Palin nets a C-. She didn't do anything well, nor did she actually answer any of the questions (going so far as to helpfully point out that she wouldn't be answering the questions "the way you or the moderator would like"). Her pitiful, awkward stabs at populism were transparently ridiculous and scripted. But she avoided a single gaffe of legendary, sound-bite-worthy proportions. It was just a shitty performance overall, not a performance marred by one significant disaster.

Biden gets an A. I'd like to give him a much lower grade so that it would make me feel more "fair" but if you watched that debate and don't think that he blew her out of the water with his attention to detail, specificity, and command of the facts countered by her inane bumper sticker slogan responses, then I don't know what to tell you. Ignoring Palin, Biden on his own was really as good as he can be (whatever you think of that). He was not smarmy, he answered the questions, and he hammered Palin without being a dick. I mean, he just drove her into the ground but did not come off like a bully in doing it. That's difficult. I would have blown it. He didn't.

The GOP is relieved in one sense because she wasn't as bad as in the Couric interview. But I think it's going to be damn well impossible to pretend that the debate was anything other than a brutal ass-beating. If you like hearing random slogans thrown at the camera, there was a candidate for you. There was also another who sounded like a serious statesman. If you watched that debate and thought Palin looked like the person best suited to lead the nation, I'd love to hear on what basis you make that judgment.

(PS – How awesome was the CNN camera in the GOP "Debate watching room"? It looked like a fucking morgue. Those people looked like they were at their own children's funeral.)


One of Palin's opponents from 2006 has advice for Joe Biden. Admiral Ackbar has even better advice:

Heading into this evening's debate (which, with the potential of entertainment at hand, I will watch rather than transcript) the McCain campaign is so confident in the rhetorical abilities of Sarah Palin that they are in overdrive to explain the outcome in advance. Take your pick:

1. Gwen Ifill is biased. I don't recall them complaining when CBS's Bob Schieffer – who openly admitted that his personal friendship with George W. Bush made it hard to cover him objectively – moderated a Bush-Kerry debate in 2004. Nor do I recall Kerry whining about it like a little bitch.

2. Joe Biden is patronizing and sexist. Just look at how arrogantly he lords his answers over Palin, strutting about like he is a king just because he "knows things" and has "facts" and can "answer the questions."

3. Of course Biden will do better, he's older and more experienced. This is called lowering the expectations. Palin, contrary to the storyline, has televised debating experience.

4. The format favors Biden. Note how the McCain camp desperately tried to get the mandatory answers down from 2 minutes to 90 seconds – perfect for a candidate who has nothing to say, disadvantageous for one who has a real answer.

5. The pity factor. The GOP has hardly minded the widespread (non-True Believer) perception of Palin as almost child-like in her simplicity. They're hoping to make Biden gun shy about hammering her lest he appear on national TV as a man beating up an infant. Bush played the "simple" image to the hilt in 2000 and 2004.

The debate will consist of Palin going after Biden like a hungry dog after a pork chop, all in an effort to goad him into a "mean" response. Despite the tremendous lengths to which the McCain camp has gone to manage the format of the debate – preventing exchanges between the candidates, limiting response times, attempting to limit the number of foreign policy questions – if I had to call Vegas an bet my life savings ($32.71) I would gamble that Palin is still going to blow it. She's going to be flat-out unable to answer a question, she'll give a vacant "I didn't study for this exam" response full of re-phrased portions of the question, or she'll botch one or more very basic facts. I don't think that McCain is stupid enough to declare victory, but the expectations are so far below sea level that if Palin avoids drooling on herself or shitting her pantsuit live on TV the message will be that she "far exceeded expectations."

This strategy comes straight from 1988. It didn't work then, either.