First, I guess, the bad news. She didn't suck. She didn't commit any huge gaffes that would reveal that this particular empress wears no clothes. She was . . . . competent. She was personable and perky and charming in that gratingly folksy way she has. As I said to my sis last night as we were watching, "Whoever prepped her for this debate deserves a big, fat bonus check -- and a month's vacation."
For those of us watching hoping to witness a blood bath, hoping to see Joe rip into Barbie like a rabid dog, we were disappointed. She held her own, and while Joe debated like the pro he is, he never went for the cheap shot, never tried to humiliate or annihilate her. He debated the way you're supposed to -- supported by research and facts and with respect for his opponent. That's what I teach my kids in Debate class anyway. A debate isn't a fight -- it's an intellectual discussion between two opposing ideas. (You would not believe how hard it is to get teenagers to buy that. Okay, you probably would.)
And now for the good news: Joe did his supporters proud, and I think that he may have gone a long way towards wooing some of those mythic, all-powerful undecided voters, at least according to the CNN voter response graph. (Am I the only one who finds myself watching that more than the debaters? I find it absolutely fascinating!) He hit all the right notes and hammered home the points that will be key to winning this election for the Dems -- continuing to push that link between Bush and McCain, reminding voters of the failure of the GOP during their years of control in the White House and Congress, laying out an agenda that offers hope for the struggling middle class and hope for those concerned about what's going on overseas. In reality, Biden was really debating John McCain as he continually hammered his colleague for misguided votes and policy proposals. With Palin, he was respectful without being deferential, tough without being condescending. This was the Joe Biden I fell in love with in Iowa a year ago -- tough, intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful. This was the Joe Biden I wanted to fill that VP slot starting back in January when Iowans' inability to cut through the glitz and glamor of his more polished opponents ended his campaign the night of the Iowa caucus. He is nothing but an asset to the Obama campaign, and he will be nothing but an asset to an Obama administration.
While Palin did not implode or maybe even provide a ton of fodder for Tina Fey's appearance on SNL tomorrow night (surely they'll do a debate skit!), she also did not hit the sort of grand slam she probably needed to help stop the voter erosion the McCain campaign seems to be suffering. If there is any silver lining to the grey cloud that is this financial meltdown, it's that it is forcing people to really take a look at McCain and realize that he may not be the best person to shepherd the nation through this crisis. When you add Iditarod Barbie to the mix, voter confidence is even more shaken. (Man, you KNOW McCain has to be wishing he'd picked Mitt Romney as his vp right now.) What's even more encouraging is that Obama is making some progress in those key battleground states (like Michigan -- where his lead has become significant enough that McCain is pulling his campaign from the state) -- and even starting to make some noise in states once thought to be GOP locks (like Indiana). The McCain campaign is starting to look like it's having a meltdown of its own with the embarrassment of the Palin-Couric interview, McCain's ridiculous "campaign suspension" (that lasted what? 20 minutes?), and the shifting realization of the electorate that McCain does not represent change.
I'm not popping open the champaign yet, but I'm putting it on ice -- just in case.