The polls agree with me: Biden won pretty easily last night.
The conservative spin coming out of this is that Palin reinvigorated the entire campaign and will save McCain from himself, carrying the ticket back to electoral parity or better. Then woodland elves will dance merrily into the glade and the sacred spirit of St. Reagan will instill in Palin the final secret to unlocking her true potential and defeating the dark prince who threatens the glade of Wasilla. Or something.
Personally, I have to admit that I found Palin grating as all hell. She was “folksy” last night, but she was the kind of folksy that people who don’t spend much time around folks think is folksy. I’ve run into people who talk and act like Palin did last night, and you tend to run into them at two places: country-themed stores and country-themed bed and breakfasts. Her constant repetition of interjections like “darn” and “betcha” was so cloying that it made me want to mute her – her idea of real America is a 1950s-era put-on mixed with a series of odd winks and thin grimaces.
She didn’t crash and burn, but it was a solid 45-minute performance with some notable rough parts (her incomprehensible answer to the Cheney question, the desperate attempt to make her state’s embrace of same-sex benefits into a position against same-sex marriage, her constant and awkward insertions of Mavericky goodness into her answers). Unfortunately for her, Biden was simply far better in every measurable way.
What Palin did was convince people that, given enough preparation, she can muddle through a policy debate with an inspired channeling of Frances McDormand. Certainly, it’s not as scary as watching her answer a question from Katie Couric – which, the fact that she made Katie Couric into a fearsome interviewer is reason enough to reject her as a candidate – but it’s not leadership.
Biden, on the other hand, was simply on point and at ease the entire night. Palin treaded water in the shallow end while Biden was doing laps, and it showed. There’s a simple reason that Palin kept chastising Biden for focusing on the past: she was incapable of discussing it, defending it, or articulating how the McCain plan differs in any measurable way. The best gift from last night, though, is that Palin’s pretty much done as a relevant force in this election. She’ll do rallies, photo-ops, say a couple of dumb things that John McCain will simply say were “gotchas” (how her telling Jessica Yellin that she’s got such a cute little face will be a gotcha remains to be seen, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it), but other than that, the short national nightmare that was her speaking to the media is probably over.
And for that, we all give thanks.