Above: Sarah Palin's "Greatest Hits" (via TPM)
Sarah Palin and Joe Biden face off tonight at Washington University in St. Louis. Her limited official media appearances so far haven't done a good job convincing voters she's ready for primetime, to say the least. We all know she can give a fiery teleprompter speech, but how will she fare in a tense, high-profile showdown with one of the most knowledgeable and longest-serving members of the US Senate? Which Palin will we see tonight? The aggressive firebrand we saw in Minneapolis? Or the clueless, moose-in-the-headlights neophyte we saw with Couric and Gibson? We're about to find out...
You can watch live online here.
9:00 pm: Here we go, my friends.
9:00 pm: Palin asks, "Can I call you Joe?"
9:04 pm: First question on the economy. Biden is crystal clear and CNN's insta-meter seems to like him. Palin goes right for the soccer moms.
9:08 pm: Biden: John McCain's poor judgment "doesn't make him a bad guy. But it does mean he's out of touch."
9:09 pm: Palin repeats the "by 'fundamentals' McCain meant the American workers" BS. Team Obama is all over it.
9:13 pm: Palin repeats the lie that Obama wants to raise taxes on those making less than $42,000.
9:15 pm: Biden corrects the record and notes that by his own standards, McCain voted to raise taxes on middle-/low-income people over 400 times. Wish Obama said that during his debate.
9:18 pm: I must admit, Palin is coming off as very empathetic. CNN's uncommitted Ohio voters seem to agree somewhat. She's distorting Obama's record, of course, but still more solid than most probably expected, myself included.
9:21 pm: Biden on McCain's health care "plan": "The ultimate bridge to nowhere."
9:25 pm: Biden hits back on the distortion of Obama's vote for the Cheney energy bill. Yes it included tax breaks for oil companies, but it also called for the biggest alternative energy investment in history. That's the perfect rebuttal. Again, something Obama should have noted last debate.
9:27 pm: See here for Team Obama's real-time rebuttal.
9:29 pm: Can Sarah Palin actually start answering the questions that are asked?
9:34 pm: Biden: How can we solve the climate crisis if we refuse/fail to acknowledge the cause?
9:35 pm: Palin: "Nucular" Truly George Bush in lipstick. NOTE: Her convention teleprompter speech actually spelled out nuclear as "new-clear."
9:38 pm: Palin truly is a GOP talking point robot. Affording our gay brothers and sisters equal rights under the law does not threaten the "traditional defintion of marriage."
9:43 pm: Did Palin really just say that Obama's plan (endorsed by Maliki and the finally the Bush administration) is tantamount to "waving the white flag."
9:44 pm: Thank God Biden is hitting back at the "Obama hates the troops" BS. Biden hits back hard: "John McCain voted against funding the troops. Let me repeat: John McCain voted against funding the troops." Boom!
9:45 pm: John Biden is the Democratic answer to John McCain re: foreign policy experience/credibility. Only Joe Biden actually gets it.
9:48: NEW RULE: Anyone who can't pronounce the world "nuclear" is immediately disqualified for high office.
9:51 pm: Biden: John McCain won't even meet with SPAIN!
9:52 pm: I don't know if it's delivery or what, but Palin is just not credible on foreign policy. She's reciting McCain's line verbatim, but it just doesn't come across as believable. I guess that's a tough feat when your standing next to Joe Biden.
9:56 pm: Money quote: "How is John McCain's policy going to different from George Bush's." Substitute any policy in that sentence and you have the question that should be asked incessantly for the next 33 days.
10:00 pm: Reuters wants Palin's ears checked for covert feeds? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but Bush's mysterious "hump" from the 2004 debate still bothers me.
10:06: Palin reading from a script, Biden is speaking from experience. That about sums it up. She's holding up fine, but it's coming across as too canned. The meter is reflecting that. I can't think of a better choice for Obama than Biden. He is brilliant and uber-knowledgeable on foreign affairs. Any concern voters had on that front are dissolving as we speak, in real time.
10:12 pm: Palin: "There you go again, Joe. Doggone it." Ronald Reagan called. He wants his 30 year old line back.
10:13 pm: Props to Gwen Ifill. I dare right-wingers to complain about her performance.
10:17 pm: Nicole:Killer question by Ifill on VP extra-constitut
10:20 pm Biden: "I passed the Violence Against Women Act. John McCain voted against it. Both times."
10:22 pm: Biden chokes up talking about his late wife. Powerful stuff. Again, tales of steady experience from Biden. Boilerplate from Palin.
10:23 pm: Biden on McCain's maverickness: "Maverick he is not on the issues that affect people at their kitchen tables."
10:28 pm: 538's Nate Silver (8/29): "Her authenticity factor is off-the-charts good; her biography sings. But do Americans really want their next-door-neighbor running for Vice President, or rather someone who seems like one?"
10:29: Laughable line of the night: Palin: "I love to answer these questions without the filter of the mainstream media." Gimme a freaking break. Try talking to them first before you make such a claim.
10:30pm: Closing statements: Palin is solid; well-received Reagan reference. Biden hits his populist stride. Meters shoot up.
MY VERDICT: No huge gaffes, only the expected distortions. McCain needed a game-changer. He didn't get it. Palin may have successfully distanced herself from the Tina Fey caricature (her primary goal), but Biden was simply too strong. Palin came off as folksy (another goal) but I just don't see how this changes the underlying fundamentals. Biden spoke from his decades of experience. Palin delivered the lines, but they came off as rather unauthentic and boilerplate. CNN Meter gives a slight edge to Biden, who probably delivered his best debate perfomance to date. Palin held her own and defintiely pleased the GOP base, but I don't see independents seeing it the same way.