September 29th, 2008
07:30 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama-Biden camp hype Palin’s debating skills

[cnn-photo-caption image= "Joe Biden will face off with Sarah Palin in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate."]
WILMINGTON, Delaware (CNN) – As Joe Biden settles into debate prep mode this week ahead of Thursday night’s debate in St. Louis, campaign aides are actively playing up Sarah Palin’s debating skills. Biden’s spokesman called Palin “a leviathan of forensics,” a classic example of the campaign tactic of raising the expectations of their opponent and lowering their own.

“She's very skilled and she'll be well-prepared,” said Barack Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod Sunday night, flying with Biden back to Delaware to help him get ready.

“As you saw at the convention she can be very good. So, I think it would be foolish to assume that this isn’t going to be a really challenging debate. We're preparing for that, on that assumption.”

Taking it one step farther, Biden spokesman David Wade later added, “He's going in here to debate a leviathan of forensics, who has debated five times and she's undefeated.”

Biden has a difficult task on his hands – not coming across as condescending with his decades of experience and not adopting a tone that could appear as though he’s treating Palin differently because she’s a woman.

“I think Governor Palin is a skilled politician,” said Axelrod. “She got elected in a very tough political arena against tough opponents and we're going to treat her with the respect that she deserves. And I think that she would expect that, I think voters should expect that.”

Axelrod argued that at the end of the day, the choice voters make is between the candidates at the top of the ticket and not the vice presidential candidates. However, he said VP nominees have a harder time preparing because they need to not only defend their own positions but those of their running mate, as well as knowing where both candidates on the opposing ticket stand.

“I will say is this,” Axelrod added, “I think that there are very few decisions that you make during the course of a presidential campaign that are presidential decisions.”

“But picking the vice presidential candidate is one and all I can say is that, you know, we're very happy with our choice.”

Asked what the choice of Palin says about McCain, Axelrod demurred. Pressed for why he refuses to criticize the pick, he responded, “I'm not reluctant to be critical. I'm just prudently sticking to my theme.”

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm flew with Biden from Michigan to Delaware Sunday to play Palin in mock debates in the coming days. In an interview on Thursday she said, “I want to beat him up a little bit, so he does well.”

Filed under: Joe Biden
soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. DawnS

    Obama and Biden are the true master debaters. Two smarmier politicians we will never know.

    September 29, 2008 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Why worry about coming across as condescending when she has to worry about coming across as the female version. It's a wash.

    September 29, 2008 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  3. Tony

    Palin will implode on Thursday nighta dn I wouldn't miss it for the world.

    For anyone who is thinking of voting the Mccain – Palin ticket, especially women, Palin will set women back at laest 100 years and it will be perhaps decades before a woman is taken seriously for the Vp or Pres. position.



    September 29, 2008 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  4. mitch

    oh,c'mon guys. be real! as soon as she starts speaking in tongues,again,she's finished.

    September 29, 2008 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. JDC // Ohio

    Biden is a blundering idiot and Palin will eat him alive!

    September 29, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. mccain halts campaing to

    1) brief "confused, unexperienced, clueless, ridiculous Palin,"
    2) find out what ear piece they can give Palin for the debate
    3) what cell phone would do so that she might call a friend while debating

    my friends, McCain Palin will ONCE again say that they are halting their campaign (wink wink while he has dinner and inter\views with CBS) in order to distract from CLUELESS Palin

    it will be painful to watch how she Knows NOTHING

    and just wait the republicans will acuse Biden (no matter how and what he says) of being sexyst....... thank you to crazy old billary everything is sexyst now a days...
    so Biden has the very difficult task to balance, to talk to a bimbow who truly does not know a thing about the world including Alaska, and addressing the pressing needs of this country

    how low can the republicans go???

    September 29, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  7. James Biggs

    Score ONE for Mr. Clinton.
    The only 'great' about Obama would be his career as a talk-show host.

    September 29, 2008 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  8. Allen in Hartwell GA

    For sure Gov. Palin is full of herself and hot air, but I don't know how she'll come across if she has to answer unscripted questions. This almost looks like shooting ducks in a pond, and she's supposed to be the great white hunter.

    September 29, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  9. Republi-Con

    Debate camp = Putting lipstick on a pig.
    they are going to give her her prescribed perspective. this isn't a genuine point of view.

    September 29, 2008 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  10. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    How she fares in the debate is unimportant...all that matters in this crucial election are two things: McCain was a POW and Palin is HOT!

    September 29, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Haha, nice tactic. Praise her skills so everyone belives she is an awesome debater, then when she shows how well she really can debate, everyone is unimpressed that she didnt live up to the hype. Raise the expectations over what you know they are to make her defeat that much more.

    September 29, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  12. Barney

    If you love shrill, loud, negative, hill-billy yelling, you'll love this woman. Someone needs to teach her how to enunciate properly.

    September 29, 2008 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  13. pastjob

    we are in the same situation as we were with G. Bush the first when he picked that other goof, I even forgot his name. if they have to prepare anyone with that much information just to debate then they are not fit to be vice President, actually she is not fit to be Governor. I had better replies than she did on questions asked....Wow!
    she will be ready for Biden, but look at how she will be ready...a solid week of training. is this what America want's?
    I am scared of this woman.........

    September 29, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  14. ran

    Hopefully JB will be himself and not try to pull his punches or that anyone accuse him of any gender nonsense. The two are candidates and should be seen in that light and not what gender they are; but I bet especially if it goes bad for Palin gender will be brought up.

    September 29, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  15. Theresa

    I love how Democrats can be so cordial and diplomatic. No matter what, at the end of Thursday, Palin will lose the debate in abismal ways. She is not prepared, she is a disgrace to our country for lying so openly about her failed policies. Ultimately, Biden will prove us once again that he can in fact be one beat away from the Presidency and no Palin will stop that.

    September 29, 2008 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  16. Rodger

    Will she show up? What will be the McCain campaign's excuse? Can they suspend the debate because of her stupidity? Can she complete a sentence? If she does, will it make sense?

    I can't wait to see how "Saturday Night Live" does their parody!

    September 29, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Poll Me

    I'm more worried about Joe sticking his foot in his mouth than I am about Palin doing the same. She's the underdog in this debate and the expectations will be very low based on what we've seen of her in the last few weeks. If she holds her own against Biden, it will be hailed as a victory that rejuvenated the base yet again. If not, Obama will continue to win over independents and stretch his lead just as he did in the primaries.

    September 29, 2008 08:39 am at 8:39 am |

    I certainly hope Sarah wears her cheesy rhinestone "ALASKA" pin. She will need to be weighted down during the debate. Otherwise, all the hot air rushing from her cranium when she opens her mouth, will send her spiraling around the debate hall!

    September 29, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  19. D&D

    I believe this is the best way to handle the situation! Play cool, do not raise expectations and crash her on her own game, mistakes during the debate.

    September 29, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  20. Bobbie C

    Prediction for the VP debate: Palin cries or walks off stage in embaressment or frustration.

    September 29, 2008 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  21. Stacy from Loudoun County, VA

    I think my biggest fear is underestimation of Sarah Palin. If John McCain’s handlers were to just let her be herself and not cram her head full of stuff, retract everything she says and sequester her away, I think she would be okay. I watched Alaska Governorship debate and it was impressive how she slipped in between two men who fought between themselves and beat both of them. My advice to good old Joe is to debate John McCain and just have Sarah Palin there as a placeholder.

    September 29, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  22. georgia independent

    Will the debate take place? Will Palin have to attend a wedding? Or give birth again? Or Alaska will have a crisis that only that Gov. can solve...

    Stay tuned for another week of As the 'Paign Turns...

    September 29, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  23. Nutball Left

    Clinton/Clinton support McCain/Palin how else is she going to be President.

    September 29, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  24. RobK

    Ha. If Biden doesn't mop the floor with her, he lost the debate. After her recent interviews, Palin's expectations couldn't be lower.

    September 29, 2008 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  25. Tyler, Cambridge, MA

    It's ironic that the governor of Michigan training Biden is significantly more qualified to be VP than the actual Republican VP nominee.

    September 29, 2008 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
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