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I'm at home in front of my television with a spectacular cold and a tall, frosty glass of diet coke.  Over the past six hours, I've been plagued with the recurrent suspicion that this is all some cosmic rope-a-dope, and Sarah Palin is going to kick some serious ass.  I think that's just the fever talking.

Meanwhile, the event is also being liveblogged by Alex Massie and the crew over at Culture11.  Let the games begin . . .

10:30  After running ahead for most of the debate, the Sarah Palin has now fallen narrowly behidn on most of the analyst scoring.  Suspect last impressions are most important.  I sure can't remember what we were talking about an hour ago.

10:28  Gwen Ifill asks if there's a time when they've been forced to change their mind about a policy issue.  Suspect she ran out of time and started copying questions out of Human Resources for Dummies.

10:26  After this election, I am going to have to hit myself in the head with a small hammer to get the monotonous thrum of the word "maverick" out of my head.

10:24  Joe Biden too, offers for the "Rambling Grandpa" style of response.  Still waiting for him to say that he's too much of a perfectionist, or has trouble delegating.

10:21  Not content with the earlier blather, Gwen Ifill actually asks them what their greatest weakness is.  Sarah Palin rambles about how great America is.  Has she forgotten the question?  Because I'm having trouble remembering what we're supposed to be talking about.  The persuadables, however, love it.  On topic responses are for weaklings!

10:17  Gwen Ifill says "The constitution might give the Vice President more power than that office has had in the past".  Is this some sort of Zen Koan whose intricate mysteries will be unveiled only after years of reflection?

10:14  Sarah Palin name checks, like, every teacher in the United States, including Biden's wife, in talking about the future of American education.  The crowd goes wild.

10:12  Joe Biden says, in re economic problems, "All you have to do is walk into Home Depot with me, where I spend a lot of time . . . "  Me Big Man!  Me Like Big Power tools!  Did I mention I have some REALLY big tools?   

I thought that was Joe Biden I saw regrouting the Capital Hill masonry last week . . .

10:11  I take it back--Palin boldly says they disagree about ANWR, and uses it to press the idea that she pushes McCain on the issue and he's never asked her to check her opinions at the door.  Then she launches into laudatory blather, similar to Biden's.  Both sets of blather poll really, really well.

10:09  Gwen Ifill asks how a Biden administration would be different from an Obama administration.  This is an interesting question, but it's pointless, like asking interviewees to name their biggest flaw.  All they're going to do is reiterate how awesome their candidate is.

10:00 Joe Biden:  "John McCain voted against the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that every Republican supported".  I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think the math is off somewhere . . .

9:59  Is she mispronouncing Kim Jong Il's name, or am I?

9:57  Palin loves Israel too!  Big hugs for Israel!  I'm waiting for one of them to break into Havah Negillah.

9:55  Biden claims that this administration's Israel policy has been an abject failure.  Unlike, you know, all those earlier presidents who found simple and effective resolutions to the conflict.

9:50  Once again, Iran bashing is much more popular than Iraq.  Time to throw out that tatty old war you've been wearing for years and get something new, stylish, now.

9:45  The incestuous nature of this race is causing problems for everyone.  Joe Biden has to deal with the fact that he and Obama are from opposite wings of their party, and hence have fired a bunch of pot shots at each other--I'm reminded of the line about Lloyd Bentsen (Mondale's Dukakis' VP [oops, was watching the old Ferraro-Bush debates this morning and appear to have Mondale on the mind], for the young or forgetful), that he was only in the Democratic party to keep the Republicans from being embarassed by his ties to big business.  Meanwhile, Sarah Palin has to bash Obama on votes that McCain supported.  It's like watching an election for president of my grandmother's DAR chapter.

9:42  Iraq is clearly a losing issue for McCain; merely saying that he wants to win tanks the ratings.  The winning issue appears to be gay marriage and hating on bankers.  It is, however, one of the few issues where she does better with men.

9:41  Joe Biden's political differences with Obama start to hurt, as she uses his words against Obama's votes on the matter.

9:40  How come Sarah Palin gets more highly rated for being against gay marriage than Joe Biden does?  Neither of them said anything that was either controversial, or particularly different from the other.

9:38  Joe Biden just claimed that the right of same sex partners to visit their partners in a hospital is in the constitution.  I'm all for gay marriage and all, but I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers didn't put that in there, or even intend to.

9:34  Palin scores big points on anthropogenic global warming by saying that it's less important to argue about the cause than to talk about a solution.  Biden is still spewing statistics trying to recover what should have been a slam dunk topic for him.  Not sure why, as they're both offering the same ridiculous lies promises about weaning America off foreign oil.

9:33  In general, Palin is the much more volatile candidate.  There have been a few times when her ratings have plummeted, but she has also achieved much higher highs.

9:32  Oh, she's back up, with a reference to energy independence.  This is, of course, completely stupid; short of autarky, there's no way to keep the effects of foreign oil from hitting America's economy, because our trading partners will continue to use a lot of it.  But it is popular.

9:30  Palin keeps relentlessly dragging the topic back to energy.  It played well the first few times, but now the "persuadables"  seem to think she's trying to bs the final exam.

9:28  Every time Palin mentions John McCain her otherwise pretty positive ratings plummet.  The interesting thing is, however, that this seems to be the only point at which the men like her more than the women.

9:26  The women voters being polled are, overall, generally more positive about both candidates.  But the difference is much more noticeable when Sarah Palin is speaking.  Who's being sexist--the men or the women?

9:24  Sarah Palin comes back with her own snotty remarks about Barack Obama voting for the 2005 energy bill.  Snotty is not polling well this evening.

9:22  Gwen Ifill asks, as Lehrer did of the presidential candidates, what plans the candidates are prepared to give up on in order to finance the current problem fixes.  Joe Biden's answer:  we might have to slow down on doubling foreign aid.  Are the American people really prepared for this kind of fiscal sacrifice, Senator?  Oh, also, cutting wasteful spending!  We're saved!

9:18  Joe Biden is moving into full throated contempt mode.  The look on his face when Sarah Palin talked about being a member of the middle class all her life was one of the most condescending things I've ever seen, and he starts off his rebuttal with a fairly snotty-sounding "I don't even know where to start".  I suspect this was a bad mistake.

9:13  Don't forget to play Sarah Palin bingo!  I believe there are also Biden Bingo cards, but no need, really; just give yourself a point every time he complains about financial deregulation without mentioning that he has been one of its most consistent proponents, not to mention the abysmal giveaway to the credit card companies that was the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform.  Everyone's a winner!

9:11  Sarah Palin's popularity goes off the charts when she complains that predatory lenders persuaded people to borrow money to buy $300,000 houses when they could only afford $100,000.  Apparently, Sarah Palin voters are too stupid to figure how much house they can afford.

9:08  Sarah Palin winks at the camera.  I didn't believe it the first time I saw it; thank god for TiVo.  I think all three million viewers are supposed to come up to her hotel room with a bottle of champagne after the debate.

9:06 Sarah Palin is visibly nervous, but actually doing very well on her first question.  CNN once again has its "persuadable" voter EKG, which lets them express how they feel about the debate at any given time, and then averages then into a running graph of the voter mood.  They like her a lot . . . right up until the point where she mentions John McCain.  This strikes me as a slight problem for the campaign.

9:05 Joe Biden launches immediately into complaining that the current mess is all the fault of the Bush administration.  Number one, this is not true.  Number two, is there any more exquisite irony than watching Senator Joe Biden (D-MBNA) complain about financial deregulation?

9:03 Sarah Palin starts off strong by marching out in a really fetching black suit and perkily asking Joe Biden if she can call him Joe.  Score one for Miss Moose Shooting America 2008.


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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