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. Pat

    Senator Biden kept trying to compare McCain to Bush. But Bush is not to blame for everything, he inherited from President Clinton the accounting issues of Enron, ET al.. The list goes on. Also funny that in 1992 Ross Perot ran and talked about increasing clean coal usage, reduce imports of oil, stopping the outsourcing of jobs over seas...Clinton had 8 yrs to address that, but didn't, Bush had 8 years to address it but didn't. Whoever gets elected will inherit a congress that refuses to compromise on anything, that typically vote 90% plus with the party (party first, country second)...therefore, nothing will get done. McCain does have a history of going against his own party, that is why I'm for him and Palin.

    October 2, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  2. TyWebb

    Biden won this without question. The hard right-wing are just thrilled Palin was somewhat coherent...somewhat.

    October 2, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  3. maria Mtl, Can.

    Biden lead , Palin survive.

    October 2, 2008 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  4. Patricia

    As I figured, Biden would give actual proof and Palin would give generalities such as "maverick" and 'reform'-neither of which is true about her or McCain-yet McCain's people would say she did fantastically.

    October 2, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  5. SD

    Biden answered the moderator's questions nearly every time and back up his statements with FACTS. Palin continually avoided directly answering questions and filled them up with lots of unprofessional-sounding "feel good" talk.

    October 2, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  6. DONNA

    BIDEN was fantastic and very presidential .... and honest and trustworthy .........
    PALIN was so fake and scripted , when asked a question, she seemed to blurt it out very fast so she wouldnt forget ... She also avoided answering several questions ...........

    October 2, 2008 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  7. Jack

    Mr Gergen is a total republican spin mister – Silly Sarah avoided any serious questions, lied about others, and presented herself as a complete fool.

    October 2, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  8. Susan

    Biden got an Aplus, Palin a C. She did not answer questions, and the power grab she made was unseemly. the winking and the shout out was juevenile and insulting.

    October 2, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  9. alan j.

    I like and respect Joe Biden alot, and he was great.
    But, my oh my,
    Sarah rocked the house!
    The Baraccuda is back!

    October 2, 2008 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  10. ricardo williams

    I'm happy that Sarah Palin didn't make a fool of herself. She however came across as stiff and rehearsed. If she was running for head of the high school team that will be fine, but we are talking presidential stuff in tough times. Verdict: Sarah is not suited for the job of Vice President. She can not help in the present state of confusion that faces our economy. We cannot award mediocracies, We need people who can step up and talk with conviction and Joe Biden did just that.

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  11. DEBBIE

    Let's put it this way.......she stop the bleeding......

    Biden was Great......................................................................

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  12. Voter

    Good debate, but Palin appeared to repeating prepared lines rather than answer from knowledge of what she was talking about.

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  13. laurie

    Hard to take someone seriously when she cannot pronounce "Iraq", "Iran", or nuclear.......come on, Sarah.....you gotta quit that cutsie, down home image and try and show some brains.

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  14. Griff

    I love a "Mystery"...

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  15. laura

    yes Biden A+

    Palin D-

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  16. Kristen

    I LOVED Biden tonight. When he choked up talking about raising his family and his pointing out the non-maverickness of McCain. I think Obama made on hell of a choice picking him. I can't wait to vote for Obama/Biden in November!

    October 2, 2008 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  17. Biden!

    Biden won, hands down. I watched CNN with the tracking lines for men and women and by far, Biden had topped out lines compared to Palin's. I think she did a lot of winking and cutesy stuff, but I don't want ANY VP to have MORE power, thanks, but NO THANKS. I think she wants to be Dick Cheney!

    No to dipstick/lipstick!

    And who the hell is McClellan?

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  18. Paul

    David Gergen has always hit the nail squarely on the head. Biden did get the A+ but Palin was more robotic with some of her answers and I give her a B.

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  19. fred

    biden won the debate and palin looked clueless she did know what to say all she could say was what i did in my state. if you want to be vp you have to know about all states not just what people tells you.

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  20. Lee

    Well I agree that Biden SOUNDED good at some points, but the problem was, half of his "facts" he made up! There were so many things (that even *I* picked up) that he said that were incorrect, (and I don't know much about the Senate!)

    I was all set to see Palin fall on her face. She was the clear winner. MY problem now, is I'm undecided again. I thought I was leaning toward Obama. Now I have to watch ANOTHER debate on Tuesday!

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. Concerned Citizen

    Palin dodged and evaded many questions, adding her own prefabricated, nonsequitur answers in place of actually answering the very clear and basic questions that Ifill posed.
    Biden was knowledgeable, confident, and DOWNRIGHT PRESIDENTIAL.
    Fine, if you have warm fuzzy feelings about Palin's folksy way of speaking and her disavowal of the need to have deep knowledge of policy issues, be her friend. But for the love of god keep her away from the most powerful position in the world. Keep her finger far from that button that could destroy the world!!!!!!
    I cannot imagine how any thinking human being could even ASK THE QUESTION of who won this debate!
    By the way, is anyone else out there terrified - I mean absolutely terrified– about her comments about the expansive powers of the VC?

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  22. sandra

    I cannot grade a candidate with an A minus if that candidate didn't answer the questions.

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  23. Latifah

    Just got done contributing to the McCain/Palin campaign. I am proud to see an UNPRETENTIOUS politician. She is REAL – unlike the hyperpolished Barry Obama or Joe Biden. I love you Sarah!

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    I think Joe Biden was fantastic. Sarah was like a robot, she reminded me myself getting ready for a test. I knew everything for the test but afterwards I did not remember anything.

    October 2, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  25. MARK - FL

    They BOTH spoke well however Biden came out on top!
    I've only been doin this 5 weeks – WRONG ANSWER!
    Biden – 1
    Palin – 0

    October 2, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
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