September 29th, 2008
07:30 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama-Biden camp hype Palin’s debating skills

WILMINGTON, Delaware (CNN) – As Joe Biden settles into debate prep mode this week ahead of Thursday night’s debate in St. Louis, campaign aides are actively playing up Sarah Palin’s debating skills. Biden’s spokesman called Palin “a leviathan of forensics,” a classic example of the campaign tactic of raising the expectations of their opponent and lowering their own.

“She's very skilled and she'll be well-prepared,” said Barack Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod Sunday night, flying with Biden back to Delaware to help him get ready.

“As you saw at the convention she can be very good. So, I think it would be foolish to assume that this isn’t going to be a really challenging debate. We're preparing for that, on that assumption.”

Taking it one step farther, Biden spokesman David Wade later added, “He's going in here to debate a leviathan of forensics, who has debated five times and she's undefeated.”

Biden has a difficult task on his hands – not coming across as condescending with his decades of experience and not adopting a tone that could appear as though he’s treating Palin differently because she’s a woman.

“I think Governor Palin is a skilled politician,” said Axelrod. “She got elected in a very tough political arena against tough opponents and we're going to treat her with the respect that she deserves. And I think that she would expect that, I think voters should expect that.”

Axelrod argued that at the end of the day, the choice voters make is between the candidates at the top of the ticket and not the vice presidential candidates. However, he said VP nominees have a harder time preparing because they need to not only defend their own positions but those of their running mate, as well as knowing where both candidates on the opposing ticket stand.

“I will say is this,” Axelrod added, “I think that there are very few decisions that you make during the course of a presidential campaign that are presidential decisions.”

“But picking the vice presidential candidate is one and all I can say is that, you know, we're very happy with our choice.”

Asked what the choice of Palin says about McCain, Axelrod demurred. Pressed for why he refuses to criticize the pick, he responded, “I'm not reluctant to be critical. I'm just prudently sticking to my theme.”

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm flew with Biden from Michigan to Delaware Sunday to play Palin in mock debates in the coming days. In an interview on Thursday she said, “I want to beat him up a little bit, so he does well.”


Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. FactCheck

    This debate could be a big trap... if Biden appears condescending or angry (like McCain last week) it could backfire. He should definitely keep the kid gloves off because that is the only way to approach this.

    September 29, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  2. Jeff

    This will be one truly fun debate to watch, who is going to say what! Of course Biden knows far more than Failin' Palin, but the things that fly out of his mouth are a hoot!

    Go Thursday!!!

    September 29, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. John in Ohio

    Taking it one step farther, Biden spokesman David Wade later added, “He's going in here to debate a leviathan of forensics, who has debated five times and she's undefeated.”
    --------
    Golly! Five whole times! She's a regular James Carville!
    --------
    Biden has a difficult task on his hands – not coming across as condescending with his decades of experience and not adopting a tone that could appear as though he’s treating Palin differently because she’s a woman.
    -------–
    McCain sure didn't seem worried about sounding condescending.

    September 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Paul, Tampa

    Wow, how very Republican. Build up anticipation over Palin's skill for an anticipated let down when country bumpkin gets schooled by Biden. How very uncharacteristic of a Democratic campaign.

    September 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. Michelle in PA

    I'm more interested in seeing this VP debate than I was Friday's Presidential debate. That was important and ended up showing a lot about the candidates' temperaments, but this will be either one of the best exchanges in a long time or one fo the worst train wrecks. Don't sell Palin short, the debate format is more like the canned atmosphere of the conventions and if the moderator sticks to fairly predictable questions she will have been drilled to within an inch of her life and could prove far more formidable than in her TV interviews. Just pay very close attention to the fact checkers when it's all over!

    September 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin

    Sarah Palin is hated by a lot of women because women know themselves and are consequently afraid of a woman in the White House, It has nothing to do with issues or political stance because women rejected both Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton who are politically opposite from Palin. If women do not come to grips with their own fears of other women, we'll never see a woman in the White House.

    September 29, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  7. Jewish voter

    Nothing Joe Biden could say could make me vote for the democratic ticket. There is only one person in this race with Israel on their mind – McCain and Palin!!! Read the records – not listen to the speeches!

    September 29, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  8. katiec

    The media should publish the restrictions put on by Mccain
    for the debate. The voters need to know how much Biden's
    hands are tied.
    The repbulican, Palin, Mccain's tactic is supposedly to
    keep attacking Obama. Do hope she is made to answer
    important questions and not given the free ride she has
    enjoyed.
    It certainly will be interesting.

    September 29, 2008 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    I can say what Senators Obama and Biden cannot. If her debating skills are anything like her interviewee skills, this is going to be simply sad. As an aside, her politics are 180 degrees of mine and I would never vote for someone with her views, but the fact that John McCain is using her to advance his political resume leaves me unsettled.

    September 29, 2008 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  10. IWASP!-Intelligent Woman Against Sarah Palin!

    I wouldn't miss this debate for the world. Not because Biden is going to crush her (which he will) but so that the rethuglican base can see for their own eyes what the world has been trying to tell them that palin is clueless, not very intelligent, not fit to be second in command and that mccain clearly exercised poor judgment in choosing her.

    September 29, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  11. Adrienne

    Well, she might have given us a head fake. She was so bad with Katie Couric that it did not seem real. how could Mccain pick someone that unready? So, my guess is that she will blow us all away in the debate. It was a trick to make us think she was stupid. She will be sharp as a whip like Hillary. :)

    September 29, 2008 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  12. BM

    Judgin from Palin's interviews, the only debate she will win is one in which she has knowledge of all the questions beforehand.

    September 29, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. Nina DePonca

    Well, since the Obama campaign is too polite to say it, allow me:

    PALIN IS A CONFIRMED IDIOT, AND SHE HAS NO BUSINESS ON THE SAME STAGE WITH SENATOR BIDEN, LET ALONE A DEBATE.

    No amount of cramming and "debate camp" will squeeze any significant amount of knowledge into her pea brain. I'm sure the Republicans would be happy is she could simply string two coherent sentences together (but they're not holding their breath), let alone actually WINNING a debate.

    I swear this is the most surreal election cycle EVER.

    September 29, 2008 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  14. Julie, NY

    These statements by Axelrod about Palin's exceptional debating skills are pure mockery. This is both demeaning and debasing and is similar to what Obama did to Hillary.

    I can only hope that in Axelrod's case, what goes around comes around,
    and that Joe Biden sticks his foot in his mouth as he often does.

    We'll see if there is any justice in this world on Thurs. night.

    September 29, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  15. BM

    Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson should be the moderators for this debate.

    September 29, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. Monroe W. DeVos

    Joe Biden needs to be succinct and on point. Ms. Palin will surely at some point get flustered and get herself into trouble with her lack of experience. The fact that she has not taken any questions in an open forum with the press before Thursday will certainly point out her inability to be considered as a viable Vice Presidential candidate.

    September 29, 2008 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  17. Victor from MI

    Too bad the VP debate will be neutered thanks to the McCain campaign. Heaven forbid our poor Palin will WILT in the spotlight!

    September 29, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. Jozee

    I would not want to be in Joe Biden's shoes in debating Ms. Palin. No matter what he does, he will be hammered by the Rethugs and they already have their ad ready to run on Friday morning stating that she won, no matter what she does.

    We deserve what we get if this woman is voted into the White House. Heaven help us all!

    GO OBAMA/BIDEN

    September 29, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. CR

    They have to. The expectations are unreasonably low. The media is obsessed with this sort of stuff.

    September 29, 2008 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  20. JD in NC

    I think we can expect a battle of folksy-ness tomorrow as each tries to come across as average Americans. I don't know who will win though. Palin plays the part of the church-going hunter very well, but I think Biden is a better representative of blue-collar Ameicans.

    September 29, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. Irene

    People should ask themselves just ONE QUESTION when the VP debate is over........

    Which one of these two candidates do I TRUST

    September 29, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  22. DL

    All Biden needs to do is answer the questions and not get caught in any "he said, she said" exchanges.

    September 29, 2008 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  23. auggie

    biden needs to take off the kid gloves and tell it like it is,palin is so unqualified, a 1st grader could know this, treat her the same as ypu would if it were huckabee or someone else. it's time to get serious!

    September 29, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  24. NJ Demo

    I am happy to see they are taking this debate seriously. It is never a good idea to underestimate your opponent. They should prepare for the debate based on their knowledge and not how smart the other person will be. Biden is very thorough and I am sure he will do a wonderful job. Palin is still a wild card in my book...

    September 29, 2008 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  25. Slash

    It is wise, since building up the expectations of Palin, who demonstrated her ignorance of foreign affairs and her own candidate's position (which seems to be chasing bin Laden to the gates of hell, but not Pakistan), will look even more foolish after Biden schools her.

    September 29, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
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