I think we all managed to survive the VP debate tonight. It's pretty hard for me to think about it objectively, given my belief that George W. Bush is the antichrist, and any McCain-Palin presidency would be an unmitigated disaster. But I'll try to think about it clearly and fairly as best I can.
The whole focus tonight was on Sarah Palin, on whether she would manage to recite her scripted lines and not completely melt down on the stage. She did very well in that regard. There were no gaffes or goofs. She continues to demonstrate her limited knowledge and skills, and she did a good job of dodging questions she couldn't answer. Most of her lines read like they were all written on a single 3" x 5" card, but she was able to stick to those lines and not get rattled.
I felt deeply uncomfortable every time she started to speak. She reminded me of my time on the high school debate squad. In fact, she talked and recited just like a 15-year-old who's nervously trying to remember their bullet points. It's all awkward nervousness and rote memorization; I could almost hear the sound of her brain scrambling....what should I say here? What's my line? Raising taxes? Or McCain is a maverick?
Palin again demonstrates that she just isn't ready for the major leagues. She was a minor league player who was yanked up by a desperate McCain campaign, and it shows. And to be honest, I'm starting to feel a little bit sorry for her. Honest. She represents a ticket and a party that is terrible for America and the world on any given issue, but, still. It was wrong of McCain to pick someone so inexperienced, especially when so many better Republican women were available.
That's an interesting admission, and I'll be waiting to see if Palin earns any degree of a "sympathy vote" at the end of the campaign. I don't believe that voters will warm over to her again and reverse her sliding approval numbers. But I do think it's possible she could build a degree of sympathy that could pay off in a future election. Either that, or she will crash and burn out when she returns to Alaska, where her political career will slowly dissolve into irrelevancy. Sarah Palin became a punch line in 2008, but don't be surprised if we're talking about her again in a few years.
Joe Biden was solid, as anyone would expect. He's a seasoned Senator and he knows his stuff. There was talk of possible gaffes from him, and he does have a tendency to stay something stupid from time to time, but, again, nobody made any errors. The difference between his performance and Palin's was immense, not only his verbal skills, but his experience. He made the case for Obama and against McCain.
Overall, I'd have to give this one a draw. Maybe an edge to Biden, but he had the experience advantage, so I expected him to deliver the goods. Political freaks like me are going to be cheering for him. That's almost a given in this race. Palin only had to show up and recite her six lines. Sigh. I fear for the world if she got into the White House. She's as dumb as a bag of rocks. Then again, so is much of America. Whatever. The GOP faithful will eat it up. They'll love her. The rest of us, not so much.
I had the impression that Palin was playing defense tonight, reciting those precious code words that the conservatives love to hear again and again. It's about all the Republican Party has left. They've had power and the time to do everything they wanted, and in the end, everything fell to ashes. They can't sell the American public on the virtues of unregulated free markets and "staying the course." Not anymore.
So it doesn't bother me to think this debate was a draw. The momentum is clearly on Obama's side, and he's building towards a decisive victory. McCain knows he's in real trouble, too, as his Michigan exit today demonstrates. He'll have to fortify his base and struggle to hold onto the Bush 2004 states, states which Obama will make competitive. Tonight's performance won't change that dynamic.
For the record, I still feel that this race is effectively over. Barack Obama is going to win and win big. Things can change suddenly, and we all know how many surprises the 2008 election has given. But I think the American voters are finally making their minds up to sweep out the Republicans in November.