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. Claude

    Gergen you got it wrong on the grade. Biden: A, Palin: D. She did not answer a single question. But, when one is as vacuous as she is, what can you expect? She'd been programmed to deliver the party lines, and that's what she did. She's like a doll with a string in her back that you pull and she repeats whats been programmed. You simply cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Palin is unfit to be Vice President. And from what I've seen, she's not even fit to be governor of Alaska. She is simply not ready! And what's this thing about winking her eye at the men?

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  2. Larry, Washington

    Fred Thompson pointed out at least 10 lies (he was nicer and called them misrepresentations) that Biden told. That A plus must mean that Biden is the better liar.

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. Mike

    I agree with you David in that both did a very respectable job and I saw no serious gaffe's. I really like Biden's attack on McCain's so called "Marverick" claim. Well said. I read a commentary recently from someone who debated Sarah Palin 5 times in Alaska during the Governor race in 2006 and he said that Palin was very adept at providing "glittering generalities" in that she would shift away from the debate question at hand and toward some general comment not related to the question and usually laced with some folksy anecdotes that would appeal to the viewers. I think we saw a lot of tonight. Slight edge to Biden.

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  4. Mark

    Palin was obviously coached very well, and Biden did an excellent job of attacking McCain, and staying away from Palin. There were times where I thought Palin was nervous, as she often talked in run-on sentences, and seemed to be rushing her answers. I got the distinct impression that, much like a college student, she "crammed for the exam", and memorized the information without fully grasping the concepts. Other times, she appeared to be quite comfortable. But I will say this: On just about every single question, her answers were thin and insubstantial compared to Biden's answers, which were full of substance and fact. Biden won without question, and Sarah did better than expected (and I don't think anyone expected a whole lot).

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  5. Carol

    Biden did an excellent job. Palin, on the other hand, told the moderator she wouldn't answer the questions and then proceeded not to answer them. She is definitely a proud alum of the Giuliani school of debate...noun, verb, energy; noun, verb, taxes; noun, verb, maverick. Hasn't eight years of not following the rule caused enough problems?

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  6. eman

    Half of her answers were an incoherent mix of half-sentences pushed into her head by McCain's aids.

    As an Israeli, I tried to understand what were she trying to say in her answer about Israel, and just couldn’t! It didn’t make any sense.

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  7. Wes

    Gov. Palin was clearly out of her league. Folksy, maybe even plucky, but offering little in the way of substance. She had little command of facts, evaded direct questions, and simply inserted tired McCain campaign talking points, often at inappropriate times. She did not connect the dots for this voter, anyway!

    How sad that many will argue that simply because she did not implode this should be characterized as a "win" or a momentum changer for the Republicans.

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  8. Lindsay

    Palin looked more like a stepford doll than a knowledgeable VP candidate tonight.... of course, she usually looks like that. I think my favorite (this is sarcasm) part was how she kept spouting things like change and oversight that Obama has been pushing from the beginning as McCain's own platform. Total B.S.

    P.S. – All you people who claim that cleeeearrlly CNN is biased because there are so many people slamming Palin tonight... do you even have the capacity to consider that maybe there really is such a distribution? That many people REALLY DO hate Palin!

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Palin is a JOKE! I can do just as good as her. The soccer mom, the baseball mom, I went to school at night to get my bachelors degree raised my two daughters by myself, and took them to state in softball five years in a row and work for a major Fortune 500 company, WO)HOO,. She could not even answer the questions that were given to her. She was to busy defending Mcain and reading off a piece of paper. Give me a break. She is not ready to lead this country. Really look at the candidates. Do you want an economy like we currentyly have or do you want change. Democratic ticket is the only way we will get out of this recession.

    October 2, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  10. ArleneP

    He said " If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution."
    He is a winner!!

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  11. mike


    If McCain bites the dust then we're going to have a SOCCER MOM running our country! And if you think for one second that the common man or woman can be president, well then look at Bush and where the "common man" got us– right into an economic mess. Just because you can relate to somebody does not make them a suitable candidate to lead our country.

    I think my dog (female) can do a better job at VP than Sarah!

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  12. Joanne

    Palin did not answer questions. She should. But we all know what republicans do and that is not answer questions but try to twist things around.

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  13. Griff

    B-I-–d e--N? Pal--in..... W--in.. Yes somwhere? The is a WIN????

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  14. AM

    Can some one please tell Palin how to correctly pronounce "IRAN" and "NUCLEAR and not NEW CLEAR"

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  15. gene

    Bottom line here is everyone was on the edge of their seets waiting for Palin to derail...

    That didn't happen.. but I still can't say I'm impressed with Palin.. and this is why...

    She didn't actually answer about half the questions... in fact once she even stated that she's not going to answer the question! Another time Biden finally said he didn't actually hear an answer to the question. Sarah Palin just basically twisted the questions in order to just go over the same stump speech which she's been throwing out there on the campaign trail. Even when she's directly being contradicted by facts... she keeps going back and repeating the exact same wrong information over and over and over... and her using Maverick 20 times was gettiing irritating. Her talking about Obama raising taxes incorrectly was mentioned over and over and over. It was like listening to a parrot.

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  16. Seanie

    I think Biden kick butt tonight in the debate. He wery warm and respectful towards Palin as well as getting Obama and policies out there for the America People. She look a like a deer caught in a headlight. So look nerves and scared but she did better the what a lot of people expected but the debate bar was pretty low for her tonight.
    Joe rock it tonight.

    OBAMA-BIDEN 2008!!!!!!!!!!

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  17. Mark

    You Dems are back to being worried,,, if John McCain and his camp let this girl loose like they did tonight, the hype will be back.

    Sarah is McCains ride tot he White House, if he lets her be what she was tonight. A honest, straight talking, non BS, non Washington kiss but,,,,

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  18. Mack

    Palin Rocked

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  19. Pat Van Orman Price

    Mr. Gergen,

    Stop it-quit trying to be "fair" at the expense of your integrity. We have watched you for years. She is "ready for Entertainment Tonight". This is serious. Biden is ready to help lead this country out of the Bush abyss. Just say it! You'll be able to sleep at night.

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  20. cecil

    Please David Gergen She's A Nice Person, But I Give Her A Grade Of "D" For Effort!

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  21. NB

    Let us put it this way. You cannot win a debate by spinning the truth.
    Even after tense coaching by various people she failed to impress.
    People are looking for leaders here not for hockey moms or joe six packs . So Biden should get A+ and Palin D

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  22. Tracy

    Mr. Gergen,

    I am some what disamayed that you did not address the fact that Palin did not answer Gwen Ifil's questions and purposely decided not to answer as a strategy decision.......Come on Mr. Gergen where is the analysis of her V.P. acumen.....


    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  23. FreeNLovIt

    Look, she's got five kids, so for her to even be able to talk, is good. This is the reason why she couldnt answer Katie Couric's question about what she reads....

    Sometimes you're so busy, there are other priorities.

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  24. Hillary Independent finally for Obama

    CNN, I canNOT believe that you haven't been reading your own blogs tonight, which are running 100 to 1 against Sarah Palin's performance.

    This woman blabbed on and on and on almost incoherently. I really had a problem figuring out what she was trying to say.

    I would suspect she had index cards each with a topic title, and she was mixing them up and picking one topic out when she couldn't give a logical response.

    Or ANY response.

    How can CNN possibly say this woman did a good job????????

    It was awful! And God Help Us.

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  25. MOMMAJ

    Biden was genuine, stayed on the subject, and stood up to many false statements. His last few comments cemented it for me – what a true American, and a terrific pick for Vice President!

    Palin's inability to answer questions, and ill-timed "prepared" statements cemented my opinion of her – fake, naive, and not ready. No way, no how, no McCain/Palin!

    October 2, 2008 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
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