Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Columnist San Diego Union-Tribune
Tie goes to the hockey mom.
Who won last night's vice presidential debate? The answer depends on which ticket you support. If you like Obama-Biden, then Joe Biden won.
If you prefer McCain-Palin, Sarah Palin did. That's how you can tell a tie. That's what this was. And since Biden was supposed to destroy Palin, and didn't even come close, this was a good night for the Republican.
It is Sarah Palin's world, Joe Biden just lives in it. Viewers tuned in to see Palin either fall flat, or flatten her opponent.
It makes sense. Palin is one of the most exciting, but also divisive, figures in this campaign. The other is Barack Obama. If anything, there have been moments when I thought that John McCain and Joe Biden were drags on their respective tickets - like during the debates.
In the middle of last week, McCain won leadership accolades with his march to Capitol Hill to try to alleviate the economic crisis.
But, at week's end, he lost his match-up with Obama. McCain was rude, condescending and dismissive. He wouldn't so much as address his opponent directly or look him in the eye - not even when moderator PBS' Jim Lehrer asked him to.
Last night, Biden started out making the same mistake. At one annoying moment, the Democrat even instructed the moderator, PBS' Gwen Ifill, that Palin hadn't answered a question. He could have said that directly to Palin, but, in a McCainesque moment, he ignored her.
Biden caught himself later when Palin - in her best line - informed him and Ifill that she was going to speak straight to the American people even if it meant not answering questions the way that he or Ifill wanted her to.
After that, Biden too tried to look into the camera and speak directly to Americans. It was new to him, but he took to it well.
Palin later said that she feels most comfortable bypassing the filter of the mainstream media and connecting with voters directly.
Can't say I blame her after her interviews with CBS' Katie Couric. All week, the consensus among pundits, bloggers, and other know-it-alls was that Palin was out of her depth and, in the words of conservative Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, "an empty pantsuit."
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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