We took a stroll around the Internets this morning to see what Joe Klein, Peggy Noonan, Andrew Sullivan and other powers that be were saying about last night’s debate. The general consensus? Palin exceeded her extremely low expectations. Also? SNL got lots of new material.
Peggy Noonan (WSJ): As far as Mrs. Palin was concerned, Gwen Ifill was not there, and Joe Biden was not there. Sarah and the camera were there. This was classic “talk over the heads of the media straight to the people,” and it is a long time since I’ve seen it done so well, though so transparently. There were moments when she seemed to be doing an infomercial pitch for charm in politics. But it was an effective infomercial.
David Brooks (NYT): When nervous, Palin has a tendency to over-enunciate her words like a graduate of the George W. Bush School of Oratory, but Thursday night she spoke like a normal person. It took her about 15 seconds to define her persona — the straight-talking mom from regular America — and it was immediately clear that the night would be filled with tales of soccer moms, hockey moms, Joe Sixpacks, main-streeters, “you betchas” and “darn rights.” Somewhere in heaven Norman Rockwell is smiling.
Tom Shales (WaPo): Sarah Palin looked as though she had prepared for her appearance at the vice presidential debate last night by studying Tina Fey’s impressions of her on “Saturday Night Live.” She twinkled and winked and piled on the perkiness, a “darn right” here and an “I’ll betcha” there. At the same time, Palin seemed determined to banish thoughts of her as airheaded and inexperienced; she was really debating her own public image rather than Sen. Joe Biden. She subverted the whole purpose of the exercise by merely repeating the key points of her running mate, Sen. John McCain, and ignoring questions that called for more specific answers.
Politico: Millions of Americans were watching Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate waiting for a demolition derby moment — another crash by GOP running mate Sarah Palin, another serving of raw material for the writers at “Saturday Night Live.”
By that standard, she got out alive, though there were white-knuckle moments along the way: questions that were answered with painfully obvious talking points that betrayed scant knowledge of the issue at hand, and sometimes little relevance to the question that had been asked.
Andrew Sullivan: The campaign’s trajectory remains unaltered. Palin’s inability to answer real questions, her capacity to avoid follow-ups, her slightly manic quality, and her inability to relate to working class voters came across. Biden did not talk too much; he made no sexist gaffes; he didn’t appear to be overweening; he seemed like a nice guy. I think she managed to avoid a tailspin; he reassured. It will stem the GOP collapse a little. But it won’t change the race.
Mark Ambinder: But the topline here is that, when it comes to worrying about Palin, the McCain campaign can now exhale … (one GOPer e-mailed: “We live to fight another day.”) ….and though, on paper, Palin said some weird things in weird ways (expanding the power of the vice presidency??) , she did nothing negatively indelibly memorable, and, at times, was positively impressive. She’ll rev up partisan enthusiasm, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself. She was most effective when she argued against Barack Obama; mildly effective when she argued for John McCain’s policies, and not terribly effective when it came to justifying why she was qualified to be vice presidentl of the United States.
Joe Klein (Time): She was animated and confident. She displayed an ability, for the first time since her convention speech, to repeat with a fair amount of credibility, the formulations that her handlers had given her. You knew she was well prepared when practically the first words out of her mouth were, “Go to a kids’ soccer game…” She had that folksy thing downâ€”although I did notice, watching the squiggly lines down at the bottom of the CNN screen, that when she tried to get cutesy with her folksiness, it didn’t work.
She also was allowed to do fine by Joe Biden, who never really challenged her — his criticisms were always directed at John McCain — and never exposed the obvious shallowness of her knowledge on most topics. (He must have been sorely tempted to correct Palin when she called David McKiernan, the commanding general in Afghanistan, “McLellan,” but Biden was hard-wired — I imagine his debate prep was a form of electric shock therapy — not to correct her, attack her, disrespect her.)