MSNBC goes to the strange bedfellows tag team of Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan to give the post-mortem on the performance of the Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. I'm reminded of my reaction to the first presidential debate. I had been disappointed in Obama's performance, noting far too many opportunities to score points not taken by Obama. John Amato reminded me that it's not the decideds like me for whom Obama performed; it was the undecideds. Similarly, Maddow's and Buchanan's perceptions mirror exactly how the Palin's performance will strike the decideds on both sides of the fence: Maddow found her scripted, lacking in genuine emotion and light on substance. Buchanan responded to her viscerally, caring neither for her flubs nor her lack of details, but just finding her stimulating through her attractiveness.
But will it sway the undecideds? According to the CNN poll, it looks like substance won over folksiness:
Fifty-one percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job in Thursday night's debate, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.
But respondents said the folksy Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent.
Both candidates exceeded expectations - 84 percent of the people polled said Palin did a better job than they expected, while 64 percent said Biden also exceeded expectations.
But on the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87 percent of the people polled said Biden is qualified while only 42 percent said Palin is qualified.
So perhaps Rachel wrapped it up correctly: "Boring, But Right" versus "Exciting, But Wrong." That’s America’s choice.
Transcripts below the fold
GREGORY: Rachel I want to start with you. Low expectations going in, for Governor Palin, that we can establish; we can stipulate that. Did she exceed them?
MADDOW: She met the...I would say, she met the expectations in terms of not being willing to discuss policy, not being willing to discuss too much substance or detail. The question , really, for me, was whether she was going to meet the higher expectations on personality and poise...that, I actually think she didn't meet those expectations. She was certainly very...folksy, but almost in a frenetic, cartoonish, gimmicky way. And I will tell you the two moments in which I thought came across as almost a little bit mean, rather than likeable. And one was when she told Joe Biden, ‘your joke was lame, nobody got it.' And it was a sort of depressing moment and the other one was when Joe Biden choked up. Joe Biden is an emotional guy; we've all seen him cry in speeches. He does it and when he referenced having not known whether his child was going to pull through, obviously referencing his sons having been injured and having lost his daughter in that car accident so long ago at the beginning of his political career. She responded by talking about John McCain as a Maverick in a talking points, forced, unsympathetic, unemotional, sort of inhuman way. And so I think when you pair that with that sort of gimmicry of the folksiness, the winking at the camera and all the rest of it, it actually seemed she was portraying a character, rather than portraying somebody you might like to spend time with.
GREGORY: I'll let you bring in Pat. You two talk amongst yourselves. Pat, your take?
BUCHANAN: My take is that Sarah Palin was sensational tonight. She not only met the expectations, I think she wiped up the floor with Joe Biden, quite frankly. She is personable, she is young. She's got a sense of humor. She looked straight into the camera while Joe's talking to Gwen all evening long. I thought she didn't make a mistake, not a footfault in the whole thing. And the people asked about does she have the details to answer the questions? I was astonished at how well she did. I sat with some Democratic ladies who were astonished at how well she was doing. I'll tell you this, David, there are some conservatives and Republicans across America who are not only breathing a sigh of relief because yes, as was said before this show by Mr. Fineman, we were nervous. I think she has done a sensational job and I think she has recaptured that magic she had out there at the convention. And she is dead right. She should stay away from these filters, sitting down with these people, getting into her face. She is terrific at what she did here. And I can tell you I think the McCain campaign, given the economic problems, I don't know if they can turn this around, but if it can be turned around, I think she has done it, in the sense of of the four debaters that we've seen , she was the most interesting, attractive of them all.
MADDOW: Pat, Pat, Pat, do you think that it matters that she was referencing "Gen. McClellan" as being in charge in Afghanistan? I mean, I'm assuming she's talking about the Civil War general there, I mean, it's Gen. McKiernan. Does it matter that she talked about expanding the role of the vice presidency, for coming out of Cheney, having essentially been universally viewed in the country as having expanded the powers of the vice presidency beyond their natural reach.
BUCHANAN: I think this is picayune to be very honest. I mean, look, generals' names...somebody mentioned Shi'a there, I'm not sure if it's Shi'a or Sunni we should be talking about. Take a look at the overall impression of an hour and a half of folks listening to this. She was riveting! Joe is, excuse me, remor...he is boring. He was relentless, remorseful. John McCain this, John McCain that. Look at how many charges of dumb things John McCain did...there must have been twenty...a hundred and fifty! Nobody could keep track...
MADDOW: Boring, But Right versus Exciting, But Wrong. That's America's choice.