Sarah Palin and Joe Biden face off on the issues.
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John King | BIO
Chief National Correspondent
It was a rude intrusion on the morning-after analysis of the one and only debate between the vice presidential candidates: a new government report showing the US economy lost 159,000 jobs in September – the ninth month in a row of job losses.
Tough economic news just as the House opened debate, for a second time, on a $700 billion rescue plan aimed at stabilizing the financial and credit markets. This time, the House approved the plan, and by Friday afternoon President Bush had signed it into law.
Proof that in the big picture, the face-off between the running mates has a limited shelf life as the dominant political story. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
It was a big event for two very different audiences, maybe three.
With the polls shifting toward the Democrats, a morale booster was a GOP priority. John McCain’s economic message this past week has been somewhat erratic, to say the least, and Gov. Sarah Palin’s rocky interviews with CBS anchor Katie Couric had even many Republicans conceding she appeared far from in command of basic issues, and was perhaps becoming a liability to the GOP ticket.
Scratch that latter part. Sen. Joseph Biden won the debate on points, and was an aggressive combatant in pressing the Democratic case. But Governor Palin had her moments and, perhaps more importantly, received strong reviews from the conservative grassroots.
Her most critical role is to engage and excite the GOP base, and on that narrow point, the reviews that matter most were favorable.
The reviews favor Biden here – and while running mates don’t usually close the deal, his forceful defense of Sen. Barack Obama and his equally forceful critique of McCain could help. On issues from Iraq to the economy, Biden was direct and aggressive.
Worth noting also though, is Governor Palin’s more folksy, outsider appeal. The inside the Beltway buzz was that it was over the top, and lacked substance. But Ross Perot won 20 million votes in 1992 with similar attacks on the way Washington doesn’t work, and with frustration on the rise because of the price tag of that $700 billion bailout plan, don’t discount the potential power of that kitchen table populism.
It is a race that will be decided by the choice between two very different candidates at the top of the tickets. But a colorful 90-minute face off between the two very different candidates in the supporting roles only added to the drama of this remarkable campaign cycle.
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