As the dust clears the day after the much-anticipated vice presidential debate, most pundits are ruling it a draw.
Globe Washington Bureau chief Peter Canellos wrote that both Palin and Biden put their strengths on display:
"Last night's vice presidential debate, by contrast, featured numerous colorful exchanges, and viewers' interpretations of it likely turned on their reactions to the candidates' personalities."
After Palin's sub-par performances in recent intervews with Katie Couric, conservatives lauded her performance, particularly her attempts to reach middle America. New York Times columnist David Brooks offers a sample:
"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."
Some liberal writers, by contrast, thought Palin avoided direct answers and stuck to scripted talking points, while Biden displayed a mastery of the facts and attacked John McCain effectively. Greg Sargeant at Talking Points Memo wrote:
"But here's the key: Even on those issues where Palin did score with base-pleasing hits on Obama or Biden, the unshakable reality underlying all this is that public opinion agrees with the Obama-Biden view on the core questions discussed tonight. And Biden seemed to proceed from a firm understanding of this point, articulating a big-picture contrast between Obama and McCain on the economy and on foreign policy with gusto and intensity."
Analysts such as Adam Nagourney of The New York Times and Slate's John Dickerson wrote that, while Palin performed admirably, her efforts just shifted focus back to McCain's campaign, which has lost ground against Obama in recent polls.
"Even if he no longer has to be on the defensive about Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain still faces a tough environment with barely a month until the election, as he acknowledged hours before the debate by effectively pulling his campaign out of Michigan, a Democratic state where Mr. McCain’s advisers had once been optimistic of victory."
"But regardless of who won or lost, a vice-presidential debate doesn't matter unless it produces a major gaffe. This one didn't. So, people will vote on the person at the top of the ticket, and by that criterion, even if you think Palin won the debate, it's hard to see how she changed the race much. That's not great news for John McCain. Both national and state polls are going in the wrong direction for him."
Across the pond, BBC's Kevin Connolly criticized the debate format for not allowing a more free-wheeling exchange that would encourage follow-up questions:
"I'd be inclined to call it even, while noting that Mrs Palin perhaps exceeded expectations and even got a couple of cheeky digs in towards the end...
Most of the time though, it felt we were watching two over-rehearsed performances in parallel, in which both candidates will feel they got their messages across."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.