October 2nd, 2008
11:02 PM ET
10 years ago

Gergen: A win/win debate

Sen. Biden went head to head with Gov. Palin Thursday night.

Sen. Biden went head to head with Gov. Palin Thursday night.

(CNN)–Republican conservatives should be happy tonight: the Sarah Palin who showed up for the debate was the same spirited, authentic woman when she was announced, not the one who sat down with Katie Couric.

While she made a few small mistakes and often avoided direct answers, she deserves credit for performing as well as she did in a moment of huge pressure.

Her problem was that the Joe Biden who showed up delivered the best debate performance of his life. He was extremely well informed, especially on foreign policy, and he argued his case with force and occasional eloquence. Like Palin, he didn't make any big mistakes either - and importantly, he was never condescending toward her.

Overall, it seems to me that when the debate was over, Palin could hold her head high and will meet with large, boisterous crowds on the campaign trail again. She did herself and John McCain well among Republican partisans. But Biden was the superior debater and , I would imagine, will help to solidify the Democrats' current lead. Over the next few weeks, McCain will have to take it away from Obama himself if he is to win.

If I had to give a score, it would be Palin A minus; Biden A plus.

Will very much look forward to hearing how voters respond - they are the ones rightly in charge.

soundoff (223 Responses)
  1. Lily

    Is anybody going to talk about Palin implying the VP should have more powers?? anybody........!!!

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  2. gene

    In reality, we all know that Biden could've completely destroyed her. He had to hold back because everyone told him prior that any direct attack would result in empathy and people screaming sexism.

    And even still... even with Biden in the proverbial chains and Palin fully unleashed, Biden did a better job.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  3. ET

    Sarah Palin really knows how to engage the TV viewer and how to charm the public – thanks, no doubt, to her long training before TV cameras as a beauty queen, a journalist, a TV sports broadcaster, and lately as a celebrity. She also demonstrated determination, knowledge on the energy issue, and amazingly fierce political ambition. But as vice-presidential candidate, she simply does not measure up. Joe Biden knows how to weigh facts and complex issues from both a detailed and synthetic perspective. He showed exceptional discipline and focus in answering the questions that were asked, sticking to the point – in sum, delivering. The parties in this debate were not well matched. Biden is in a totally different league. He is prepared to be Vice-President (or President). Palin is not.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  4. Batman

    I don't know how many voters would like to hear the next vice president use words like "darn" and "shucks" and "doggone."

    This folksiness might work with the Republican base, but I don't think independents and moderates are pleased. She came across as a prankster, juvenile, and even a bit rude.

    Biden was clearly the mature statesman on the stage.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  5. Doug

    Biden was just his same old same old. Palin came across as young and refreshing. A common sense speaker is always better than a policy wonk and overstayed party hack. At least you know where she stands all the time.She isn't mainstream DC and that's the best answer to the one heartbeat away question- real change. Have to wonder with all the Biden gaffes of late if there is some onset alzheimers kicking in.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  6. Bill Donaldson

    When Joe Biden Choked up about being a single parent and almost losing his son, the debate changed showing a real side of Joe Biden. The debat swung more in Joe Bidens favor.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  7. lou

    Sarah Palin did WONDERFUL. I spoke with MANY people and they all were cheering. Yes , Biden did well too.
    My point is..............why is the comments ALL democrat?
    does Cnn only allow democrats?

    At least she is True blue............

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  8. Brian walter

    Palin WON! Say hello to the new leader. Nice blog CNN.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  9. Daniel M. Broe

    I've been at this only five weeks?

    Who was the 'gaffer' in this debate?

    You can't make this stuff up

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  10. Greg

    One was presidential. The other was not. Simple as that. I'm sure she's a very nice lady, but she just isn't ready for prime time. She just stumbled though the same 3 or 4 answers over and over again. Did anybody happen to count how many times she said "Alaska" or "Maverick?"

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  11. Lee

    Palin did well in the theatrical performance aspect of the debate, but if you really listen to the words that were spoken, she didn't say much of substance. There were a couple of times when she just didn't answer the question because she was saying a lot of theatrical strategy fluff. Joe Biden's clearly won the content of the debate. Palin merely didn't make a ridiculous statement tonight. But shouldn't the bar be set a little higher than that for the office of the Vice-Presidency of the United States?

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  12. GA4OBAMA

    palin's weakness is she doesn't know mccain's voting record and biden does. plain and simple. she has been asked that question before. they should have coached her on that as well. i guess there is only so much information that you can cram in. when in doubt she relied on rhetoric and energy. she didn't defend mccain. biden constantly compared mccain to bush. and that's what you will get with mccain/palin = bush/cheney.


    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  13. Nevada



    A well trained "parrot"

    Several days of debate drill helped her memorize what McCain wants her to recite.

    Good job parroting!

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  14. Steve

    I am terrified that Palin may get elected. How is it possible that people are spinning her as anything other than a moron?

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  15. Jo Ann

    Does anybody know what she said? Gosh darn it, I don't think she answered any questions.

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  16. Lourdes Navarrete

    After the debate, the CNN comentators looked sad and stunned around their table, as if in a funeral parlor looking at a corps.
    Shall we throw in old cry baby Joe to complete the picture?

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  17. Ga Girl

    I think both of them did a good job , but my vote is for McCain / Palin
    I like the fact that she is a Washington outsider and I think she will be a great VP and help McCain to bring the type of change we need in the U.S. for us to get our economy back on track ,

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  18. louise

    Not only did prove she is not ready to be VP-–But President of our country , please noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
    We need a leader not a cheerleader

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  19. Mia

    FINAL VERDICT: Biden could easily take over running the country tomorrow. He is focused, knowledgeable, experienced, and sincere. Palin is cute and sharper (more quick witted) than I expected, but my worst fears were confirmed... She is way out of her league! Serious times demand serious leadership. Palin has no solutions, only well-rehearsed slogans, which she repeats AD NAUSEUM with a smile and a wink. Adorable, perhaps, but not qualified to be President!

    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  20. JUN


    October 2, 2008 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  21. Cathy

    McShame should be ashame for using this clueless woman. I almost feel sorry for her-NOT!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2008

    October 2, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  22. Maria

    She never answered a question, what she did say was both, oddly, scripted and rarely in a complete sentence and the few facts she had she got wrong. Were this a REAL debate, with a moderator who had not been cowed from asking follow-up questions and had Biden not been so gentlemanly, she would be in a puddle on the floor. On the other hand, she didn't fall down, she didn't have to struggle with a tough question like: "What papers do you read" and she didn't sit in terrified silence. So yes, she did well by those expectations.

    Biden - A
    Palin C+

    October 2, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  23. sue

    All I could say is...She makes June Cleaver look hip.
    Vote for the gov. of Pleasantville.

    October 2, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
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