After some consideration, this is my conclusion about the debate.
Joe Biden clearly and convincingly defeated George W. Bush in this debate, President Bush being absent. He also forcefully stated that as VP under Obama, in the face of economic crisis he would not pursue the tax policies of his opponent, John McCain, then went on to list the things he would not be in favor of cutting despite the fact that the bailout bill added another trillion or so to the national debt. He would "slow down" foreign aid commitments, which he later described as vital to winning in Afghanistan. As Bill Hobbs points out, this is "slowing down" a doubling of US foreign aid amounting to $25 billion a year -- against an annual deficit of hundreds of billions.
Palin dodged some questions, the wisest dodge was on the issue of the Unitary Executive and the role of the VP, which is an inside-baseball topic of interest primarily to Con Law professors and something she likely knows virtually nothing about. Joe Biden put on his Con Law professor hat and proceeded to quote the wrong part of the Constitution regarding the role of the VP as Executive Branch. "Everyone should know that," he said. I question whether "everyone should know" something that's patently wrong. Article I, Section 3 refers to the office of Vice-President, it is the part of the Constitution dealing with legislative structure and function. Article II has to do with the Executive.
Joe Biden was fully in command of the facts he made up out of whole cloth during the debate. He showed a far greater range of familiarity with his own fabrications than his opponent. In this regard, he was clearly the winner, as shown by focus group polling from Katie's Restaurant in Wilmington, DE, which has been closed since 1990. He showed boldness by contradicting the Obama website on sitting down President-to-President with Achmedinejad without preconditions. He also showed boldness by contradicting himself on the issue of coal plants. Speaking untruth to power has never had a bolder advocate. In my opinion, Joe Biden is never more convincing and genuine than when seamlessly weaving made-up facts into his statements, and I believe that is an important qualification when choosing a Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate.
But really, I think Palin came out ahead. She lied less, for one, and she's authentic in a way Joe hasn't been for a couple of decades. Considering that this is her first national debate and his third run for the Presidency (this time as VP), he didn't blow her out and she was able to score on him in her vicious-yet-nice way, which is a true political gift. She did not defend McCain as well as I would have liked, a more experienced politician might have seen more opportunities and I can't help but believe that she still could have done better. Nevertheless, she did exceptionally well. Like I said in the liveblog, they need to come up with another word for "maverick", my personal feeling is that the word has attracted as many people as it's going to attract. Drop it, or use it once and then use a synonym.
It didn't change much for the race, but it changed a lot for Sarah Palin. You can bet she'll subscribe to Foreign Affairs and, if she loses, spend the next four years getting the experience and knowledge to run on her own. She's a bit uneducated from a national and world affairs standpoint, which is what you expect from a remote state governor. Ask Biden about the status of salmon fisheries and he'll make something up, but she's probably right on top of that one. Get Biden to talk about anything other than John McCain's votes on alternative energy and he'll tell you a heartwarming story about Bill's Oil & Coal in Wilmington that never existed, or modify a Frank McCourt story about how his family had to make one piece of coal last all winter because President Willkie was such a bad Republican president back in the 1940s. Energy is Palin's issue, and she wasn't asked a single question about it.
She's a superb communicator, and couple that with more experience and she'll be deadly. She is probably about as physically attractive as a woman seeking political power can be without being off-putting to other women, what she lacks is a few more years in the governor's chair and easy familiarity with issues compelling to reporters and media folks. She needs to tone down the homespun a notch, but she's got the right instincts and she'll be a player for years.
She might even be Bobby Jindal.
Sarah+Palin Joe+Biden debate