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. katiec

    She is so scary. It was evident what she was programmed to
    talk about as she repeated these points over and over.
    She did not answer several questions and gave no
    policies she and mccain had for the future of our
    country. And she and mccain plan to expand her
    duties as VP. LOL
    I hope people now realize that this woman could
    possibly run our country. We would never survive.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  2. Mark Kahle

    Biden won without question...answered everything he was asked, and rebuttaled well

    Palin had a hard time answering questions, or even acknowledging the questions asked.

    Biden A+

    Palin D+

    We have answers from the Obama/Biden Camp, and still nothing than the same from McCain/Palin

    My vote

    Obama/Biden 08! 12!

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  3. Tarri

    So happy to see Palin do a wonderful job and represent women in this counry so well. She gets my vote for winner!

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  4. nola

    Biden gave a great performance this evening – while Palin did not fall on her face, she did not perform that great

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  5. Jo Ann

    How can Gergen say that Biden gave "the best debate performance of his life" when he told so many lies? Does that mean that he lied even more during earlier performances?

    Since he has been in politics since Palin was in second grade I think it was a given that he would have done better than she did. How many debates does he think she has taken part in? The fact that she held her own against an old timer like Biden proves that it was she who won the debate. He should have creamed her.

    October 2, 2008 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  6. more logic

    After just watching the debate I find it interesting that it can be said so confidently that Senator Biden delivered the performance of his life, if in fact he was as inaccurate as Sarah Palin made him out to be on his voting information it seems to me that he did very little but complain about Bush and spout lies about voting records

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  7. Brielle

    Well put, David Gergen. Biden was certainly the superior debater with a more in-depth and nuanced understanding and articulation of the issues. Given that, Palin also performed well, regained her confidence, and did what was necessary to solidify the base that was beginning to doubt her level of intellect and preparedness. Win-win, all around.

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  8. OT

    When she spoke, I usually ended up laughing. When he spoke, I usually ended up nodding in agreement because of some added insight. I'm not looking for someone who needs to still learn what's going on with country and the world. This is the #2 position in government for crying out loud!

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  9. Judith

    Joe Biden is more than ready to be VP, and President if necessary. Sarah Palin is ready to be Govenor of a smally populated state. She did OK with the tools she has, but she's clearly over her head.

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  10. Diane D

    Palin and Jo did exactly what they were suppose to do make their running mates look good. It was a toss no winner no loser. Now it is up to the Pres candidates to make a move. Both VP have the stuff to lead, it just depends on which direction you want America.to go, so Vote on Nov 4th. To keep America free.

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  11. nola

    BIden did great

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  12. BK

    Biden made several mis-statements about McCains voting record. You need to do a fact check.

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  13. Samantha

    My one hope is that voters are informed about thier choices. Not just choosing the "black guy" or the "hockey mom" but use the information given by both parties to support thier personal choice. On that note... Obama/Biden '08!!!

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  14. disgruntled voter

    So Biden has 35 years lying to the public. Palin was straight up mainstreet American putting her patriotism where her mouth is. She is making great family sacrifices in order to serve us, people just like her in the Government. We need a few hundred more like her and change this country back to the land of the free.
    I thought it was disgusting that Biden kept rubbing her arm after the debate and she couldn't get away from him until her husband stepped in. The man is just a vile pig! People! Wake up! This is a man who gathered only a small smattering of votes in the primary and now you want him to be president? Come on. Open your eyes.

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  15. Raymond To

    I will grade Biden A+. Palin B-.

    The most dangerous statement Palin made was she and McCain still believe Iraq is where the Al Qaeda war should be fought, despite Biden pointed out Bin Laden and Al Qaeda still have a strong hold in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The most shocking fact Biden pinted out was we spent as much in three weeks in Iraq as all in Afghanistan.

    Who is the dangerous one?

    October 2, 2008 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  16. My Analysis

    Biden spoke from his heart. Palin spoke from her short-term memory of sound bites.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  17. dcgirl675

    People, have you seen the winks that the Baraccuda gave ?! Do you want a VP who's better at winking than giving substantial answers to America's problem ? Give me a break ! And her kids....its Thursday night. Don't you need to go to school tomorrow ?

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  18. Casmir

    Biden A+
    Palin C-

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  19. Lloyd

    I have listened to the same old liberal Democrat rhetoric from Biden for years. He has all the smoothness of a Washington insider, he danced the same dance of all Washington insiders and twisted facts, presneted things to Obamas advantage.

    Palin clearly showed she can compete on the same stage as Biden, she held her own. It took Biden 30 years to get his positions ironed out, it took Palin 5 weeks. Imagine how much more devastating she would have been aith the 18 months Obama has spent trying to figure out his ever shifting positions.

    I am a Libertarian, but McCain/Palin have gotten my vote. Did all of you people watch the same debate?

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  20. Kevin

    After watching the debate on television this morning here in Korea. Sarah Palin has proven again that she is clearly out of her league. She clearly skirted the issues and could not give one honest answer. An example would be her answer on Nuclear Policy
    Her she does not articulate herself very well her English is horrible she is very incoherent and I am a firm believer that a vote for her and John McCain will be the worst choice anyone could make. I am going to vote for Obama and Biden.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  21. Jessica

    What was with Palin's non-reaction when Biden CHOKED UP about his deceased wife and child?

    She's supposed to "relate" to us, but doesn't react at all when an amazing chance goes up to show her humility and common decency to Joe Biden about a tough time in his life.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  22. Bert

    I believe Sarah Palin came to the debate prepared with a set of talking points, and delivered them fairly well – and often, whether they were relevant to the question/issue or not.

    This was a case of substance over style – Biden knows both domestic and foreign issues, can articulate his proposed solutions to problems, and work in a bipartisan way – as he has for a long time – with Congress to help make the right things happen.

    Palin either did not understand, or did not want to answer, many questions. One of the non-understood ones was about which branch of government the VP belongs in, while Biden's answer was right on. That response is right up there with her not understanding the Bush Doctrine. Palin is a nice person, but clearly not qualified for VP, or heaven forbid, President!

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  23. jp

    Biden a Winner. Palin no Plan...no answers to question...when you don't have an answer..change the subject....Palin Failed

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  24. Jim in Raleigh

    If you really just want a folksie VP who doesn't believe you need to know where you've been to avoid ending up there again, then by all means, Sarah's your candidate. If you want someone who can learn from history and move us out of the garbage of the last eight years, then Obama/Biden is the tickey. She's NOT Hillary, He's still McSame.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  25. jb

    shocker, CNN declares Biden wins debate. Wow, who would have saw that one coming.

    October 2, 2008 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
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