Sen. Joe Biden appeared to avoid the perception of attacking Gov. Sarah Palin by focusing his attacks on the top of the opposition ticket. He continually pushed the differences between Sen. Barack Obama and himself, and Sen. John McCain.
But Gov. Palin kept trotting out her scripted attacks, to the point where it became obvious that Sen. Biden was being forceful about policy, and gentle on motives. And finally, near the end, he spelled it out with an anecdote about Sen. Jesse Helms, a man whom anyone paying attention to politics would consider a fucking racist son of a bitch (including me – yes, Helms is dead, so what?) but Sen. Biden treated publicly with a sense of collegiality.
Biden kept returning to the “kitchen table” topics that regular Americans are dealing with: health care and taxes. He choked up when mentioning his own personal tragedy – Gov. Palin had no reaction to that brief show of emotion; she just launched into her prepared talking points.
Palin’s schtick is easy to see – pivot into the talking points at the earliest possibility. Carri Bugbee pointed out on Twitter during the debate that the only actual policy that Palin pointed out was her stand on gay marriage (no way – duh, she’s playing to the gay-hating Republican base), and… and… nothing else.
I’m sure Palin’s performance tonight will play well to the base. That’s all she seems capable of. Her coded messages of “white flag of surrender!” and “income redistribution” and “maverick, maverick, maverick!” will read loud and clear to the twenty-five-percenters who already love her (to those who don’t have the secret decoder ring, those code phrases mean “coward!”, “Communist!” and “Bush is NOT A REAL REPUBLICAN”, respectively).
C’mon, though. Her connection to the “heartland” of America? When did Alaska become the “heartland”? Oh, neat, she’s got a quirky gay friend, just like on a sitcom! And just try to wrap your head around the concept of “a team of mavericks”. Can one actually join a “team of mavericks”? Isn’t that like joining an anarchists club?
On the merits and the substance, Biden won the debate. On style and class, Biden won the debate.
Gov. Palin’s stock responses may win her merits back in Juneau. My prediction is that she didn’t win many undecided voters.