What, you want a take? You know I'm no good at assessing these things.
Okay, fine: They both won, in the sense that they both did what they needed to do. Palin needed to arrest her slide into political oblivion, to hold her own on the stage with Biden, and to give the TV pundit class - which has the most bizarre love-hate relationship with her I've ever seen them have with a candidate - a reason to switch their narrative from "Palin flops!" to "Palin exceeds expectations!" She accomplished all that, and showed, I think, flashes of real promise as a national politician. (As well as, yes, flashes of the awkwardness, unpreparedness, and syntactical weirdness that made the Couric interview such an epic fiasco.) She clearly restored her standing among wavering conservatives, and I suspect did herself a solid with undecideds and independents as well - and the initial polls seem to bear that reading out.
But those same initial polls also show respondents giving it to Biden, and I'm not all that surprised. He didn't need to wipe the floor with her in order to win, and he wisely didn't try; he just needed to sound more authoritative, nuanced, and experienced than her, to hammer away at John McCain, and to generally play defense for a ticket that's on its way to victory at the moment. And I think he succeeded. The Democrats have a lot of built-in advantages in this election cycle, and judging by the public's reaction to the first debate, the key to victory for Obama-Biden is to do no harm - don't squander your advantages, don't freak out when the Republicans score their points on the surge and offshore drilling, and just be sure to always nudge the conversation back to the economy, to middle-class tax cuts versus tax cuts for the rich, to health care, and to George W. Bush's record. So while Sarah Palin did an awful lot for Sarah Palin tonight, there was only so much she could do for her running mate - given her own limits, but especially given the state of the country, and the gulf between the issues the McCain campaign wants to fight on and the issues voters care about. She's saved herself from Quayle-dom, but Obama-Biden is one debate closer to victory.
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