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. Vote4Obama

    I am from Alaska and though I do not support the McCain/Palin ticket I will say that she did well even though many of her points were viewed as coached. Biden was definetly stronger and by the way Palin turned out to be more condascending, she has a way of making a statement that becomes over stated!

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  2. Ann

    Biden has never, ever been better. He was great tonight.

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  3. Johnson in St. Louis

    the way I figure the results will divide along party lines. No Republican will say that Sarah did not do well and the Dems will say that Biden did what they expected him to do. This debate did not sway me either way in the least....just happy that my home town was in the spotlight to host it.

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  4. indy chris

    In other words, David, considering that at least half the country is a bunch of semi-literate morons who couldn't begin to understand what was said or the issues being discussed by Biden and avoided by Palin, she did well in that she appeared capable and competent if the volume on the TV is muted. That's a win in the Conservative book.

    Great, David, thanks for the imput.

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  5. Joe Regis

    Palin did a bit better, but still not ready to lead. She said she has been at this for only 5 weeks. Her answers are vague and incoherent. She has much to learn.

    Obama/Biden 08/12.

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  6. Leah,Texas

    It was very CRUEL for Palin to say of Biden's SECOND wife that her reward for being a teacher would be found in heaven when Palin knows that Biden's FIRST wife is dead and IS in heaven.

    I want the media to slam her on that comment.

    I am very disgusted with Palin because of this ploy to throw Biden off of his game by such a cruel comment!

    Biden WON!

    October 2, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  7. DB from Canada

    I agree that they both accomplished what they set out to do. One problem for McCain is that it was basically a defensive win; winning conservative republicans is not going to swing the election. An even bigger problem is that what was reinforced tonight was that Obama/Biden is a formidable ticket with a lot of strengths.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  8. danny johnson

    by far bidden and oboama can;t touch mccain and palin.think about it.palin has got the sex appeal of america.she will get all of the male gender votes and many of the women votes just on her character and good looks.plus oboma is a terrist name and character.he could be the anti christ.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  9. California Voter

    Perhaps he was not directly condescending in his remarks, however, watching the debates on a split screen, he did on numerous occasions, appear to be laughing at her responses and by some that could be viewed as dismissive.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  10. rainbowgirl

    She never answers the questions!! She just recites what she crammed for. She is scary as a potential VP or President.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  11. Aten Imago

    Mr Gergen. A grade of Palin A minus is a tad generous. Her PTA/Hockey Mom credentials really shone through and yet they hardly impressed me a whit. She remains in the 'milquetoast' category compared to Biden.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  12. Tammie

    Holdng Palin to a lower standard underminded the debate itself. Americans should not have to lower the bar or give Palin any concessions because she's inexperienced , a female candidate,and cant speak without a script. Palin is charismatic and avoided obvious gaffes-but that is not impressive. Her lack of responses, irreverance towards the moderator, and inability to speak unscripted confirms she is not ready. Being a down to earth, "Joe 6 pack" candidate does not qualify her to be the next Vice President of the U.S. She couldnt even defend McCain's record. She kept repeating the same blanket answers without specific details to support them.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. Freddy

    Biden knew what he as talking about. Palin wiggled he way threw babling sometimes.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  14. Georgia

    Palin did a very good job. She showed emotion and excitement wheras Biden was stiff and sometimes even stern. She appealed to me in a patriotic and emotional way. Palin seems to be to only candidate on either team that really connects with me and my problems. I am definitely voting for McCain/Palin now. I am a registered Democrat from Georgia.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  15. Tom, VA

    Biden won this, hands down. Intelligent answers, strong grasp of the issues both at home and abroad, very professional, and a guy that commands the respect of both the legislature and world leaders. That last part is something Sarah Palin could never hope to do, regardless of how "down to earth" she may seem or "just like you". I guarantee that "you" (95% of the people reading) would not be effective as a VP either, so just keep that in mind.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |

    Democrats continue to win. This is good for the amrican people. No more Bush. Republic Ticket is out of touch.

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  17. gene dicks

    considering expections, Sara Palin won, considering content, Senator
    McCain lost

    October 2, 2008 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  18. ML - California

    You are absolutely correct Mr. Gergen – and I you are a good analyst.
    Palin did do well in this debate, but Biden has the experience. In order for McCain to gain a higher percentage in the polls and the confidence of the American people, he has to prove himself and he hasn't done enough. The people want to hear that McCain is not the Bush regime, the people want to hear his stand on this Bailout, the people want to know how he is going to protect Americans and not Corporate America and Wall Street. The fact that he voted for this JUNK BAILOUT BILL does not score him points. He has a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, if he expects to gain the American votes.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  19. LT for Obama

    Biden showed expertise and command of the issues. Sarah decided to only answer the questions she watned to answer whether the question was posed or not. She basically went to speaking points and was clearly seeking answers on the pages of papers in front of her. At times she began speaking in her usual circles when she was searching her brain for the speaking point she wanted to use at that point.

    I do give her credit in that she was very pleasant to Joe when they came out and she seemed far more poised than in her interviews but that is not going to be enough to deal with foreign leaders and pushing back with congress.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  20. Emeric NYC

    A Canadian friend just called me, being disappointed in Gwen's lack of aggressivity. "she just let answers flow unchallenged". I guess the earlier propaganda by the McCaine party (that somehow Gwen/PBS will be biased) did work. How about some hard-ball? We'll leave it to the Pres contenders? Or to the Russians?

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  21. Charles

    Sarah Palin was evasive. When you are trying to get a reputation as a straight shooter evading questions and repeating the lines you've been fed over and over does not get you an A+

    She came off too rehearsed and it showed when she kept repeating the same thing over and over. She was not direct and when a person is not direct I view that person as a LIAR.

    She did cut down on the Sarcasticness but not much.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  22. Rose

    Mr. Gergen is dead on as usual!! My only disagreement being that I thought Palin was not as impressive as you think. She kept going back to her talking points and did not answer the questions asked. I do admit that she did better than her interviews this past week.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  23. pat c., wisconsin

    Please, there was no comparison between the two. Palin had NO grasp of the complexities of any topic. She doesn't even know what a V.P's role is, under the constitution...and want to expand the power of the V.P?!

    What debate were you watching?

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  24. CC

    There is no doubt Biden won this debate. Palin did not answer all of the questions.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  25. nuclular weapons

    palin was a looser tonight. shecould not even say nuclear weapons

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
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