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. Jan

    In spite of the vicious smears of the Obama campaign and their pundits–promoted by the MSM, I hope that Sarah Palin comes through in this debate.It's pretty clear to most McCain/Palin supporters that expectations are higher for her than the gaffe-prone Biden. All he has to do, according to the media, is not acknowledge Palin and keep away from gaffes.Media is tryng to twist that in Biden's favor. Anyone with intelligence can see what MSM are trying to do for Obama. I hope, on Nov 4, people vote with their head. McCain/Palin 2008

    September 29, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  2. Al, NY NY

    Gee, I wonder if the lipstick Fido is being fed advice like "try to get him to talk down to you" etc. It's the only way the phony has any chance. She does OK with rehearsed and teleprompter language. Wait until she has to think on her feet about an answer or a rebuttal....Can't wait to see her. She'll probably twirl her hair and say....."You ilberals are all out to get me. I'll get back to you on that.."

    September 29, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  3. John

    They're so disingenuous.

    September 29, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  4. Matt-Nebraska

    They know Palin will wipe the floor with Biden, just as McCain did with Obama.

    A little Pre-debate downplay so the faithful Kool-Aid drinking leftist that support Obama will declare victory again after the debate.

    Another Democrat disgusted with Obama.

    McCain/ Palin '08!!

    September 29, 2008 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  5. Paizley

    The expectations for this woman are so low that if she completes a coherent sentence it will be looked at as a win for the McCain/Palin ticket.

    September 29, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  6. Ed, Santa Fe NM

    Palin has been shown to be a blathering idiot who never answers questions. How is this a great debating style? I don't care that Palin is a woman, a mom, or whatever else she is. In unscripted TV interviews so far, she's shown herself to be an inarticulate boob and not qualified to be VP.

    September 29, 2008 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. Jerry

    Keep it up Joe.

    There is a real danger that expectations for Palin will be so low, that nothing short of her speaking in tounges would be viewed as a bad performance.

    September 29, 2008 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  8. David W., Florida

    Of course they have to hype it in a positive light. Have you forgotten that the GOP and FOX News is still crying "foul" because the rest of us were just trying to understand why McCain picked her. Obama had to go through the same and did just fine. Why is Palin exempt?

    September 29, 2008 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  9. McCain for Pres.


    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  10. Emilio Sempris

    Dear Amigo Biden:
    Please make sure to mention that while the US continues focusing on vaporizing it's tax payer monies on Irak, Iran and the like. Rusia is wisely getting closer to Latin America. Check the Rusian foreign direct investments in Central America for example. Look at Venezuela and Bolivia. If things continue to go like this, You'll soon see a Rusian Panama Canal over Nicaragua.

    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  11. Women in Penn 4 Obama

    She is going to repeat here canned words from John McCain and the convention speech. We love Joe in Penn State and we wish him well in the debates.

    Go Joe Go, Go Joe Go

    Obama / Biden '08

    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  12. justobserve

    Apart from Palin's questionable knowledge to be VP and a heartbeat from the Presidency, we haven't heard much about what the First Dude's role will be in the McCain-Palin administration. He got a very important role in governing Alaska which seem OK due to Alaska's mentality of governing just like a family business and frontier mentality which elevated him, an ice dog sledger, to a hero status but on the national stage, for a spouse to get involved in the VP/Presidential affairs unelected would be scandalous. The federal government is much bigger than Alaskan one with many highly experienced professionals to do the jobs that don't required the knowledge of an ice dog sledger.
    Orlando, FL

    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |

    so let me get this straight .
    20 years in the church and obama didnt know his pastures racist anti- american'd that get by em...
    kicked off his political career at the home of convicted terrorist....good judgement?
    business partnered with convicted felon resko....good character?
    his wife has never been proud of her country until her husbands run for the presidency....thats nice?

    and what is it about freedom you libs hate so much?

    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  14. Jon

    Given the amount of negative press Gov. Palin has receive for her political background and now the Obama campaign's recent praise of her debating skills as mentioned above, it would be interesting to see how the VP debate turns out. I can see one of two outcomes:

    1) The Obama campaigns succeeds in raising expectations of the governor's debating skills then smack her down or watch her stumble on at least one gaffe. This, I suspect, is what some of Gov. Palin's critics expect to see this Friday.


    2) The governor does surprisingly well at the debates and catches everyone off guard. This is not entirely impossible. The McCain campaign would be stupid not to put Gov. Palin through the wringer in some mock debates and make sure that she knows what she would say.

    Either way, at least the Obama campaign should be given credit for being professional and giving some respect to Gov. Palin (even if it is token respect) and treating her as an opponent to watch out for. It would be foolish on their part to let their guard down thinking Gov. Palin is someone they can steamroll easily.

    September 29, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. Linda from Prescott AZ

    this debate will be no contest. It will probably serve as comic relief.
    Palin is so far out of her league it is remarkable.

    September 29, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  16. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    I hope he brings allot more than Obama did. Obama looked like a collage student on a debate team. Just memorize a few key lines that someone put together for him and hope that gets it done. McCain dominated that debate and I think Palin will dominate Biden just the same.

    September 29, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  17. Allison, NH

    I am looking forward to Thursday's brawl. My gut tells me Palin will sink like the Titanic, but only time will tell. Unfortunately (and fortunately for the Dems), the Republican's do not seem that confident in her. Hopefully that will spell a victory for the Dems. If she comes up with some more dumb comments like that she's experienced in international affairs because her state borders Canada, then the Dems are sure to win this one, as they did the last.

    September 29, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  18. Ryan, Florida

    At the end of the day, all we will get from Palin is a text book extract like answer with zero critical thinking in her answers in Thursday’s debate.
    It will not be the showtime popcorn; got ya like debate many are anticipating.
    Sarah Palin will just spew out the usual down the line, cliché remarks that allows for little opening for a real debate.
    The key for Senator Biden is to tap into his real, down to earth and genuine personality on debate night. Going after Palin too aggressively may be seen as bullying. The best way for Biden to win convincingly will be to juxtapose his laid back, down to earth, genuine style with Palins robotic, talking points rhetoric.

    September 29, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  19. Alexis

    I hope Biden gets a little rough with her. OK so what that she is a women, She is a women that wants to be the United States Vice President so she needs to be tough!! Slam her Biden and CNN WHEN HE DOES DONT YOU DARE PUT OUT THERE THAT HE WAS BEING SEXIEST!!!!

    September 29, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  20. SV


    September 29, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  21. Hypocracy has no bounds

    Everyone who does not see that the Dems are just as responsible for the economy as the republicans are lemmings.

    Ignoreing a problem to gain political gain is just as bad as making a bad policy. Infact it may be worse since your hoping for people to suffer so you can get more power.

    September 29, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  22. Ronda

    I watched her in one of the Alaska Governor's debate. She was fine, poised, clear.

    No matter what Biden does, the repub's will call him sexist. They probably already have an ad about it ready to go (just like they had the "McCain Wins Debate" ad before he even said he would participate–idiots).

    So given they will call him "sexist" no matter what, he should debate like he would any other candidate. He needs to be clear, concise, and address the voters directly. He should appear warm and caring in direct contrast to Cheney.

    September 29, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  23. LD

    Is calling someone an idiot the best that democrats can come up with? You might not like someone – I certainly don't LIKE Obama or Biden – but they are not idiots and neither is Sarah Palin. Frankly my dear.....I'd like to vote out EVERYONE that is in congress. The mess they have made of our economy (and yes it is ALL of their fault, not just the President, not just the republicans, not just the democrats). them ALL out and get in new people.....they couldn't screw it up any worse than it already is. And you'd have to be an "idiot" if you didn't agree.

    September 29, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. Excutive_Experience

    She has real excutive experience, as being a governor is a true readiness for commber-in-chief position. Ronald Reagan was a gonernof of California, and Bill Clinton a governnor Arkansas. Obama and Biden simply do not understand it.

    September 29, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  25. Truth be Told

    I am really wanting to see this debate. I know it may not really mean too much. Was anyone else wondering why Palin did not speak after the Obama/McCain debate (Giuliani spoke instead). Really it was nothing she could mess up........well maybe. Biden spoke and all you had to do it point out the good things you think your Prez canidate said during the debate.

    September 29, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7