LiveBlogging Palin vs. Biden

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Hello! And welcome to Bwog’s exciting liveblog of the Vice Presidential Debate, brought to you by White House Bureau Chief James Downie and Bwog Editor Juli Weiner. Okay, let’s go.

9:05 PM: They’re both excited to be here. Palin wants us to ask ourselves if it’s a “good time or bad time” for the economy. Palin brings up John McCain’s warnings about Fannie and Freddie.

9:06 PM: Oh, god, Palin mentioned how McCain suspended his campaign and there were Partisan Laughs in the Piano Lounge, where your Bwog correspondents are stationed. 

9:07 PM: Biden reminds everyone that McCain said the “fundamentals” of the economy are strong, just two weeks ago he said this thing.

9:08 PM: Palin said McCain has a “team of mavericks.”

9:09 PM: Ifill says Palin “didn’t really answer that last question.” Huge Partisan Laughter.

9:10 PM: Both at least have made sure to mention/credit the top of their tickets in every answer…

9:11 PM: Hockey moms and Joe Sixpack mention #1

9:12 PM: This debate has significantly tighter rules than the presidential debates, which many thought would help Palin. Actually, it may help Biden more, because he’ll have to shut his mouth.

9:13 PM: Biden is talking about his friend named “Joey” who doesn’t even know how much it costs to fill up his own gas tank.

9:14 PM: Biden said Obama supported deregulation across the board. First sharp argument of the debate. “I may not answer the questions the way moderator wants to hear, but I talk straight to the American people.”

9:15 PM: Why is Palin arguing on the “not answering the question” charge? Politicians normally ignore it.

9:16 PM: Biden says no one making less than $250k will see their taxes raised. “That seems to be simple fairness.” Biden is calling McCain “John.”

9:17 PM: Palin directly addressing Biden to try and equal the stature field. Saying he and Obama are taxing small businesses is straight out of  GOP Talking Points 101.

9:19 PM: Biden says “I don’t know where to start.” He says a list of places he’s lived. He says 95% of small business owners make less than the aforementioned $250k. Biden calls McCain’s health care plan an “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.” There is clapping, and “oooh-ing!” in the Piano Lounge.

9:21 PM: Though that was a zinger, Palin’s managing to stick to her script and not do too terribly. Biden stumbles through “characterize.”

9:23 PM: Palin tries to reverse the standard narrative by claiming she took on the oil companies as governor.

9:24 PM: Palin says her area of expertise is “energy.” She says, “How long have I been at this, like five weeks?”

9:25 PM: Biden says Obama voted for the energy bill because there was real support for alternative energy. He says McCain is adding $4 billion in tax cuts for “the Exxon-Mobils of the world.” Biden says that he and Barack want to give money back to America like Palin has been able to do for Alaskans.

9:26 PM: On to the economy. Palin is talking about the “corruption and the greed on Wall St.” She brings up McCain and Fannie and Freddie again. Why does she keeping bringing up that McCain suspended the campaign?

9:27 PM: Biden kind of avoids a question about a bill he supported that Obama didn’t. He says they both support bankrupcy courts being allowed to adjust the interest rates and principal rate on mortgages. He says he thinks McCain and Palin don’t support this too, but he’s “not sure.”

9:29 PM: Uh, Palin refuses to discuss the economy and says she wants to talk about energy independence.

9:30 PM: And the focus group lines crater. What will the media think tomorrow about her constant refusals to answer the question? They don’t like getting pushed aside.

9:31 PM: Ifill bites back with “Let’s talk about energy issues.” Palin tries to thread the needle on global warming, and the focus group lines don’t actaully move that much.

9:32 PM: Palin says she “doesn’t want to argue about the causes of climate change,” despite this being the exact question she was given.


9:33 PM: Biden thinks the cause of climate change is man made. He says McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy. He wants to export clean coal technology to China and other places.

9:34 PM: Palin says the chant is “drill baby drill.” What is she talking about? Who chants this? She says that Biden and Obama think offshore drilling is “raping” the intercontinental shelf.

9:35 PM: Biden and Palin both support clean coal technology.

9:36 PM: Now we’re on to same-sex benefits. Biden supports it. He says that the Constitution supports this, there is scattered clapping in the Piano Lounge.

9:37 PM: Palin says she’ll be “tolerant,” claims being gay is a choice, a “lifestyle people choose for themselves.”

9:38 PM: Biden nor Obama support “redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage.”

9:39 PM: Okay! On to Iraq. Palin says we have a plan for withdrawl but we do not need “early withdrawl.” She says “we’ve got to win in Iraq” and says the Surge has worked.

9:40 PM: Biden says there must be a timeline for withdrawl. Obama says it’s time for Iraq to spend their own money.

9:42 PM: Palin to Biden: “Your plan is a white flag of surrender.” Yet the focus group numbers just went from very positive for Biden to really negative.

9:43 PM: Biden has also figured out generally that he can take shots at McCain because Palin hasn’t fought back until the most recent exchange.

9:44 PM: Palin uses “another story” phrase to describe Obama twice in about ten words.

9:45 PM: Greatest threat? Nuclear Iran or unstable Pakistan?

9:45 PM: Biden says they’re both threatening. He says Iran getting nukes would be “very destabalizing.” He says that McCain continues to tell us that the central front for the war on terror is in Iraq. Biden thinks it will come from al-Qaeda planning in the hills in Pakistan.

9:47 PM: Palin pivots away from the question, cites support for Iraq strategy fighting “the leader of Al-Qaeda there.” Then she rambles into an answer on Ahmadinejad and “the Castro brothers.”

9:48 PM: She still will probably beat expectations though.

9:49 PM: Biden clarifies Palin’s statements about meeting with Ahmadinejad without preconditions. Ahmadinejad doesn’t control nuclear weapons in Iran, he says.

9:50 PM: Biden says McCain will not even talk with adversaries. He says McCain wouldn’t even sit down with the government of Spain, that has troops in Afghanistan with us now. Biden: “I find that incredible.” Claps, and Partisan Laughter!

9:51 PM: Palin says a “two state solution is the solution.” She’s talking about Israel, and how she doesn’t want to “see a second Holocaust.”

9:52 PM: Biden refers to himself in the third person and says that no one has been a better friend to Israel than him, Joe Biden.

9:53 PM: Biden said that we should have moved NATO forces into Lebanon. We didn’t, and now Hezbollah is a presence there. Biden says we must back Israel and stand with them, and no insist on specific policies like Bush.

9:54 PM: “I’m so encouraged to know that we both love Israel!” Palin gushed to Biden.

9:55 PM: Palin respects Biden for respecting McCain. Biden wants to know how McCain’s policies are different from Bush’s.

9:56 PM: He keeps saying the phrase “same as George Bush’s.” This is comical!

9:56 PM: Ifill: What should be the trigger in terms of when we should use nukes?

9:56 PM: She says that regimes should not be allowed to acquire weapons. “Can we talk about Afghanistan real quick also?” Well yes, we are. She’s talking about the success of the Surge, and implmenting it in Afghanistan.

9:57 PM: She says we’re building schools for children and fighting terrorists in Afghanistan. And this is when we should use nuclear weapons!

9:58 PM: Biden says that commanding general in Afghanistan said that the Surge will not work in Afghanistan.

9:59 PM: Biden purposefully repeats himself two separate times in one answer. He seems like he’s starting to share McCain’s disdain for his debate opponent.

10:01 PM: Palin and Biden disagree on whether the commanding general said this thing.

10:02 PM: Biden is talking about his recommendations for Bosnia. “The end result was it worked.” Now there is a stable government there. Biden is talking about how the President said he needed to keep sanctions on Iraq, not go to war.

10:02 PM: “We should rally the world to act” re: Darfur.

10:03 PM: Palin says she’s not “used to the way you [Washington insiders] work.”

10:04 PM: Like last time, the deeper the debate goes into foreign policy, the better one candidate does. This time it’s Biden. Also, the format of this debate has forced talking points to take precedence over policy explanations, unlike the first debate.

10:05 PM: Biden says he never supported McCain’s stance on the war and suggests you go to JoeBiden.com and see for yourself!

10:06 PM: “John McCain was lockstep with Dick Cheney about how this was going to be easy.”

10:06 PM: Palin disagrees. “John McCain knows how to win a war. He knows what evil is.”

10:07 PM: What if your running mate died while in office?

10:07 PM: Biden would “carry out Barack Obama’s policies” and goes about naming them.

10:08 PM: “Most important election we will ever have voted in. In essence I agree with every major initiative he has suggested.”

10:09 PM: Palin: “What do you expect? A team of mavericks — we’re not going to agree on everything.” She winks.

10:09 PM: She wants to get rid of greed and corruption. “A little reality from Wasilla Main St.”

10:10 PM: Biden says he spends a lot of time in Home Depot. Just like your dad!

10:11 PM: He says the middle class has gotten the short end. Barack Obama will change this.

10:11 PM: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” Palin says in a ridiculous southern accent.

10:12 PM: Oh, damn. Palin says Biden’s wife Jill’s “reward is in heaven” for being a teacher. On a related note, Biden’s first wife died in a terrible car crash.

10:13 PM: Palin says Ifill’s remark was a “lame attempt at a joke” because no one got it.

10:14 PM: Biden “has a history of getting things done in the Senate.”

10:16 PM: According to Palin, the founding father’s were “flexible” in their definition of the responsibilities of the vice president.” 

10:17 PM: Biden: Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president. Clapping and cheering in the Piano Lounge.

10:18 PM: Much as some in the Piano Lounge roll their eyes at “small-town America” talk, Palin does well when she can stick to that. CNN putting each question on the screen probably hasn’t help her dodge questions though.

10:21 PM: Biden chokes up a little while talking about worrying bringing up kids, given the death of his wife.

10:22 PM: Palin’s repeating her talking points.

10:23 PM: Biden “Let’s talk about the Maverick.” McCain voted four times for Bush’s budget. “He has not been a Maverick.” McCain has not been a Maverick on virtually anything that people talk about around the kitchen table.”

10:24 PM: Ifill: Issue that you are forced to change a long-held view to usher in change?

10:24 PM: Biden is talking about his time at the judiciary committee. Palin is talking about times she didn’t veto budgets. “There hasn’t been something that I’ve had to compromise on.”

10:26 PM: Ifill: How do you change the partisan tone?

10:27 PM: Biden says he learned a lesson from Mike Mansfield about this thing. It’s a story about Jesse Helms and what if he adopted a child with special needs? Uh, what if? Anyway moral of the story: don’t question people’s motives.

10:28 PM: Palin says the “proposals have to speak for themselves.”

10:29 PM: Biden’s been able to close this debate strongly with several personal stories that have matched Palin’s ability to empathize with “small-twon America.”

10:30 PM: Palin closes by saying she and McCain will “fight for America” and for freedom. Ends the debate on a very negative note, warning of the end of “freedom.”

10:31 PM: Biden sticks to the Obama campaign message by emphasizing the need for change. He ends with a shout-out to Scranton values, “dignity,” says Obama and he will reassert those values.

10:32 PM: The debate’s over. Enjoy the partisan pundits afterwards!



  1. oh.hello.there  

    Biden did very well, Palin held her own.
    She did not have any major issues (see: Katie Couric interviews), but instead sounded much more intelligent and knowledgeable. She did skirt around actually answering the question a little to much, and often spoke a little too much in broad terms ; Biden is much better at covering his tracks when he does this.

    In the end, no winner. Palin exceeded expectations, Biden merely performed to his. While I think some of the mistakes Biden made would have been huge jokes against Palin (see: "characterize"), there weren't talked about as heatedly.

    Not the greatest debate, not nearly enough fire, but entertaining none the less. It probably won't change anyone's stance on who they're voting for, but it was an excellen 90 minute VP debate.

  2. Michael  

    I was really impressed with Palin. Though someone needs to talk to her about the pronunciation of "nuclear"--she'll have enough connection to Bush without that--she held her own, was consistent in her positions, was unapologetic in her beliefs, and did a great job of appealing to the common American.

    Biden also avoided a lot of questions, particularly those asked by Palin, but got a lot less grief for it (shocking, I know).

    I was really impressed with the debate. I propose McCain and Palin switch roles. Then this will be a race worth getting passionate about!

  3. Mike Oxbig  

    I'm still not the least bit warm on Palin. I was never a Palin basher and did not fall into the inane Palinfest of the past two weeks that have gone overboard imo, but did have severe issues with her abilities.

    She did nothing to change that tonight. The woman cannot answer a question. It's as simple as that. She'll segway into another topic or broaden the issue to such a large extent that her answer is no longer in any way relevant to the inquiry. Always.

    Plus I did not like how she kept on dropping personal information about herself and Biden throughout the debate. You have a family? That's fantastic. You know how to use wikipedia to learn about Biden's family? Thrilling....Now say something of substance, woman!

    It reminded me of that SNL sketch where she is accused of saying something adowable whenever she has nothing to say. Pew, Pew!

    Not that Biden was a beacon of grandeur either, mind you.

  4. Anonymous  

    biden killed it. end of story.

  5. TV show  

    the tv show im watching has 86% saying palin won. that must mean something. good for her.

    • interesting

      What show is that? CNN released a poll minutes after the debate concluded saying quite the contrary.

      • Ah.

        I'm hearing that was FOX. It's very strange how politically lopsided the audiences were tonight on the respective networks. I saw a group of seemingly representative voters tell Frank Luntz that most of them were pleased with Palin's performance. A few minutes later, however, few such inclined listeners could be found in Soledad O'Brian's group of seemingly representative voters on CNN. I know that these networks are very biased, but hasn't been quite this bad as of late until now. The focus groups have always been pretty accurate in the past.

      • answer

        That was a woefully unscientific poll by Fox News which asked viewers to text in who they thought won the debate (for a fee), so that sort of conservative skew isn't surprising. Even if Biden had lit his podium on fire, he wouldn't have lost 86-12 among a random sampling of viewers.

        The ostensibly reliable snap measurements I saw were based either on focus groups of undecided voters or a random phone sample of people who watched the debate (not necessarily on the channel conducting the poll). They broke down as follows:

        -CNN: 51% of debate viewers said Biden won, 36% said Palin (524 sample size, conducted by phone)

        -CBS News: 46% of uncommitteds said Biden won, 21% said Palin; 18% of uncommitteds said they had decided to vote for Obama as a result of the debate, 10% said the same of McCain (conducted by phone)

        -The Fox News/Luntz focus group gave a narrow edge to Palin, but I can't find the exact numbers

        So it looks like Biden eked out a debate win, but given how few people vote for a ticket based on the VP, it's not clear what that really means. Palin may have been able to blunt some of the criticism she was encountering; then again, I'm guessing her and Biden's roles in the campaign will be much smaller from now on. Obama and McCain have to close this.

        • follow-up

          I tend to trust the phone polls more than any focus group, as the sample sizes are many times larger. Besides, a focus group can easily be stacked by CNN or Fox, whereas a 25-point spread from a random sample is harder to fudge.

  6. follow-up 2

    In the interest of including all the data, here's the MediaCurves breakdown: http://mediacurves.com/. Hard to know how reliable that one is, but the spread is in the ballpark of CNN/CBS.

    The Luntz group, meanwhile, was like 30 people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKrk_6QjcNw&eurl=http://hotair.com/archives/2008/10/02/luntz-focus-group-palin-in-a-blowout/

  7. come on  

    let's be real: palin's main weakness is answering questions, and she did well in the debate because she wasn't forced to answer questions. she's could at generally sounding good and going to talking points, and you can't expect her to mess up unless she's forced to make specific answers.

    on the other hand, biden was really on point, especially toward the end of the debate, in a way palin could not be. basically, he knows what he's talking about.

    palin did alright, but that doesn't mean that she knows what she's doing.

  8. few things

    independents swung toward biden, and away from palin's talking points. all those realtime audience dials showed people hating the "maverick" repetition, so the concept is likely nearing total ineffectiveness in swaying undecideds.

    you could see she'd been coached to stick to the schtick from the nomination speech. anyone looking for a substantive policy discussion saw the same.

    also, undecided women: they liked biden. female opinion tracking showed spikes way higher for him than for palin. the bit about being a single parent? that was the manliest half-tear choke-up ever recorded.

  9. okay  

    #1 and #2 = sean hannity and Bill O'reilly. If there is you have any doubt that Biden won this debate, you are probably an idiot. Biden did win this debate because he actually answered the questions, was respectful, professional, and knowledgeable. There's a difference between winning and being successful. Biden was both. Palin was successful in that the major concern prior to this debate is that she would fall apart and be a total embarrassment to her party. She avoided that by reciting talking points, diverting away from questions, being vague and putting on this fake "I'm middle class and my family is diverse" charm, which unfortunately people seem to have not seen right through. Biden's emotional moment about being a single parent and growing up in a poor neighborhood was (I think) much more heartfelt and sincere.

    Anyway, I don't really care if you think Palin won, because its pretty clear to everybody else that Biden won.

  10. independent voter  

    palin came across very well indeed. biden needed to smash her, and he certainly did not.

    • no, i disagree  

      unfortunately she won, as you will see in november....

      • again  

        Theres a difference between 'winning' the debate and debating successfully. On the issues and in terms of quality of delivery, there was no contest. Biden won the debate.
        In terms of exceeding expectations, Palin exceeded expectations more than Biden did.

      • #12 again  

        This is the same sort of doomsday prediction that led Democrats to freak out when Republicans momentarily were up after the convention bounce. Come on now.

        The only thing Palin did well is reassure people supporting her that she won't publicly screw up. That will get people excited for a little bit, but she didn't really answer the questions that people had about her experience and ability to debate policy substantively, and she didn't win over independents.

        Plus she's a vice presidential candidate. Calm down.

  11. also  

    i'd love to get some fact-checks on all those points where they contradicted each other. once, palin was like "we'll see what the pundits say tomorrow," and I want to know what they do say!

  12. disappointed  

    what an underwhelming livebwog. i'd come to expect better from you.

  13. the best part

    was most definitely when she said "senator obama and senator obiden"

    i can't believe no one else is talking about this

  14. haha

    A reporter from The New Republic said this about Palin's performance "Unless fainted or vomited on stage, she was going to come out victorious". I can't even believe her competence is being debated on this forum. You guys go to Columbia for god sakes! You guys constantly bitch about Barnard students, but when a woman who attended a 4 diff no-name schools to get her bachelors, governs a state that is a twelfth of the size of new york city, and has been sheltered from the media, the criticism is shockingly tame. weird. PS VPs do matter... did you forget who's really running our country?

  15. ...


    somebody taught palin how to transition into the talking points, so she failed to entertain.

    biden is boring either way.

    the fact of the matter is, most minds are already made up and/or exist in states that are pretty much already set to go one way or the other. i found it hilarious that cnn also shared this view, by taking a different approach.

    "we realize that the opinions of most of you are either solidified or you're in solid states in which point your opinion really doesn't matter. therefore, we bring you the opinion-o-matic-for-those-who-actually-will-decide-this-election."

    "that's right. we actually got together a herd of people who will actually decide this thing and give them opinionator dials, we'll be showing the average of their responses in realtime along with the debate, not so you can evaluate the candidates for their treatment of the issues, but rather evaluate their effectiveness in convincing the people who's votes will decide this election."

  16. Robot

    Biden thinks the cause of climate change is man made. He says McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy. He wants to export clean coal technology to China and other places. His statement over clean coal technology is good.

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