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. ines

    The McCain camp knows Palin can't win on substance – It is just not there. Other avenues will be relied on by her. I look for Palin to be on the attack (seems like the McCain camp would've learned after the results of the last debate), the 'cuteness' factor (as so eloquently described in Tina Fey's SNL skit this past weekend), or Palin will follow McCain's 'condescending' role he used in his failed debate last week.

    September 29, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  2. Ted van Tol

    I wish Joe all the luck, he wil do a good job.

    but CNN (adn please post this comment for once)

    how can you link Barack Obama on the actions of
    McCain. McCain saw the need to go to Washington, not Obama.
    Now Obama gets the bad critrics that are just ment for McCain.
    That is bad, bad journalism.
    Shame on you!

    September 29, 2008 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. Undecided

    "No more Washington games" says Obama. It's time to "turn the page and open a new chapter of Washington politics". Sounds like the same ole stuff to me. And considering that 76% of Obama's campaign ads are negative (to 52% of McCain's) I'm not surprised that Obama says one thing and does another.

    I agree with a lot of what Obama says, but I need to see that his voting record will match his rhetoric. God help our great country, because I don't believe that either of these candidates will.

    September 29, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  4. Paul Dobro

    If her debate answers sound anything like her interview answers, 60% of the poeple will turn it off before the end. It is sometimes painfull to listen to her answers and even harded to try and understand what she is saying.

    Lets see if they look at each other.

    September 29, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  5. michael

    The Democrats call Palin clueless? She has more experience than Obama. The Democrats were clueless in choosing Obama over Clinton. They would have closed the sale by now.

    September 29, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  6. Georgia Gal

    You know they had Romney on "The Today Show" this morning also building her up (which I found strange, because usually they try to lower expectations, but then again could expectations be any lower for her??). Anyway, I was just thinking "go for it" ... after all the more they build her up, the harder she'll fall.

    September 29, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  7. MJ

    Biden should debate Palin like he would debate any other VP nominee. If Palin can't stand the heat then she needs to get out of the kitchen.

    September 29, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  8. tlc

    I love that they are "lowering expectations" for Biden. Way to support your VP and make him look like a good pick.

    We've seen him for 30 years we know what he is about.

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  9. Lydia

    I think it's a smart strategy. Though Palin has proven to many people that she is a hollow Barbie doll, there are still people who like her, and there are plenty of people – including McCain's desperate campaign – who will scream 'sexism' no matter what Biden does. If he's tough he'll be 'a bully' and if he's not, he'll be 'condescending.' It's going to be a knife's edge for him to walk, and though I think he's great, he's not known for subtlety.

    His sheer knowledge is so much greater than hers I think he would do best to speak from what he knows and give her the rope to hang herself. He can certainly challenge her positions, but it will be tricky. She's like a broken mechanical doll who just keeps repeating the same words, and when someone isn't actually saying anything they can be tough to contradict effectively!

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  10. Chut Pata

    I can't wait for this comedy show. I am sure I will laugh to death watching this matchup of the King of Gaffe vs the clueless Miss Congeniality.

    I am sure SNL, Comedy Central, and even CNN will have plenty of matter for all sorts of comedies till the election day.

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  11. I'm a democrat and I'm really scared

    of Sarah Palin and what she brings to the table. So I'm going to get on line and talk about how stupid she is.....maybe someone will believe me. And then I'm going to say how stupid all americans are. Oh yeah. That REALLY makes me want to come over to your side. Not!

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  12. Leona - Canada

    Why is it that the media can accept the condescending tone and attitude as displayed by McCain and not from Biden?..Gov Palin has repeatedly bragged that she is more than capable of handling herself in the arena with 'the big boys"...maybe she'll realize that it only applies to a hockey arena?

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  13. Tony, Miami

    We should becareful and remember not to count one's chickens before they're hatched. After 4 days of crash course she may be the big surprise on October 2nd. Maybe she will learn enough to make believe she is ready to be ready on day 1. The majority of voters don't take time to analyse.

    September 29, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. Brandon

    Palin experience > Obama experience

    .... you fools playing the unexperienced card come across quite hypocritical. Remember Obama has been campaigning for 1 and 1/2 years of his short lived term anyway. Before that he was an Illinois State senator. Now that's great experience!! Gvie me a break.

    September 29, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  15. FactCheck

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

    Yeah, that ought to serve him real well as he sits on the sidelines and watches the Democratic party move on without him. You Repubs are stuck in the past... welcome to the 21st century.

    September 29, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  16. Maggie from Virginia

    Tony you are right... Because of Palin, women will have an even harder time making it to the top 1 & 2 positions in our country. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the GOP's intention all along. She's making it hard for all the intelligent women in the world. Shame on you McCain.

    September 29, 2008 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  17. Barney

    Stop censoring. I'm entitled my view the same as wealthy republicans.

    Barney September 29th, 2008 8:36 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    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 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  18. Vic

    No doubt the McCain camp will write her responses for her word for word. But lets hope that they don't cheat and find someway to get the questions ahead of time. It is largely the media's fault that this woman is still in the race. They are the 4th estate and are supposed to watch over the public so disasters like this woman becoming President don't actually happen but apparently their to scared of the McCain camp and the Republicans to do anything.

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

    Given that Palin does not have a firm grasp of any of the issues, trying to debate Biden with fact would probably be a disaster.

    I'm a firm Obama supporter, and am trying to figure out a way that she could still save face in this upcoming debate... What if she were simply to debate from the heart... acknowledge she has much to learn, but speak to issues with her opinions (staying, of course, within the broad params McCain sets for her)?

    It's a long shot, but short of her actually learning (and understanding!) all the issues in the next 72 hours, how is she actually going to pull this thing off?

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

    I was just thinking about Couric's interview. no comment.........

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

    This should be an interesting debate. I hope Sara Palin puts the bridge to nowhere issue to rest.
    She should indicate how both Obama and Biden voted for the funding for the bridge to nowhere while she did not. This is a question of honesty and trutfulness and the electorate should know about it. This is what debates are all about...highligting the issues and demonstrating the candidates character and integrity (or lack thereof).

    September 29, 2008 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. Georgia Gal

    You know, I just had a thought and maybe I am giving the McCain-Palin camp too much credit here, but I wonder if they puposely made Sarah Palin look like the biggest ditz on the planet to lower expectations for her and raise expectations for Joe Biden on this debate. They're a sneaky group I certainly wouldn't put in past them.

    September 29, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  23. Tony, Tx

    I understand why they are doing it, but what I don't understand is how Biden keeps from laughing while saying these things.

    September 29, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  24. TyWebb

    Hey, "JDC // Ohio" – speaking of blundering idiots, you would know.

    September 29, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  25. GnosticMan

    This is rediculous! Come on people!!! This is for everyone, democrat, republican, independent, politicians, pundits and citizens. STOP TREATING PALIN WITH KID GLOVES, SHE IS RUNNING FOR A VERY POWERFUL OFFICE!!!!!! STOP THIS PLEASE. She needs to be scrutinized to the millionth degree! I am sick of this. This lady is being treated by everyone as if she were a pageant queen. WAKE UP EVERYONE THIS IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST!

    September 29, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
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