I was taking notes throughout, but won't regurgitate all of them. Ifill's moderation style was more like a Miss America contest in that it wasn't really a debate. More like an "answer this question, please, " "What would you do if you had three wishes?" kind of thing. That really benefited Sarah Palin. And even with those guidelines, she chose not to answer questions directly put to her.
PALIN: I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you [gesturing to Biden] want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.
[..] I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they've just heard. I'd rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did. And it's so important that the American people know of the choices that they have on November 4th.
Effortlessly, Palin lumped Biden with Ifill, then boo-hoo-hooed about the way the mainstream media "kind of" work.
Politicians do that, but all Ifill had to do was say, 'please answer my question because we can talk about energy later," when she refused to answer the question posed at one point early in the debate and went back to the topic of energy. At least Lehrer guided the candidates back on topic, but Ifill didn't bother. After thinking about it overnight, and after the news of her book was released, she should have been replaced for this debate.
We wrote that Palin is a good debater and probably would do a good job, but I had no idea it would be such an easy format. If I had done better job on researching Ifill, I would have known this is standard practice for her. Palin tried to say that she made a bad joke when she said she didn't know what the job of the VP was, I believe that was Couric-Palin Sarah Palin speaking. She probably didn't know. With that said, I think she opened up well enough to calm down the conservative activists that were freaking out about her Couric-Palin performance.
Biden was either a little nervous or just playing it safe during the first 30 minutes or so. He could have challenged her talking points to fill us in with some real facts instead of McCain talking points. On Obama's voting record, I doubt she could have named many bills. So if he asked for specifics, she would have been lost, but, as usual the Obama team likes to play it safe, and he backed off. I think it allowed her to get comfortable and reel in her angry base and maybe some rank and file voters as well. It also gave the conservative talking heads reason to cheer. Palin wasn't embarrassing, so She Won!
After that, I thought Biden did a wonderful job for the final two-thirds, about when they hit foreign policy. He stopped looking down and really showed a passion I've never seen before from him.
Palin was able to recite her talking points--almost robotically at times--while Joe really was comfortable with facts. And then when it got to the powers of the VP and McCain the Maverick, Biden was exceptional.
I wish Biden would have mixed it up a bit so that he could have knocked her off point, but that was his choice. He focused on McCain. As I look to the morning fishwraps, they seem to hold my view that Biden won but Palin did well enough to ease the base. CNN's poll says Biden won, 51-36, but she increased her favorablers or--she got the style vote.
CBS News conducted a cross-country poll of 473 uncommitted voters who watched the debate and found 46 percent said Biden won the debate, compared to 21 percent for Palin. Thirty-three per cent said it was a tie.
However, I think what might happen though is that on Friday, instead of the endless loops of debate coverage--- all the attention that would have normally been focused on it, will quickly shift to the Stock Market and the House debate over the vote on the bail-out bill. And then we'll be heading into the next Presidential Debate.
You'll notice that many pundits who cried about"no soundbytes" in the first Presidential debate remained pretty silent on that fact now. Biden did have sone pretty good ones, but because they weren't between Biden and Palin personally, they were virtually ignored.
UPDATE: Daily Howler:
At some point, real pundits would have said some of the things Biden finally said last night. But Alter's gang was slobbering hard-which helps explain why Biden's speech was such a shock to the ear. John McCain has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives? Pundits, locked in a slobbering swoon, never quite managed to go there.
UPDATE 2: Boing Boing has the Sarah Palin Debate Flow chart. Pretty funny and true.