Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Who Won the Palin-Biden Debate?

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

The much-ballyhooed vice presidential debate turned out to be a "presidential" debate by surrogates of John McCain and Barack Obama. Both surrogates -- Sarah Palin and Joseph Biden -- attacked and defended the presidential candidates and hardly questioned each other's qualifications.

However, odd as it may seem, it was the right thing to do for both surrogates. After all, the office they're seeking is a "do nothing" job until a situation arises where the presidency is vacated at which time the vice president would ascend to the top job of the land. And that's one reason why the Palin-Biden debate had attracted a lot of attention and anticipation. The American people -- due to McCain's age -- wanted to know if Sarah Palin is qualified and ready to assume the presidency should it become vacant.

As a debater, Palin excelled in form and style. She was able to think on her feet and has the uncanny ability to digress from the issue and talk about something else, usually about "energy" which she claimed to be an expert on. Or she would blurt out something about "change" or "reform" and promise to stop the "greed and corruption in Wall Street" -- a line that she repeated numerous times. With a smiling face and an occasional flirtatious wink at the audience and television viewers, Palin charmed her way out of situations where she didn't have any idea what the issues were all about.

There was a moment during the debate when the moderator asked her: "As Vice President, there's nothing you've promised as a candidate that you would take off the table because of this financial issue?" Palin's response was: "There is not, and how long have I been at this? Like five weeks?" Whoa! Five weeks of exposure in national and world affairs? This only reinforced what people have been saying all along: Palin does not have the qualifications to hold the office of Vice President or -- God forbid! -- President of the United States.

So, who won the debate? All things considered, Palin won on "form and style" which were not quantifiable and Biden won on "substance" which was what really counts. Simply put, Biden's 35 years of experience in the U.S. Senate was just too much for Palin to match. Indeed, Palin's refusal to answer some of the questions manifested her abject ignorance of the issues confronting the nation and the American people.

All the polls conducted after the debate gave thumbs up to Biden. A CBS News/Knowledge Networks surveyed 500 uncommitted voters of which 46% thought that Biden won and 21% thought that Palin was the winner. On important issues, 98% found Biden to be more knowledgeable compared to Palin's 65%.

Another survey conducted by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. showed Biden did better with 51% to Palin's 36%. The survey also showed that 87% believed that Biden was qualified to be president while only 42% favored Palin.

It is interesting to note that 84% of the those polled said that Palin exceeded their expectations compared to Biden's 64%. Does this means then that Palin did a better job than Biden? I don't think so. All it proved was that the viewers' perception of Palin prior the debate was below par. Her performance may be categorized as "most improved." And the "improvement" comes from the fact that she did not repeat the blunders she made during her interview with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. It's like improving her grade of F to a C. Had it been another F, Palin would have flunked the finals and she would have dragged McCain down the drain as well.

The debate came to and end with no knock-out punches. Obviously, Biden restrained himself from "slugging" Palin. He did the right thing. And Palin didn't even attempt to throw a real punch at Biden. In essence, the two protagonists were just sparring -- or, more aptly, shadow boxing -- for 90 minutes.

The Palin-Biden debate may go down in history as the "Debate to Nowhere." It was a draw in the sense that it wouldn't have any considerable impact on the McCain-Obama presidential contest. McCain and Obama have two more debates to come. Obama scored high on their first debate and he is enjoying a slim but stable lead of about 5% over McCain in surveys.

McCain finally realized that the economy and the Iraq war are two issues he cannot win but could not afford to lose. As a consequence, McCain made a decision to resort to attacking Obama's character and integrity. Right after the Palin-Biden debate, McCain unleashed Palin -- the "pit bull with a lipstick" -- to immediately attack Obama and attack she did. The campaign has gotten really nasty.

Indeed, the 2008 presidential campaign season could become the dirtiest in the history of the United States. With McCain unabashedly and purposely using "character assassination" tactics to capture the presidency, it could cause a backlash against him and his attack dog Palin.

In my opinion, with the financial meltdown and the spectre of an economic collapse, the American people will be looking for a leader who can deal with these problems. Thus far, the polls showed that Obama is perceived to be the one who can do it.