September 29th, 2008
07:30 AM ET
3 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. Bob Indianapolis IN

    We can only hope that the moderator hasn't been ham-strung [like the press] by questions the McSame/Palin campaign deems off-limits like foreign affairs, economics, creation "science", witches, the Rapture, birth control, deregulation, global warming, or taxation without representation....as well as the Bush Doctrine.

    September 29, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. Undecided

    James Biggs,

    Your comment makes no sense

    September 29, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  3. Jerry Ohio

    Biden will do great in the debate because Palin does not have any experience being VP and President

    September 29, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  4. S.M

    Palin said that she is qualified to be VP and if this is true, Ha!, than she shouldn't have any trouble handling Biden. It was said that she won all five of her debates when running for Gov. Pherhaps she didn't have anyone who could challenge her the reason why she won all five and the fact that she isn't dealing with just one state, but if she becomes VP, she'll have to be well versed in all areas, because Palin will need the skill, vocabulary and knowledge to talk to many foreign leaders. In my own opinion, if she gets aggressive with Biden, than Biden should go after her and unload.

    September 29, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  5. KH

    Did I just hear right?? I just heard on American Morning that a McCain campaign surrogate was making remarks regarding the Conservatives calling for Palin to step down because of her unpreparedness and demonstrated shortcomings in her recent interviews.

    The defense was that -"Only the intelligent conservatives are calling for her to step aside." That most other conservatives are not.

    Did they just basically say, only unintelligent conservatives are supporting Palin?

    September 29, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  6. Brenda Hills

    As a Canadian, i can tell you there are a lot of us laughing our heads off at McCain/Palin. He clearly has her on a short leash. Needless to say she is a blooming idiot !!!
    When she was being interviewed by Katie Couric, i swear you could hear audible gasps across our country ! Her foreign policy knowledge is virtually non existant !!! She knew nothing about McCain's so called reform feats !! She told Couric when she found some she will bring 'em to her ! OMGGG !!! Oh and not to mention her 'stand' on Pakistan and McCain having to scramble to cover her obvious faux pas was hilarious ! Nice goin' for the geriatric and the dunce !!
    CNN POST THIS PLEASE !

    September 29, 2008 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  7. therealist

    Condescending!? If Palin or Obama can't handle a little condescending view from the enemy, political or not, then they don't need to be any where near the drivers seat..

    September 29, 2008 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  8. tina

    Well I really hope that america will not be as stupid has they were in the past 8 years and really see what's at stake here. Not to be blinded by what is real. Mccain is over the hill and is not physically and mentally capable of being the president and Palin is sooo out of her league. Let's look at this for what it is. A poor decision and huge mistake. They hide her for a reason. 3 interviews and she has only gotten worse. Biden has gaffe's but he also has had 90 – 100 interviews since being picked as VP. She will probably do OK but OK does not make a good VP and possible President.

    September 29, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  9. Toni

    Yeah. Set the bar high for her so when she falls, she falls hard.

    There is not enough talking points in the world

    And is it just me, or when she does town halls, she is always reading a prepared same ol speech, whereas Biden, Obama, and even McSane walk around and actually look like they are speaking to the people and answering questions

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  10. just joe

    If you have been alive long enough, you know that sooner or later you are going to read an article like this one......so this is the "new" politics, huh?

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  11. Juge

    I an concerned that she will be wired for sound. Check her hair etc. Unless she is the greatest actress in the world and all her previous attempts to speak and express herself was a put-on, I do not know how the Repugs can pull it off without some sort of ability to give her the answers. YES I am cynical and for good reason – the last eight years is reason enough.

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  12. Phil, Ashburn, VA

    Palin is clueless. She is going to drive all of us nuts on Thu by repeating the same points and not answering questions. She is also going to use her twang and folksy talk to gain the uneducated folks who end up voting for her.

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  13. chas alabama

    Hey CNN, when are you going to report on the anti Palan rallys in Alaska?
    Oh, forgot, CNN and FOX are one in the same.

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  14. Paul C.

    They are wise to suspect sandbagging.
    She can't be as dumb as she sounds.

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  15. JB

    Hey Joe.. Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and TV wasn't around in 1929.. And they say Palin is a dummy..

    September 29, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  16. conny

    Sen Biden knows already not to down play this shark!

    September 29, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  17. rhoward

    I wouldn't get too cocky about the vice presidential debate if I were Sen. Biden. While Gov. Palin hasn't demonstrated any real grasp of issues during her interviews, people will side with her if they feel she's being unfairly picked upon.

    September 29, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  18. james d

    The reference, by Clinton, to Obama on Meet the Press presents here a lousy synopsis–seemingly taken out of context. How could a man as smart as Clinton call an untested Obama "great." He said other things, though, that by implication ranked Obama as extraordinary, and no less than the most capable of the two candidates. I hate reading something other than what I saw, first-hand.

    September 29, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  19. Independent

    Philliip Bunn – At what point did she come across as clueless? The "Bush Doctrine" that Charlie Gibson mentioned is not formal and not referred to policitically. Obama's campaign all but admitted that they were not aware of a "Bush Doctrine" either.

    I'll probably vote Democratic, but Obama and Biden have been on the wrong side of most economic issues (as have most Democrats). Biden and Obama voted against expanded oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that Bush proposed two years ago. Clinton expanded the power of Fannie and Freddie so that they could extend mortgages to "those who could not afford it or qualify otherwise". And Biden and Obama want to blame this mess on Bush?

    Try looking to senior Democrat and Finance committee chairman Barknet Frank. Not only did he repeatedly ignore suggestions for oversight of the two government behemoths, but he said that their neglect was "overstated and exaggerated". And then he proceeded to have Democrat friends inserted on the Fannie board. The whole thing stinks, and we'll all have to pay for it.

    Palin should just hammer at Biden and Obama's voting record on these matters. She'll find that the American people want to talk about that as much as foreign policy.

    September 29, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  20. witch

    Maybe she has been playing dumb to sucker everyone in. It is called dumbing down.She is called some type of fish isn't she? I would not be surprised if she is wired some how. Oh well we will just have to wait. Of course I have always said be careful of wolves in sheep's clothing................

    September 29, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  21. Democrat 4 Life

    Hey Mitch, what's wrong with speaking in tongues. I don't like Palin any more than you do but don't talk about stuff you have no knowledge of.

    September 29, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  22. Erwin

    It will be nice to see Biden actually have to recognize Palin's existence. The Obama-Biden campaigns strategy of ignoring her and focusing on McCain is sickening in its inherent sexism. Same goes for the endless sexist posts by Obamabots on CNN. Fortunately, gender-based discrimination is apparently OK by the Democrats.

    September 29, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  23. jeremy - tx

    It's understandable that the Obama campaign is expressing this message. I fully agree that Palin is ... let's just say ... intellectually challened. She has a hard time putting together complete sentences in what should be low-stress one on one interviews. So of course everyone expects her to fumble through this nationally televised debate against someone who is defintiely going to know what he's talking about.

    Because of that, the media (and probably rightfully so) has drastically lowered expectations for her for this debate. So if she comes out and even just does decent, it will look much better for her because the expectations were so low. This is the Obama campaign's attempt to counter that and not allow her some of that wiggle room. Hopefully it works.

    Obama – Biden 2008 / 2012

    September 29, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  24. Abby

    Is this CNN – a NEWS site -or- maybe the obama web site –
    really CNN with your constant trashing of Palin you should just CHANGE your name.
    Biden is Qualified – we all know McCain is Qualified – is GOV Palin –
    don't know but – we all know that obama is NOT qualified to lead –
    both Biden & Hillary told us so – and we believe them.

    September 29, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  25. Eric Cooper

    I believe Palin will do a fine job, and Biden should not underestimate her. She's not that good with one-on-one interviews, but neither is Obama, but when you put either of them behind a podium something magical happens. I look forward to serious discussion on the issues, and I hope my guy does well.

    Obama/Biden -08

    September 29, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
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