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. carlo

    I wouldn't call her debating skills (which I have seen) as stellar, but she is enough of a to pull most off. They should pump her up. Why not? Isn't that who McCain chose? Isn't he supposed to be the master of judgment? I say don't go easy on her, Joe. Let her have it.

    September 29, 2008 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  2. Former Republicans for Obama

    Enough is enough!!!! Now America knows why many were not impressed by Palin from the beginning. Her selection as the VP is a slap in the face to women everywhere and just shows how sexist John McCain is. Palin may be a nice person, but even conservatives now realize she should step down. Why are there not analysts coming out of the wood work to debate this issue. McCain has sold out the country with this political stunt. He used to believe in country first, but now it's just a tag line. He is quickly going from American hero to zero.

    September 29, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  3. Irene

    (correction, please...)

    People should ask themselves ONE QUESTION when the VP debate is over.......

    Which one of these two candidates do I TRUST to become PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, if it bacame necessary.

    OBAMA / BIDEN 08

    September 29, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  4. Big O

    I think this should be a decent debate if they can stick to the current issues/plans of their campaigns and not point the finger at each other-we shall see...

    September 29, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  5. Phillip Bunn , Bailey NC

    The last thing Joe Biden needs to do is worry about being condescending; Sara Palin is an idiot. In recent interviews (Charles Gibson in particular) Palin has proven that she is as clueless as the moose she shot on everything from foreign policy to Russia (living next door to someone does not make you an authority on what goes on in their bedrooms). Every time she opens her mouth a foot falls out and having McCain as President and her as vice-president would be like having Brisco and Charlene Darling sitting in the oval office. Biden needs to go on the defensive with her just as if she were a worthy advisary. This is not a gender sensitive debate. It is a debate to see who is more qualified to be the Vice-President of the United States.

    September 29, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  6. Independent, Philly PA

    “I think Governor Palin is a skilled politician,” said Axelrod. “She got elected in a very tough political arena against tough opponents....."

    – That is a great line. I am laughing so hard, because all I can think of is Palin's terrible interview with K. Couric. Palin can give a good scripted speech, but she can't deliver her own thoughts with any credibility or skills. She sounds like an ameature with an annoying accent. She's a bafoon.

    September 29, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  7. adam

    dont expect a cake walk a losing strategy will give better insight to a great offense

    September 29, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  8. Chris S.

    So I hear conservative radio talker wants Sarah Palin off the the republican ticket. If they didnt listen to Rush Limbaugh, they woulnt be in this mess of a republican ticket.

    September 29, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. NANCY

    joe biden will come the winner after the debate. palin just sounds clueless. even with practice she cant match joe biden. i think he has the experience, presence
    and knowledge that we are looking for in these terrible times.
    she simply does not.

    September 29, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  10. carolyn

    Why should Sen. Binden not be hard on Gov Palin, because she is a woman and less experienced than he is? She knew this when she accepted the call from McCain. I didn't hear anyone asking McCain not to be too hard on Obama and come across as beening too condecening with his experience. To me McCain says that Obama has no experience to be President, but he has never been President himself, so where has his Presidental experience come from. People don't decide or vote because of debates anyway, their mind are already made up. McCain is too old and sickly to be President and some of you are saying that Obama is too black, can't vote for a black man, but we have voted for white men since the beginning. Obama in my opinion is not black he is mixed with both black and white.

    Obama/Binden 2008 & 2012

    September 29, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  11. Maggie

    Palin is a strong and intelligent woman and I know she will do good on her debate. I know the democratic media including CNN are just waiting to pounce on her after the debate but I know she will surpirse you by giving a strong debate.

    I just saw on CNN a young black rapper/actor asking the youth out there to come out and vote. This is so hypocritical because I know he would never have come out and try to appeal to the young voters to vote on November 4 if the candidate had been a white or female candidate. I know if Obama had not been black, the 95% of black voters would not have been out there voting. Maybe up to even 50% would not be voting. We are teaching our black youth to vote for the color of the skin and not for the issues. Tell me, is this not a case of racism? Because its the reverse way of racism does not mean its not racism. Our youth have to learn to vote for issues and not because of race. Its just as unhealthy voting for someone because they are white or if the person is black. Let's get out of this race voting thinking and get back to the issues.

    September 29, 2008 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  12. Andrew

    They can show the respect because they have too. I will say she is comical to listen to and would make us as a county look like bigger fools than even electing Bush has done. Just for once we should elect the individual with some intelligence. Why not, we have tried everything else and none of it has worked out that well for the country.

    September 29, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  13. Election Watcher

    Joe Biden was in actually my top choice during the primaries, but looking at, he has been uttering more lies than anyone else connected with either campaign.
    I'm sorely disappointed Joe. I used to think you were tops!

    September 29, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  14. sue calgary

    My popcorn is popping!! Hope she doesn't cancel or "trip" at the last minute. This isgoing to be very entertaining!!! Roll on Thursday...

    September 29, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  15. McCain said she's ready to be President

    She is a good debater. The tore down the house during the Alaska debates.

    The bar should be set as high as it is for Biden. I am a woman and I am OUTRAGED the media continues to treat her like a child. She's running for one of the highest offices in the land and she's a grown woman. If she's qualified she should be familiar with the subject matter.

    For the Media to set the bar so low seems like another way of saying women are so stupid the bar would have to be set on the floor in order for us to succeed.

    McCain said this woman is ready to be President so set the bar at that measure and you should ALL expect her to meet those expectations, if not I will wonder if the media is playing some race/gender game with American.

    September 29, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  16. Jill American

    Palin ought to study Obama .. that way she would learn how to answer questions when there is nothing in her past to back it up.

    And as far as Biden goes .. no one has wanted him in past elections .. this year or the last time he ran for President ... so what does that say about Obama's pick for the number 2 spot?

    September 29, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  17. Ben

    How does one not come across as condescending when one is speaking to an IDIOT???

    September 29, 2008 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  18. Liz in Atlanta

    I completely understand why they are playing up Palin's debating abilities, but I still think Palin will fail miserably. Yes, she's debated before, but never in front of millions of viewers. This is the big league and she's not ready. She thinks the bailout is for healthcare? Is she serious? When Putin rears his head into America's air space? What? America can do better. And we will when we elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

    September 29, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  19. Bruce

    Watch out Joe she may be the "trojan horse" I ahve thought that she is playing at being as stupid as she appears.

    September 29, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  20. Doug

    While Sarah Palin will talk a good line and have good stage presence, I think Joe Biden will mop up the floor with her.

    But Joe will have to remember to let his considerable credentials rule the day. He doesn't have to be too wordy and he'll need to be respectful while continuing to say what he believes.

    September 29, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  21. Felisia

    I think clint was hesitant because he wanted to be back in the Whitehouse hisself. I don't think Hillary was going to run the country he was still going to put his two cents in, he has ran his term it is someone else turn now.

    September 29, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  22. Phil in KC

    Debated 5 times and never lost – against whom? Still, I do think it would be wrong to underestimate her. Nonetheless, I'm hoping that Biden mops the floor with her like Bensen did against Quayle.

    September 29, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  23. Noah

    The Democrats are shameless. They spend an entire week criticizing Palin for her interviews (which to be honest were hard to watch) and now they are trying to make her seem as though she was an amazing debater so they can lower Biden's expectations. Dishonesty at its best. Biden should be able to soundly defeat her with all of his years of experience and if Palin is able to even hold her own at all, it will be a win for McCain Palin. McCain clearly won his debate despite what the lunatic liberal media wants to pretend. He made Obama look silly and unknowledgeable

    September 29, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  24. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    I couldn't possibly disagree more with the idea that Sarah Palin has "good" debating skills. She has such limited economic, historical, geographic, and foreign policy knowledge, I dare say a skilled high school debate captain could debate circles around her. She is as shallow and wholly on-the-surface as the entire McCain campaign itself: All imahe and no substance. Her pitiful performances in both the Charles Gibson and Katie Couric interviews shows how limited her faculties are and her complete inability to think on her feet. Whereas both Barack Obama and Joe Biden have offered us numerous and substantive policy iniatives, and have even outlined a number of these in the masterful Obama book :The Audacity of Hope", McCain and Palin have offered us only the same old, same OLD nothing but smoke, mirrors, and empty slogans. The title of a book about McCain's campaign would be "The Audacity of HYPE" because it"s just been a bag of grandstanding, diversion, and meaningless hot air!

    September 29, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  25. Sue/PA

    The way I see it...Palin needs to "put her money where her mouth is". The McCain camp can not expect the voters to lower expectations of Palin after her interview with Couric. Actually, Palin has raised the bar by her obvious lack of knowledege.

    September 29, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
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