White House ’08: Who won?
Column by Chris Graham
Sarah Palin didn’t fall flat on her face. I don’t know that she did what she needed to do to get the attention from her superficial approach to running for vice president, but she did at least avoid the catastrophe that conservatives had feared might be in the offing and Democrats had perhaps expected to be the case.
In the end, I think we got the split decision that I was expecting earlier today; Hardcore Palin partisans will probably feel good about how their candidate did. Conservatives who have raised questions about Palin’s continued presence on the GOP ticket will probably feel that they were right to raise those questions. Independent voters, according to the early reviews that I’m seeing, are scoring it for Joe Biden by a 10- to 15-point margin, though I wonder if that breakdown, similar to the win scored by Barack Obama in the opening presidential debate with John McCain, might not just represent the split in the overall vote total. And Democrats, well, I spent the debate night with a group of Democrats who didn’t like Palin going in, and if it’s possible liked her less going home.
So where does that leave us? I think it leaves us where we started at 9:02 p.m. EST. The Obama-Biden ticket had a lead ranging from five to nine points in the national polls heading into tonight’s debate. If there’s any change after tonight, it might be a point or two in the Obama-Biden direction, but I think basically we’ll probably end up where we were by the time the dust settles over the weekend.
My partisan lens had Biden doing pretty well tonight – engaging Palin with substantive points with her responding with rehearsed talking points and what seemed to me artificial folksiness that smacked of fake cowboy George Allen than the Great Communicator Ronald Reagan. Biden also had in my mind what will probably go down as the two moments of the debate season, with his remarks on McCain’s domestic agenda being a Bridge to Nowhere and his No Maverick mini-speech toward the end that went directly at what seemed to be the point that Palin’s handlers had really wanted her to reinforce to voters if anything at all.
But this all said, and I think this is an important point, in the end I think the McCain-Palin ticket is still clinging, if barely, to life in this race. But as I say that, I wonder what it would take for the GOP to reverse all the trends that are going against them to pull out what would have to be something of an upset at this point.