October 3rd, 2008
04:20 PM ET

For Palin, a tie is a win

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/10/art.candidatesquad.jpg]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."

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Joe Biden • John McCain • Raw Politics • Ruben Navarrette Jr. • Sarah Palin
soundoff (10 Responses)

    I'm glad this debate is over. Maybe, just maybe we can get back to real issues concerning everyday problems facing the majority of us. Palin did fine in the debate as a whole, but avoiding questions and running away from the repbulican party did not fare well for the party. While she may be likeable and your average person on the street, what we need are true leaders in the White House. We've had a President that alot of us might want to have a beer with and see where that has got us. Our future is to important.

    October 5, 2008 at 10:49 am |
  2. Rachelle Nobriga

    Did Sarah Palin "fake" her interview with Katie Couric?

    I think she aswered Katie's questions poorly to throw off Joe Biden, hoping he would not prepare for the debate.

    We believed Palin's "Oscar" performance with Katie Couric.
    We set the bar way low for Palin and give her high marks just for showing up .

    I believe Joe Biden saw through her "Oscar" performance, was very well prepared for the debate and was brilliant.
    Biden – 100%
    Palin – 0%

    October 4, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  3. nikko mahor (manila, philippines)

    Joe Biden can look "vice-presidentiable" and Sarah Palin can wink at the camera as long as she likes but it wouldn't matter. People will be voting for the top guy and the veep is just there to tag along. If the Americans vote Democrat this November, stately Biden gets the seat. If Americans vote Republican, you got winking soccer mom Palin in the veep seat.

    Top of the ticket folks, that's where the real fight is.

    October 3, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  4. Paul T


    Since when does CNN back anyone? CNN is by far the most unbiased news source I have ever tuned into. I truly appreciate getting the opinions from both sides of the aisle, which is why I watch the debates in the first place: to hear and understand the issues so I can decide which ticket closely resembles my own views.

    Biden "won" the debate by his statesman-like demeanor and answering the questions in an intelligent manner. He "won" the debate by knowing the facts of McCains voting record, which Palin did not. He "won" by knowing the facts of McKeirnan's comments regarding Afganistan, which Palin didn't. (Palin called him General McClelland and according to FactCheck.org, a non-partisan organization, Biden was absolutely correct.) He "won" by knowing what an Achilles Heel is, which she didn't. He "won" by returning fire about being a single dad after losing his wife and daughter in a car accident when Palin attempted to skewer him about raising families. He "won" because the country has known for well over a month that the McCain/Palin accusations on raising taxes up are entirely false. He "won" because the country also knows that Palin's accusation regarding Obama's take on the surge in Iraq is (also according to FactCheck.org) blatantly false.

    The only points you can give to Palin would be on not stumbling and stammering as she did in her now infamous interviews.

    October 3, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
  5. GF, Los Angeles

    Biden could've really made Palin squirm the way Katie Couric did but he refrained because I'm sure he would've gotten flak for it since he is a man. Palin still gave non-answers to Biden's responses so it technically wasn't a debate since she never truly engaged in one other than to parrot her talking points.

    October 3, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Janice

    Who are you? Did you actually watch the debate? "It is Sarah Palin's world, Joe Biden just lives in it?" You have got to be kidding! Sarah Palin had no idea what she was talking about last night – she didn't follow the format of the debate (which was probably to her advantage) because she couldn't answer the questions! Joe Biden was extemely kind to her last night because he could have DESTROYED her – instead he nicely pointed out (to Gwen Ifill) that she didn't answer the question ... the bad news is that she didn't answer ANY of the questions – her babbling on and on about Alaska and the "energy" issue was extremely annoying and embarassing – let alone her winking to the camera – she is way out of her league – I'm only sorry the experienced, intelligent Republican women of this country aren't speaking out in total disgust for their party!

    October 3, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  7. Cindy

    It was definitely a tie. If you turned from channel to channel after the debate each channel was different on who won. They were all going with what party they backed. On CNN they said Biden...they back Obama. On FNC they said Palin...they back McCain. There was no clear cut winner and that is why there are so many different answers on who won and why.


    October 3, 2008 at 6:37 pm |
  8. Linda


    It's comforting to know that not all rural, white, soccer moms are not flocking to the McCain/Palin side just because she supposedly identifies with that demographic. During Palin's entire "Achilles heel" response my roommate and I were just shaking our heads out of embarrassment for her.

    October 3, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  9. Nancy Yates

    Empty is right.

    She doesn't know what an "achilles heel" is. Watch the replay. She has no clue what the question is - that's why she avoids it.

    "Achilles heel" is not an inside-the-beltway term. I am a rural, white, soccer mom and I can't - I won't - believe that someone with this little intelligence and education is qualified to be our next VP.

    Nancy Yates

    October 3, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  10. joshua j.

    Yes. palin Tried to speak to the camera and yes she did better than in interviews but the answers to the questions was vital to making her case to the american people. but she did not want to answer something that she did not in over in debate camp. i want answers not rhetoric. get enough watching them on the news. i want to be clear that the questions need to be answered. point blank. so she gets a d. Good presentation but short on substance.

    October 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm |