The stage is a cage, the mic is a third rail

OK folks here we go...

Conclusion: I can't tell you who won. I thought, though, as the debate wore on Biden really put on the pressure. They seemed even early, I guess with an edge to Palin. But you can't keep repeating the same talking points.

10:32 Final statement--edge Biden.

10:24 "Maverick he is not..." again, very good.

10:20 OK, now Biden is killing. He's talking about himself. That was fucking great. He's a great foil. All she can do is counter with generalist blather. "Take on my own party," "Both sides of the aisle," "Maverick position that he's in."

10:19 LOL!!! She didn't even answer the Achilles Heel question. Was that even an attempt at an answer?

10:17 Very, very very good answer on Cheney--by Biden.

10:16 That was barely an answer on the VP. She doesn't seem to understand the argument. She's just agreeing with Cheney because he's a Republican.

10:10 I think the whole "government get out our way" line is dead these days. It just doesn't seem like the best line in these times.

10:04 This is interesting. She is running out of ammo. It's like watching a fighter punch himself out. She doesn't really have another line of attack besides Biden agreeing with McCain on certain foreign policy questions. Maybe that's the point. But this "you agree with me" strat didn't work well last week.

9:55 Fallows says:

The loser 38 minutes in is Gwen Ifill, who is doing nothing at all to keep the discussion on track or having the candidates engage.

The circumstances don't allow her to do anything close to what Katie Couric achieved, but she seems not even to be listening to the answers when moving to her next question.

Man, was I wrong?

9:49 I'm finding this really hard to gauge. She's basically bullshitting her way through much of this. I think it all depends how effective the deception is.

9:44 Her attacks are so passive-aggressive....

9:38 Ugh. That "no supporting gay marriage" answer makes my ears hurt. Ouch.

9:35 Is she answering Gwen's questions? It may not matter. I don't know.

9:31 Bad on climate-change. Not just that she doesn't agree with us lefties. She doesn't sound convincing on the whole "not arguing about the causes" thing.

9:21 "The ultimate bridge to nowhere." Cute line from Biden.

9:13 It's the "gosh darnit" thing. Again, maybe that works for some people. I don't know.

9:10 Smart nod to predatory lending by Palin and living within our means. Really smart not to blame the American people. There's something about her that lacks gravitas. It's really weird. But, meh, I'm not an undecided voter.

9:06 Good first answer for both. She seems fine.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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