Thursday, October 02, 2008

One Quick Thought on the VP Debate
At some point soon, I'll write at more length about the now-revealed worst-kept secret in New York City politics, that Mayor Bloomberg will seek a third term... but for now, with playoff baseball beckoning and some actual work responsibilities with which to concern myself, a thought about the vice-presidential debate set for tonight:

Joe Biden, pretty much without question, knows John McCain a lot better than does Sarah Palin. The two Senators have described themselves as "friends" on many occasions, and Biden famously volunteered to help McCain rebut attacks on the latter's character during the 2000 Republican primaries. (McCain didn't take him up on the offer.) I also think it's probably fair to say, with no offense meant to Palin since it's simply a matter of their having served together in the Senate for more than two decades, that Biden is much more familiar with McCain's positions on a wide range of issues--and can track their peregrinations, which is useful.

If Biden can manage to deploy this knowledge without coming off as meandering or bombastic (a HUGE if)--and if Ifill turns the debate in such a way that it's about the presidential candidates, as you'd assume she will--his greater closeness to and knowledge of McCain is another potential big edge for the Democrat.


As my breakfast burrito is cooling rapidly, I will be brief...

Biden clearly did have a much better grasp on McCain's legislative history, but he didn't pull it out of the holster until the last ten minutes or so. When he finally did so, however ("John McCain is no maverick"), it was devastating.

Palin strongly reminded me of Bush in 2000 with her performance tonight: she was facile with her talking points, but showed no deep command of the issues and couldn't think on her feet. The format, which sharply limited back-and-forth between the candidates and follow-up questions, saved her again and again through the first-hour plus. On the whole, she didn't embarrass herself--certainly not compared to expectations--but probably didn't change many, if any, minds either. For his part, Biden was good, not great, on checking his impulses to ramble and bloviate, but he didn't commit any big mistakes. I suspect both campaigns are satisfied with how this all went, but given the state of play right now, that outcome represents a win for the Democrats.

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