The McCain campaign has to be pleased with the way Sarah Palin performed in the debate Thursday night. She went toe-to-toe with a Senate lifer. She was able to recover from those unflattering interviews, and she was also able to get a couple good shots in at Joe Biden in the process. She did benefit from low expectations, and I take that into account when evaluating the results, but she easily cleared that bar. Those who loved Sarah before the debate were validated, and those who thought she wasn’t the best choice for a VP have some ammo to make that case after watching the debate.
Sarah was great in that she spoke directly to the American people. She can connect with her audience in a way that Obama cannot. On style, Sarah easily wins this debate. But when Americans evaluate the two candidates as potential vice presidents, Biden makes the sale. Senator Biden is wrong on a great many things, but as a skilled debater, he was able to fool people into believing that he understands foreign policy and the Constitutional role of the Vice President. He gave specific policy positions on issues, and the average viewer won’t bother to check to see whether he accurately represents McCain’s positions or his (Biden’s) own. Governor Palin’s lack of specifics on policy issues hurt her case, but as she said, she has only been prepping on this for 5 weeks, so no one should have expected that she could cram 20-30 years of knowledge into her head in that short time.
Governor Palin did not change any minds by her performance Thursday night. Those who came in voting McCain will still vote for him, and those supporting Obama will still vote for Obama. There is more work to do for McCain. This election isn’t lost yet, and McCain must have a better response to the country’s economic concerns and must learn how to sell his healthcare plan. The economy is the key issue, and there must be separation from the Bush administration if McCain really wants to win this election. Sometimes we just don’t get that impression.