10.30 pm. Biden's sobriety and authority and call for fundamental change is both reasonable and solid. It will resonate, I think. As you can read, I began this debate feeling that she was steam-rolling him. She was. But it was a steam-roller coming at you on fumes, not real fuel. She doesn't have it. Maybe one day she might. But not now. Biden's peroration was very, very strong. There is no contest here. There was only one loser: Gewn Ifill. She was intimidated, peripheral, neutered. The rules didn't help. But Ifill put in a dreadful performance.
10.29 pm. She's just whirring now. Attacking the mainstream media - I think that means she will refuse to have a press conference before the vote. If that happens, it will be the biggest surrender of the press in this country's modern history. She survived tonight as I suspected by a blizzard of soundbites and folksy populism. But people have to see through this, no?
10.23 pm. I'm changing my mind about this debate. Biden is now cleaning up. He's particularly powerful in bringing the conversation back to the anxieties of middle class Americans. He was thrown off-guard at the start, as I was. But in trying to figure out who you can trust to lead in these troubled times, I think he has now won this debate.
10.22 pm. Biden's answer about his kids, the moment when he clearly choked up, was emotionally very powerful. I expect it will resonate more with women.
10.18 pm. Biden's response on Cheney and the constitution was devastating. His authority against her chatter really told. And that is what is slowly happening in this debate. She started by dazzling people with sheer velocity and energy and gimmicks. But as the debate goes on, her cutesy soundbites actually begin to unnerve. And his authority comes through. This is now a tie, as Biden is gaining fast in the closing stretch. Classic tortoise and hare.
10.17 pm. The unraveling on the veep constitutional role continues. Oy.
10.12 pm. "Doggone it." "Say it ain't so, Joe." "God bless her." A shout out to her home town school. A total ramble of nothing on education. Total ramble. She has begun to unravel once substance is actually required.
10.08 pm. Biden's summary of how he would continue Obama's agenda was superb. He's regaining his footing and now winning this thing.
10.04 pm. Her answer on the Iraq war was just awful. Her running mate voted for the war and then became one of the strongest critics of its execution. So her notion that you cannot change your mind in the face of the facts runs against the core record of her running mate! No amount of blather can overcome that lack of knowledge or wisdom or judgment.
10.01 pm. Is she reading notes? On foreign policy, as the debate slows down Palin's manic soundbites, Biden is gaining. in fact, I'm shifting in my view of this debate. Biden's authority is beginning to pierce the rat-a-tat-tat of Palin's Bush-style soundbites. The debate feels like a replay of the last five weeks. You begin by being dazzled by the style of this chipper little cheer-leader. But as time goes by, you wonder if there's any wisdom behind the blather.
9.58 pm. Biden uses Petraeus against Palin on the silly notion of a "surge" in Afghanistan. Devastating. His comparison between Iraq and Afghanistan is also very telling. Palin's soundbites on this sound alarmingly like George W. Bush.
9.57 pm. Palin's answer on nuclear proliferation is weird, strange and very disconcerting.
9.56 pm. Biden nails McCain's foreign policy as identical to George W. Bush's. His finest moment. He's coming back hard. Because he actually knows his stuff and her schtick is wearing thinner as the debate goes forward.
9.53 pm. Biden is very commanding on Israel. He's regaining control of this debate - making it about issues rather than rapidly delivered soundbites. My worry is not that she is winning the argument. It's that she is just chattering along.
9.51 pm. Biden is finally warming up. He has authority on diplomacy and international relations and finally it shows. Her goal is just to chatter and barrel forward.
9.49 pm. Palin says that Iran has no right even to peaceful nuclear energy? But it's clear that she and McCain are clear on launching a pre-emptive war against Iran. And I don't believe that Palin can call anyone else dangerous.
9.47 pm. Finally, Biden seems to be hitting his stride on Pakistan. Palin basically barraged her way through the first half of this debate. Maybe Biden's slow pace and halting Washington-speak may have more staying power with voters.
9.38 pm. Ifill gives Palin a total pass on gays and marriage - a total pass. She even claims that Palin supports equal rights for gay couples when she clearly doesn't. Does Ifill now what she is talking about? She doesn't ask about Palin's opposition to all rights for gay couples. How a question about equal marriage rights can be played to the benefit of one of the most anti-gay candidates in American history is staggering to me. Ifill has simply surrendered the facts on this issue and Biden let her. So far, this debate is a walk-over for Palin, enabled by Ifill but turned into a crater by Biden's incompetence as a debater. How he has managed to lose every issue where his positions are immensely stronger than Palin is beyond me. Real political malpractice.
9.33 pm. Her climate change answer was bewildering. But that seems to me to be her strategy: just channel a barrage of rhetoric and bar any real follow-up. Ifill seems unable, perhaps because of the rules, to challenge her in any serious way. Biden is stylistically awful and substantively dull. Palin has very little substance but is killing him stylistically. And Biden sounds very liberal. He's throwing this debate away so far.
9.30 pm. She just barrels past the questions to provide pure talking
points at a clip it's very hard to grapple with. Biden is just
foundering, unable to make solid and cogent points in ways that
resonate with ordinary people. The only problem is her speed seems a
way to disguise her unease. It sounds more frenetic than confident. But
Biden is pretty damn useless so far.
9.23 pm. Biden is just dreadful. He speaks in Washingtonese. She just issues the soundbites and wrinkles her eyes and tells stories. And that works. The speed and chirpiness she delivers overwhelms one's ability to even quite absorb what she's saying. And it has put Biden off-stride. It's Biden who seems over-crammed.
9.14 pm. "I'm not going to answer the questions the way you and the moderator may want." So far, she's winning not the arguments but the chipper series of anecdotes and the style factor are making her more attractive a figure than Biden.
9.09 pm. I'm a little speechless so far. The weirdness of Palin keeps flooding my frontal cortex. But so far, she's doing what one expects. She's chipper; she's full of folksy anecdotes; she's attacking Wall Street. She keeps talking about "Joe Six-Pack" and 'Hockey moms." No real substance from Palin but Biden seems off-stride, and flat. He sounds, well, Washington.