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. Marie

    Well she can speak....BUT does she say anything with substance. She answered very few questions directed at her, and just used her same talking points over and over again.

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

    Obviously, people are entitled to have different views...
    Palin was genuine and sharp, whereas Biden was talking, talking, talking without any essence. Numerous errors in talk by Biden, trying to bring "bad" McCain. Apparently, Obama was voting for much same.
    I have to admit that this one was won by Palin.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  3. Alli

    I could not agree more with Mr. Gergen. Both candidates can be happy with their performance. As an Obama supporter, I am proud of his choice of Joe Biden, and in awe of Biden's intelligence and perspective. I am likewise relieved to know that Governor Palin is not as incompetent or as provincial as her recent interviews would suggest.

    October 2, 2008 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  4. bobbe

    I am utterly amazed at how the left leaning media, including CNN, tore into Sarah Palin after this debate. Just unbelievably biased. (Doubt you will print this, never do print an opposing view)

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  5. California Voter

    P.S. to those who thought Palin sounded scripted . . .Obama, particularly in the earlier debates with Clinton when responding to questions fell back constantly on his stump speech. Isn't that "scripted"??

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  6. Robert Flynn

    Palin seemed condescending to me. But overall, a more masculine George W. Bush.

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  7. Richie

    She was incoherent. Look at the transcript. Pick any response (they were not answers). It is a random collection of phrases strung painfully together. It is only in comparison to the Couric interview that she seemed ok. The bar was low enough, apparently.

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. Palin being prostituted by McCain

    You don't show experience, you prove it by your actions. You can show you have knowledge, wisdom is acting upon the knowledge you have. Palin does well like I do when I have studied for a test. She is looking at being the President as soon as McCain drops. She is fascinated by the attention she is gettting. Watch her when she is with the crowds. She loves the crowds.

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  9. Bev Woonchoy

    I feel that Gov. Palin showed us her heart and her will, tonight. She was sincere, and eloquent and presented the eagerness and real desire to serve the American people. Cheers to her for surviving the last few weeks, and holding her head high.

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  10. Thad

    Biden was well informed?? Next time he should use real facts not made lies. Biden was right when he said Barak was dangerous and was inexperianced. You goofballs at CNN are so in the tank for BO it's rediculas, you are differant than MSNBC. It's OK 2nd place behing FOX isn't bad!

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  11. Claudia


    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  12. Steve

    Palin sounded like a broken record after a while... maverick, maverick, maverick... And when asked a question she didn't have the answer – she resorted to her comfort zone, energy and Alaskan oil. Not impressed,

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  13. Anthony Carver

    As a democrat, I was excited to see Biden show Palin how to win a debate. However, I'll admit, Palin did better than advertised. More than a pretty face.

    October 2, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  14. LS

    Palin has no business in politics.

    Palin was a prepared script and showed no common knowledge, she just memorized points – this was very obvious.

    Thank goodness it's over-don't have to listen to her anymore from this point forward.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  15. Trina in New Mexico

    Expectations were so low, she couldn't lose! Also ... her "isms" are annoying, and she was obviously scripted. Debate camp paid off, but no home run!

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  16. BPRoberts

    Biden A+ Palin C- And usually I agree with your analysis.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  17. Robin

    Palin did a good job in that she seemed determined to be as straight forward as possible.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  18. Ann

    Yeh, Palin did well because expectations before coming into the debate was only ankle length ans she performed at knee length. Of course they'll say she is good – she memorized her lines and delivered it well even if it was not an answer to the questions posed. Don't tell me America will be swayed towards voting for the GOP. Pathetic, just simply pathetic.

    If GOP wins, what right has America to send observers to other countries to witness if these countries have fair and honest elections? If the shameless duo of McSame and Caribou Barbie wins, America will have lost is moral ascendancy in the entire free world.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  19. lsh

    WOW!!!! I am so impressed with Gov. Sarah Palin. She did an awsome job debating against an 20/30+ experienced senator.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  20. MARK - FL

    LOL you dont win a debate just because you did not have a gaffe! (by the way she did – I've only been doing this 5 weeks)
    You win a debate by answering the questions posed to you by the moderator and your rebutal of your opponient!
    What world are we living in? Does anyone know what to look for in a debate? Biden hammered her while she kept dodging the questions and going back to energy!
    One big Stump Speech from Palin and alot of spin – As usual!
    McCain is no Mavrick and Palin is certainly not ready!
    Biden – 1
    Palin – 0

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  21. Ann

    If I were to give them a grade:

    Palin – F

    Biden – VP

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  22. JohnJon

    She avoided answering a few question and was like a robot out there. Her answes were more scripted than knowledgable. I will say she held her own but no enough to empress me as being ready for a VP or Presidential position. Joe Biden was as usual very effective and did a great job. Very knowledgable and Presidential.He hammered McCain for hsi policy decisions and also showed that McCain and Bush are one and the same. Biden won this one hands down.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  23. RYAN kr Jr

    CNN and their contributors 're pathetic. Sarah Palin did well in their ratings-in what dimension did she performs well. She dances on questions and it seems she crams her answers.

    October 2, 2008 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. katherine

    i really appreciated seeing the cordiality between biden and palin, and the families together afterwards was exactly what should happen. i'm so tired of the hostility that mccain seems to radiate. all in all, palin did really well – she definitely redeemed herself. i admit i was pretty concerned after seeing those interviews, but now i think she's okay. but i'm still voting for Obama!!

    October 2, 2008 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  25. Lim

    Biden is better than Palin at debating, but Palin connects better with voters. So style: Biden A, Palin A-; substance: Biden B-, Palin A+.

    October 2, 2008 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
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