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October 3rd, 2008
05:17 PM ET

The Vice-Presidential-Debate Report Cards

Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden greet each other before the start of their vice presidential debate Thursday.

Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden greet each other before the start of their vice presidential debate Thursday.

Mark Halperin
Editor-at-large & Senior analyst, TIME Magazine
The Page, TIME.com

Sarah Palin

Substance:

In a debate of mostly general questions, she chose never to be any more specific than necessary. Had some planned policy points she was keen to make, but such moments were few and fleeting. Benefited from the format, which invited simplicity and avoided confrontation.

Grade: B-

Style:

Chose to look directly at the camera most of the time rather than at Joe Biden, moderator Gwen Ifill or the live audience. Her days of intense rehearsal were apparent, but she was much smoother than in recent media interviews when unspooling canned lines and opinions. Was crisp and calm and kept her folksiness to a few short bursts but effectively unleashed her earthy, relatable charm at choice moments in a winning way.

Grade: B+

Offense:

Kept up a drumbeat of criticism against Barack Obama and, to a lesser extent, Biden — but produced no sound-bite moment and was unable to rattle her opponent. Most dramatically, she charged that the Democratic ticket wants to wave a "white flag of surrender" in Iraq. Firmly hit her campaign's main themes (Obama equals higher taxes and Washington business as usual). Ably brandished the opposition research on Obama's record and promises.

Grade: B

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Filed under: Joe Biden • Mark Halperin • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. cj

    ssmith and others,

    I watched the debate and when i read a comment, i hope to god you are not serious, cause then i think you guys are no smarter then her and thats why you like her.

    OMG it made me sick to stomach to watch her 1st disregard the monitor 2nd disregard the questions and 3rd to avoid getting pegged into an answer.

    YOUR guys lack of either vaules on the importance of this election or your lack of needing answers to questions about a plan a canidate has to keep money in the middle class, scares me, becuase i know there are alot you YOU guys out there, that just dont think.

    YOUR comments really provide a very clear view that education in our society is lacking and thus it is no wonder why we are not NUMBER one in the world.–

    I hope you and the others that i have ASSUMED are not playing with a full deck might GET it together before NOV and see that a person with NO substance is not one we need in the war room cuase the old guy slipped and feel. SHE IS NOT READY and it is very clear you are not also. UGH so sad!

    October 6, 2008 at 2:11 am |
  2. Maya

    There is no way that Sarah Palin deserved those grades! She didn't even answer most of the questions. During the debate, she even ADMITTED that she did not want to answer the question asked, and went on to recite the script she had practiced for the past week. Joe Biden clearly deserved straight A's. He was poised, intelligent, and sincere. He clearly knew and understood what he was talking about. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, look more like a deer in headlights.

    October 5, 2008 at 9:10 pm |
  3. Adriane Davis

    Joe biden was simply amazing. He had to do the impossible-represent without condesceding. He gets a A+-period. She seemed able to at least pronouce maverick correctedly...C+... and I am being generous with that!

    October 5, 2008 at 8:27 pm |
  4. jazz...Obama/Biden08

    I give Joe biden a A+.

    And I give Sarah Palin a Z.

    She doesn't even deserve an F in my opinion.

    October 5, 2008 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I think John McCain, being that he is old school, picked Palen like he was picking an executive secretary and not a VP and that to me is sexist. Think about it.

    October 5, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  6. Leigh

    They both did a great job!!!! They both have wonderful qualities and I feel confident with either of them. I am not going to sit here and tear anyone down. I feel that we need to see the good in each person. Good luck and God Bless both of you.......... 🙂

    October 5, 2008 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Ershad Sattar

    For those folks including the media who were generous enough and gave Govenor Palin a grade of "exceed expectations" should be ashamed. This is not a high school or college debate where a canidate can exceed expectations just by showing up. This affects people lives and futures. People shouldn't forget Ms. Palin is running for the second highest office in the "world" and we as Americans should set expect more and not settle. In my opinion, she never even "met expectations".

    October 5, 2008 at 12:09 pm |
  8. djp La.

    I'm not voting for a cheerleader or most popular. I really wanted to hear answers other than BUMPER STICKER slogans. I could not give a grade above D- to Palin for this debate or any other speaking occasion I have heard from her.

    October 4, 2008 at 10:38 pm |
  9. lampe

    I think because Biden got the most answers wrong, Gov. Palin won. you people are funny, if Biden, had stood on that stage and didn't open his mouth at all you would have said he won. Biden is just the same-ole same-ole. And the man of Change picked him. So we can spend the next 4 or 8 years further in DEBT. ( That is IF they win.)

    October 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  10. jim

    Palin won the debate based on the low expectations of her. She did well with a 40 year member of congress Joe Biden. I am sure this comment will be removed because I didn't tell Anderson Cooper and Jack Cafferty what they wanted to hear

    October 4, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  11. JoAnn

    Sara deserves an F. She only talked her scripted points, avoiding anything that required a bit of thought or knowlege. Also she was too busy being "cute". Her persona and her voice are annoying and her brain, if there is one, is on automatic pilot. Her programmer had little to work with trying to cram a PH.d into a third grade mind.

    Biden deserves an a+ for not laughing out loud at his opponent;s responses.

    October 4, 2008 at 12:34 pm |
  12. Jennifer from Ohio

    I cannot believe that anyone would have thought that Palin had made a "comeback." She dodged every question and counter that were shot her way. She wanted "to go back to the real issues." For pete's sake, answer the questions. This lady did not deserve a grade of an A or B – maybe if people were just comparing this from the Couric interview- yes she did better, but her Couric interview was a complete TRAINWRECK! If Hillary had pulled a stunt like this, I would have said the exact same thing. Palin is painful to watch and God forbid if she were to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. What a joke. I don't know what McCain was thinking – if at all – when he chose her. Maybe he wanted another Hillary but what he got was far from it. I would demand McCain to choose someone else and I would be outraged as a republican. Palin should continue to be a soccer mom and care for her kids that need her.

    October 4, 2008 at 12:22 pm |
  13. Sam

    If Sarah Palin wins, it proves to the world that America is big on looks than brains. If I may point out, she is the least educated of all the people in the presidential campain, including some the spouses.
    If Republican argument about her is she went against her own party, I am not sure what's so special that about; that's what happens in every primary election [people go/run against their own parties]. If the argument is she has executive decision making experience, by that account, even John McCain doesn't qualify.
    Being Maverick isn't great either; another way of saying is that one is pig headed and doesn't listen to reason and we already know where that leads to based on Bush's presidency.

    October 4, 2008 at 10:49 am |
  14. Ian

    Sorry Mark I see the debate much differently from you.

    Style / Content / Preparation:
    Biden: A
    Palin C-

    Repeating lines that have been rehearsed, not being able to focus and respond to questions asked are not indicators that I and I believe many Americans look for in the next Vice President of the United States.

    Mark, Putting the low expectations curve aside. if your performance at TIME rivaled Gov Palin's you would be out of a job.

    Being a soccer/hockey mom, Mayor and Governor clearly has it's challenges but they have not prepared Governor Palin to be the next Vice President and god forbid President of the United States. Last night voters heard from a vice presidential candidate whose knowledge is very fresh and obviously superficial.

    No question, Joe Biden carried this debate. He responded to the questions, he was articulate , came across as knowledgeable, no to assertive and generally well spoken.

    He also reminded me I will vote for the Obama | Biden ticket, it is the better choice for the country. Without question he will be an excellent Vice president.

    October 4, 2008 at 10:36 am |
  15. Dan Stewart

    How does Palin get such high grades? Her performance was a lot of "razzle-dazzle" with next to no substance. The only reason people were remotely impressed 9myself included) was that our expectations were so low. As long as she was able to stand/talk and breath for the duration of 90 minutes, that was considered a win. She regurgitated talking points and never went more than 1 millimeter deep on any subjects. Is this what the Republicans want for America? If so they are definitely putting country last (as they have done for the last 8 years)

    October 4, 2008 at 9:58 am |
  16. Robin

    Palin basically beat the spread, however it was not enough to convince people that she is ready to be VP. The debate will probably be Palin's last major TV appearance, I don't think the McCain campaign wants to risk having her give another Couric interview.

    October 4, 2008 at 9:16 am |
  17. Sam

    Most Americans are stupid and will probably elect McCain. They will not be able to overcome their racist views even if it's for their own good. The world knows that Palin is a bad joke.

    October 4, 2008 at 9:14 am |
  18. Marvin

    I'd have to be a Joe Keg, a six pack would never be enough to make me vote for the McCain/Palin ticket.

    October 4, 2008 at 2:35 am |
  19. Jules

    Looking from afar, it seems Palin would run a great tupperware party but couldn't run the United States of America. She looks like a socialiser but thats about it.
    If she has to be trained to make speaches and podium debates, tells me she's not ready at all.
    Can't understand the confusion, as far as vice Presidents are concerned it should be a done deal already.

    October 4, 2008 at 1:59 am |
  20. Kelly

    I was dissappointed in Palin... couldn't answer a question to save her life... its easier to just have talking points and an agenda that was memorized.. she is good at that, but does she get it?? Who knows from someone who can't even name whatever it is she is reading. And what bugged me even more is how she uses her baby as a TV prop...how stupid does she think the american people are. It turned me off to see her carrying that baby around on TV as if she is a better mother than who the rest of us, her opponents?? how many politicians are parading thier kids on TV every single time they are in front of the camera... she would be better served to have that baby at home an in bed where they should be at 11:30 at night....

    October 4, 2008 at 1:44 am |
  21. Jerry

    It is hard to believe that two supposedly well-educated eminent people such as Bush and Palin think that Nuclear is pronounced Nucular. Is that the way "folk" talk "back home in Alaska"? And in Texas?

    I call that a failed intelligence test!

    She is really perky, as any good cheerleader has to be, and makes a good cheerleader for McCain, who needed one badly. It's not cheerleaders who win games, however.

    October 4, 2008 at 1:14 am |
  22. carolyn

    Everyone has there own view of the debate including the media. I think everyone heard what they wanted to hear. What I heard was Palin confronted Biden and yes he was good, but he also must have spent a lot of time going back over the last years to count all the votes regarding Mccain. Also, he seems to think that Mccain was the only Senator to vote. Wrong, Obama, McCain and Biden are senators also can he count all of them too. Biden almost seemed as though he was tattling, but he sure wouldn't say anything bad about himself or Obama. i do think the war on Iraq should be finished with honor and solutions as the children that have witnessed the destruction will one day be adults and hopefully they will think of America as a friend. Could you turn your back on them?

    October 4, 2008 at 1:13 am |
  23. PinNC

    S.P. grade D (in denial)
    J.B. grade B (Barack's back up ready for prime time)

    October 3, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  24. Mesha

    I would give Palin an Incomplete...she didn't answer the questions. In my days of education, that was not excepted.

    Biden, a resounding A+. He totally exceeded my expectations.

    October 3, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  25. Jon from Ohio

    Palin is very pretty. THATS IT FOLKS !!

    October 3, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  26. chomedey Mtl, Can.

    With five years ,five different colleges to achieve 'journalism' diploma what do you expect from her,,,,

    October 3, 2008 at 10:09 pm |
  27. Crystal Lynn

    I think Sarah did a wonderful job! I also think Joe did too... But Sarah should of got all A's. That was the best job she done. I think Palin/McCain is a wonderful pick for the White house.

    October 3, 2008 at 10:06 pm |
  28. Annie Kate

    Biden was amazing, much more so than a B reflects. I would have given him an A+. Palin didn't look or sound like an idiot so I would give her a C in most of the categories and a D in depth of knowledge and substance. Like I told my son about his grades – D doesn't stand for "dandy". You can do better. Hopefully we as a country will pick better than Palin/McCain.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 3, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  29. Mike O'Brien

    I rate Sarah Palin in the Thursday night 'debate' as a "C". When 'reality' sets in, today, tomorrow or a week from now.., with Thursday nights 'debate' and previous 'interviews'.., Sarah Palin is "not" ready for prime-time or to be Vice-President or President. Sarah Palin is way over her head and 'out of her league'. Senator Joe Biden, Charles Gibson and Katie Couric proved that. The best thing for the Democratic Party is Sarah Palin. Mike in Montana

    October 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm |
  30. WM. Phipps

    It told me what kind of person Gov. Palin is.A liar. Why else would she not answer the questions she was posed? And who is Bay Buchanan she must have been taking L.S.D. while watching the debate,cause she thinks Palin won... Me and my wife are praying that Obama&Biden win the election.We need change...

    October 3, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  31. lampe

    Gov. Palin- A + Joe Biden F. For trying to hard to cry, with no tears, on his face at all.

    October 3, 2008 at 9:01 pm |
  32. alicia

    Palin was basically clueless just making a few points. She wasn't specific to how McCain will be different from Bush. C

    Biden: He used facts and he gave us specifically how Obama will turn this country around. A

    October 3, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  33. C. J. Grube

    Biden was Superior to Palin in every area of the debate. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations – However the bar was so low it didn't take much for her to exceed expectations. Joe Biden showed tremendous restraint when Gov. Palin kept trying to answer all questions with the same answer.

    She can really deliver a memorized line that someone has written for her. She chokes however with simple questions from voters. Tonight she moved around the questions and dodged providing answers bringing everything back to energy. Folksy is fine if you are qualified and I don't feel Sarah is qualified to be the VP and certainly not the President.

    I am getting tired of just hearing the buzz words – Palin has no substance.

    She's Folksy which can be sweet but that's wearing very thin and it's making me Diabetic. Sarah has no street smarts and I don't trust her instincts. She's not ready.

    It seems that John McCain wanted to choose a woman and it was an unbelievable lapse in judgement to think that we just wanted any woman. It's disappointing as there are several women qualified to be the VP right now that could have been chosen.

    I guess John McCain thought unknown and moldable would be more
    Advantageous – Wrong Call John.

    October 3, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  34. Jo Ann

    Mark,

    Since you gave Palin and Biden identical scores I think that really registers as a win for Palin.

    Most people are forgetting a very important point here. Joe Biden is supposed to be a well-versed seasoned politician who has been in politics at least since Palin was in the second grade, he should have cleaned her clock, but he didn’t. Given that fact, his mistakes and lies are even more egregious than hers. They made him look incompetent and dishonest.

    I’ll bet Palin would have lost points if she had tried to pull the same “tearing up” stunt that Biden pulled last night. Funny thing is the same people that trashed Hillary Clinton’s crying episodes are praising Biden’s “tearing up” moment last night. Imagine that!

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    October 3, 2008 at 8:18 pm |
  35. Vicki from NJ

    Governor Sarah Palin has what it takes, period! Joe Biden was great too, but he's been on the scene already for years so I expected him to do well. I think she's confident, but overwrought by the campaign folks. I'd like to see how well Joe Biden or Senator Obama would have done with just a couple of months on the scene? I hope she runs for President in 4 years! She'll be ready and able.

    And, by the way, since both candidates voted for this big bailout, is not a good sign for what's to come if one of them becomes President. "We the people," are scared because they did this vote without regard for we the people. We couldn't even get through the phones today. But it's okay in the end for us taxpayers to get and pay the bill isn't it?! Shame on our government for letting this happen and then expecting us to pay for it.

    I'm not sure I'm even going to vote now this year, I'm so disgusted with both candidates. I hope Nader is still on the ticket?

    October 3, 2008 at 8:17 pm |
  36. ssmith

    Palin hit it out of the ballpark.

    Biden sounded like a career politician.

    October 3, 2008 at 8:09 pm |
  37. Sandra

    Biden and Palin both did a good job. I wouldn't say either one was AMAZING. I can't believe all the effort put into trying to tear her apart. Too bad there are no open minds around here. Whether you are for Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin, people should try to be a little more objective.

    PS Christopher a lopez.....Biden wasn't totally honest!!

    October 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm |
  38. Gilby-HI

    If she would have told the Whoopers that Sen. Biden told I wonder if CNN or Time Ragazine would have taken notice...
    Packy missile with nukes aimed toward Isreal.. Come on Mark, give yourself an F-

    October 3, 2008 at 7:53 pm |
  39. Shane

    She's so hot, I definetly give her an A++. This woman has so much talent and so much qualifications it's unblievable. She actually has "done" things while governing compare to both Obama and Biden and the "do nothing" congress which only voted. I wish I had a job where I can fly to washington and vote once in awhile and make tons of money while doing it. That's not Sarah Palin, she's a sexy woman of action and she can deliver. That's what we need in washington, someone who can actually fire people and end corruption.

    October 3, 2008 at 7:35 pm |
  40. EJ (USA)

    I would give Palin a B- /C+overall. Biden an A/A-

    October 3, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  41. Mary V., Salt Lake City, UT

    An "A" for the governor? Wow........ people are so easily fooled, no wonder that y'all voted for W. TWICE!

    Governor Palin kept repeating the same party-and-campaign-lines over and over........pay attention.

    Do we really want another "Joe-six-pack" in the Oval office? Have we not learned from the failures of 8 years of W.?

    And from the Republican Controlled Congress (1994-2007, January)?

    People, IS TOO MUCH TO EXPECT ELOQUENCE, INTELLIGENCE.......... OR EVEN FOR THE LEADERS OF OUR COUNTRY TO BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE ..........NUCLEAR.........CORRECTLY?

    October 3, 2008 at 7:19 pm |
  42. Jason

    This score card for Sen. Palin is way too high.
    Any who watched that debate and say that Sen. Biden was beaten by Gov. Palin is living in a surreal definition of reality.

    She kept reverting to a "back up" topic whenever she felt that the question was too complex.

    Alot of people did not have a high expectation of Gov. Palin going into this debate, so when she was able to string together a few answers to some questions, some was not even relevant to the question I might add, everyone seemed to be surprised.
    She got a "B" on substance? come on!!

    October 3, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  43. christopher a lopez

    Sen. Joe Biden was AMAZING. Presidential, precise and patient. Even when he was attacked with lies by the Gov., he stood and disregarded anything she said. I really hope people will think for a second who they want to run OUR country if they had to.

    October 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  44. Stacy

    You gave Palin a B- on substance? Wow Mark, I wish you had been one of my teachers in high school. I wouldn't have had to work so hard for my GPA.

    October 3, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  45. Robert Ibeabuchi

    In this Election Gov. sara palin, lacks the ideas, knowledge, of most of the issues, she kind of wave them aside , , and goes on with her oil issues.her comfort zone ..All she needs to do ,is to go back to the drawing table, and figure out how she and mcCain will solve the problem at hand i.e breacking down how they will handle the problems that American are face today.

    October 3, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  46. Shawna

    Sarah Palin! Where do I begin? Republicans are so concerned that people have or will treat her with a sexist attitude, when throughout the debate when Palin appeared to stumble over her answers or couldn't answer, she winked. Well if you want people to treat you fairly and you worry about sexism, what the hell are you winking for? Some people may call that her being charming. I consider that playing on the fact that's she's a female.

    October 3, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  47. Lissa E

    No Way did Palin make an overall grade of B. In fact, I only heard her answer 3 or 4 questions directly. I think she was coached to stand there be forceful in order to appear confident. She also would revert to certain "talking points" for backup when she had no clue how to handle a question,and she seemed distracted when reading her note cards...made her seem programmed and out of touch with real emotion. I need more substance than Palin offered.

    October 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm |
  48. Laura, Lacey Washington

    A grade B? Really? So you don't actually have to have a substantive response, or actually answer any questions, just appear to be confident?

    October 3, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  49. phil Texas

    SHE SCORED AN A++
    HE SCORED A D-

    October 3, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  50. Presley

    I guess if you were grading on a curve, I can accept the Report Card.
    I am not as generous as Ms. Palin's supporters should not consider back to where she started, "progress".
    She should be farther along, but she hasn't made any "promises" in her epic 5 whole weeks, so I don't really have as much to consider, do I.

    Biden gets an "A" from me.
    No curve necessary and he plays well with others.

    October 3, 2008 at 5:28 pm |