a rare moment of a double standard in favor of the female. Instead of worrying about what the woman is wearing, viewers worry about the aggressive body language of the male towards the female. Rep. Rick Lazio blew his shot at an open senate seat by (among other things violating Hillary Clinton's personal space during a debate. While males can call each other by their first names to convey collegiality--like Biden or Obama and McCain--but to not call a female politician by her title is seen as condescending/demeaning given the history of males doing just that with a malicious intent. Especially for Joe Biden, a man known for his gaffes and arrogant reputation, he had to call Sarah Palin "Governor Palin" and not Sarah, while she could call him "Joe." Only once did I hear Biden not call her Governor Palin, and then he immediately corrected himself. Advantage: Biden
- win the SNL primary: In 2000, Al Gore was mocked for his excessively loud sighing in the first debate, then for his overly mellow behavior in the second (they joked he was on horse tranquilizers). In the meantime, George W. Bush got close enough to "win" the electoral college. John McCain didn't pick Sarah Palin because or despite the fact she looks like Tina Fey, but this similarity has resulted in a lasting caricature of her as an idiot who is has trouble even parroting her lines. Fey's latest take down of the debate showed how empty the word "maverick" has become. They made fun of Obama for being a Chicago politician (and therefore must want to help his corrupt friends back home), and Biden for his love of John McCain but their mockery of McCain and Palin has been much harsher. These days, it is impossible to separate Fey's impression of Palin from Palin herself. Her actual debate performance actually dragged down the ticket among undecideds, even if Republicans were less depressed after the debate. This shows that my analysis is not as biased as you might think: Biden did much better than Palin did.Advanatage: Biden
This leads me to my point about the principals as well, McCain might be boxed in by SNL as Gore was in 2000. It will be interesting to see how McCain will adjust after an 0-2 performance from the ticket thus far in the debates and Obama being up by about 8.5 points (with significant leads in OH, FL, VA, and within striking distance in NC and MO). Will be be less aggressive/more friendly, seeing how people reacted to his "What Senator Obama doesn't understand..."? Will he be even more aggressive, given his campaign (and therefore Palin) has decided to talk about William Ayers? Will Obama bring up Charles Keating like he went tit for tat against Hillary Clinton during the primaries? I will get the popcorn ready, you bring the butter.