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. Brad

    I was going to post a comment about this article but you guys are forgetting that I am a maverick on energy policy and can only talk about that!

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  2. Gail in SC

    I disagree with your grading. when I was in school not answering the questions get you a mark down in my school. Biden A+ Palin D

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  3. sandy

    Palin talked like a slug.Say it aint so, and so many other things she said, did not sound like a VP of the United Sates. It sounded unprofessional and trashy.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  4. Mo

    Biden obviously won this debate. Any poll that states otherwise (fox news I'm talking to you!) has been tampered with. We will see in the next week how this debate actually DID affect the campaign when more votes pledge their support to the Obama/Biden ticket – the only sane choice in this election. I don't know if saying "aw shucks" and rolling your eyes is going to get your very far when helping to run the United States government.

    Does anyone really think that John McCain – were he to become president – would really ask Sarah Palin's opinion on anything???

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  5. MT

    I did not hear her answer one question. She was so rehearsed. My nephew has been tested to have an above average memory....he is 7 years old and could do the same. She was so robotic...if she did not want to answer the question she simply went to her stump speech. McCain should be worried.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  6. Mary

    The bar was set so low for Palin that of course she was going to exceed it.

    If we go by reasonable expectations for VP, Biden was the clear winner. Palin does not deserve an "A-" for her rephrasing skills and being folksy.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  7. Jon

    It was plain to see if it was not on the cards in front of her she did not talk about it. Everytime Biden talked about McCains voting record she could not reply she just looked down at her cards and thought what will fit here. She did great if you judge her on what she did not say.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  8. Tammie

    Palin is an insult to intelligent voters- male and female. McCain confirms his legacy by selecting an inexperienced, unprepared puppet that refers to herself as a dog with lipstick. Americans will not vote for McCain simply because Palin is attractive, a mom, and has learned to memorize lines. Palin does not have the intellect for global affairs and cannot seperate church and state to govern in a manner that represents all Americans. She does not "Rock".

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  9. nola

    Biden did a great performance this evening- While Palin did not fall on her face – she did not perform that well – she did not answer a vast number of questions-

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  10. John

    Do we really need another president with a ranch?

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  11. Aaron

    Oh my, how can anyone see Palin as anyhting but lacking knowledge, poorly informed about even the most basic of issues, and full of cliche's including the whole folksy gambit. Doesn't this remind you of someone we currently have in the white house? Let's be realistic about what she presented tonight. She rpesented herself as an attack puppet, one who would not answer the questions directly or with accurate information. Again, doesn;t that sound like someone we currently have in the white house? This woman is dangerous, almost as much as John McCain. She places a premium on ignorance and "aw shucks" – With our economic issues, our problems overseas, the mismanaged war effort – we don't need more "aw shucks" F for Palin

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  12. Gloria

    When you debate, you must at the very least answer the questioned asked....not answering is not an option...except maybe in Alaska.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  13. S. Berson

    The difference between Palin and Biden is Biden lived the facts he provided on stage where Palin memorized the facts she provided on stage.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  14. gep

    I would not call giving an answer that had absolutely nothing to do with the question a sign of a successful debate. Let's hope the American public isn't fooled by Gov. Palin's stunt.

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  15. victor

    The Presidential Judgement call with the veep pick has been sounded
    loudly and with clarity tonight:

    Obama showed tremendous judgement and the Dems have
    a strong ticket. McCain rolled the dice......and they have a messy, reckless ticket for Repubs...... God bless and help Amerioca choose wisely this time...It's been awhile Obama/Biden 08 !

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. Nina-Florida

    She held her own, debate camp was a success, I'll give that to her. That's all I can give her. Nothing has changed. Obama/Biden 08-12!

    October 2, 2008 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  17. Janice

    If you think Sarah Palin won because she didn't answer most of the questions and didn't know what an Achilles Heel is, you are absolutely wrong. She evaded most of the questions and would go off on her set talking points, puzzling to say the least. She couldn't defend John McCain's political record or say what they would do differently than George Bush. She seemed to defend Cheney's Vice Presidental record and looks forward to make it even more invasive. As a woman, I didn't appreciate the folksy talk, winking and Joe Six Pack references. You are wrong if you think American's are going to be fooled by her or want someone with her lack of knowledge in the White House.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  18. 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 rules caused enough problems?

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  19. Seanie

    I think Biden kick butt tonight in the debate. He wery warm and respectful towards Palin as well as getting Obama and his 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 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  20. JOE 7 Pack

    I keep asking myself the same question, "can I see Sarah Palin as President?" and the answer continues to come up the same, NO WAY!!

    On another subject I would agree it is important to have your family with you for support but I wish Sarah would let that new born sleep in his bed as opposed to his sister's shoulder.

    Joe 7 Pack for Obama

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  21. Geraldine

    How did anyone get the idea that we are interested in a vice president that can only say a coherent sentence only when she has talking points written by Rove wana-be's and that experience is a problem??? Biden is cleary more qualified, more specific, and a superb communicator. I started out this election undecided between McCain and Obama. This is a critical election. Listen to what Sarah Palin says and rather than her cute winks and silly one-liners. Let's do what is best for the country.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  22. rmh

    Joe Biden was great, He was very confident with his answers, I guess it comes with experience Obama?Biden all the way

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  23. mmd

    Who was that robot they put in for palin. I want the other one back.
    At least in the cbs and other media interviews she sounded natural, dumb, natural.
    palin didnot answer the questions. energy, alaska, maverick., and a wink.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  24. j Graham Finlay

    Gov.Palin was not specific nor complete in answering questions.She was inclined to make ambiguous statements and was repeatedly accusative and stating half truths. She presented herself in a better light than she has been doing lately, but her remarks lacked substance. She did not improve Sen McCain's status in the Presidential Race. . She is not of presidential stature.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  25. john

    Biden needs to read Article 1 of the Constitution. He was wrong on that one. Also screwed up several of McCains voting records. Biden was pitiful trying to spin is vote for the War authorization as " Well, I didn't think he'd actually do it!" He voted for the WAR AUTHORIZATION! Hello, anybody in there, Joe? Palin was good, you bunch of lefties, admit it!

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
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