lessons from America

Liveblogging 3rd presidential debate

[0545] So my chocolate supply has now run out, which must mean it’s time to end this show and get some sleep.  It’s been an enjoyable, educative, occasionally exhausting (the day after normally) and at other times energising experience watching the debates and doing this liveblogging lark.  Thanks for reading and commenting.  While the debates are over, there’s plenty more to come from me … especially from just over a week’s time when I head to the States and get to see and participate in what’s going on, rather than simply comment from afar.

[0544] My simple verdict is 3 out of 3 wins for Obama; 4 out of 4 for the ticket, including Biden’s performance on the v-p debate.  You can’t ask for any better than that.   

[0528] But the hatetalk wasn’t the worst McCain sunk too.  There was a question on abortion and related ethical issues.  BarbinMD (on Daily Kos) summarises McCain’s sentiment concisely: “Health of the mother? That’s extremist, liberal bullshit”.  But I leave it to Jane of Firedoglake to best express the raw emotional response to hearing McCain’s answer: 

“The most memorable moment of the debate — the one that should come back to haunt McCain — was when he sneeringly dismissed concerns for women’s “health” with regard to abortion.  Contempt for women just oozed out of every pore of his being, and it was no stretch to imagine the same man turning to his wife and saying “at least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c**t.” “

[0524] Couple of things that I haven’t had a proper chance to mention as yet and that might be making waves in the day(s) to come, or not. And irrespective are important.   Firstly, was McCain failing to directly and unequivocally “repudiate” (that his word for what he wanted Obama to do on several other matters) the worst excesses of the racism and threats of violence made by Republican supporters at some rallies.  Instead, McCain was happy to “say, categorically, I’m proud of the people that come to our rallies.”   McCain should rightly take a lot of stick on that.  And it is why the perversion of the McCain campaign slogan is so apt: The Hate Talk Express.

[0501] The feed can sometimes be a bit overwhelming in the number of tweets coming through.  And obviously a lot are heavily partisan (but still fun and valid) comments.  One great thing is just the sheer breadth of information and election-related topics that are shared.  A new and fascinating piece of info I’ve just picked up via seeing it referred to on twitter is about Obama buying ads in online video games.  For instance X-box Live car racing gameplayers in ten States will be able to see “a roadside billboard which carries Obama’s picture and says ‘Early Voting Has Begun’.  Other billboards feature an Obama website address,, and the words ‘Paid For By Obama for President’.” See here for more. 

[0447] Returning to the theme we pick up at this time of night after every debate, TV pundits vs pollsters and ordinary people.  In my day job I sometimes rail against focus groups and polling, and with good reason when these seem to be the basis for making policy or communication decisions or exclude most of the population by only being done in swing seats.  But on occasions, they serve a very valuable function.  And after the debates is one of them.  There’s another good discussion on Daily Kos about it, entitled “snap polls render pundits obsolete”.  We’re not there yet; not do I think that’ll ever actually be the case fully.  But he best line though is at the end of that post. “They don’t like it, but polling technology is one more way their role as gatekeepers has been diminished.” That’s the really important bit.  And like the video mash-ups and clips spreading like wildfire through the web in the minutes and hours after the debate (see 0440 below), it is all about democratising political discourse.   

[0440] One of the clips of the night, and quite a laugh – if you’re not McCain or a Republican supporter – comes from McCain’s reaction in the health insurance segment to hearing Obama say “Joe plumber’s fine would be zero”.   That moment has now been nicknamed McCain’s “deer in headlights” moment. See for yourself here.  Politics can be cruel.  And with all this new technology now at people’s fingertips, it can be even crueller, even quicker!

[0432] Super stuff via Twitter: wabisabi says: “turns out the plumbers have already endorsed Obama.” And links to this story on the plumbing union backing Obama.

[0421] Justin Webb hearts Schieffer, the moderator.  That’s very much the impression from his comments on the BBC’s debate ticker , and also see back to [0222]  I agree Bob did a good job generally.  Though that may also have a lot to do with the furniture and set, and the specific format of this debate – all not decided and completely out of the control of the moderator. But there’s a bit backlash on the progressive blogosphere to how it seemed that he often gave McCain the last word, or the extra comeback; making it seem even more than Obama was on the defensive and struggling.  Ironically, as seen by the polling, those extra negatives and attacks from McCain may just hurt him more.

[0419] Just realised McCain never said “my friends” once.  Just shows that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

[0418] Update on the CNN instapoll. Obama won big on credibility to deal with the economy. McCain lost big with his greater negative attacks.

[0416] That ‘seeming presidential’ question is a biggie.  Nate’s immediate post-debate analysis was “Congratulations, President Obama”, and he meant that both because there was no home-run or game-changer for McCain, but also because Obama came across so well. So calm as I pointed out earlier.  And Trapper John  (on Daily Kos) makes a nice point about this:

“And Barack Obama isn’t just cool — he’s redefined cool in politics.  He’s gotten past 20 years of presidents who equate anger with passion.  There hasn’t been a president who could keep an even keel since Reagan — and even then, he was more easy-goin’ than cool.  Reagan was detached.  But Barack Obama is engaged, intelligent, and calm — but he’s no Adlai Stevenson.  He’s always cool”

[0411] Taking it down to individual voter reaction: from the Twitter Churelliestonight, for the first time I thought of what Obama would be like as “President” and I was happy.”

[0406] “Obama wins big” is one of the headlines on Daily Kos.  That’s not their analysis but the news from the instant polling.  CBS undecideds: Obama 53, McCain 22. CNN: Obama 58, McCain 31. [Update] Even the Fox focus group went for Obama in a big way.

[0401] The focus group results are coming in … and seems to be good for Obama.  Joe the Plumber seems to have been a distraction and a turn-off mainly.  The Ayers segment didn’t resonate either with swing voters. 

[0355] I can’t watch MSNBC coverage sadly (my housemate would kill me if I was watching TV downstairs, by her room), but you can catch up on what MSNBC stars Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan were saying at  Rachel is one of the new darlings of the progressives, but Pat is certainly not.  But even he says Obama scored on issues like NAFTA which play well in places like Pennsylvania.  Plus he “thought it was McCain’s best performance of the past 3 debates, but Obama was even more cooler and collected than he’s been.”  Praise indeed from Pat.

[0349] If you aren’t sick of him, but instead want to find out a bit more about who Joe the plumber is and the origins of why he’s come to promimence, see

[0347] “Is Joe the plumber and Joe-6-pack the same person?” asks someone on CNN.  Interestingly, the response seems to be (apart from someone better register “joe the plumber” as a domain, trade name, put it on vans etc), ‘I wanted it to be more about me and the issues, not about joe”.

[0340] CNN is reporting from a debate viewing party in Atlanta, held in one of these super-churches.  They had 4000 people turning up. To watch the debate.  Holy cow! 4000.  That’s four thousand. Three zeros after four.  Incredible levels of interest.  I’m guessing no drinking games either inside the church, just lots of audience participation and crowd noise I’m sure. 

[0338] Everyone’s talking about … Joe the plumber.  “A whiff of absurdity” about how much he turned up says a commentator on BBC Radio 5 Live.  A CNN analyst said that McCain’s repeated mentions of him went OTT and seemed contrived and possibly counter-productive. 

[0336] Good spot / factcheck from Sean on 538: “McCain keeps saying Palin’s son has autism, but it’s Down’s Syndrome.” Only a small point, but still fascinating that he didn’t get this right.

[0333] I like this summary of McCain’s closing words on firedoglake:  “I think we’ve had a very healthy discussion . . . even though “I’ve insulted you for the last 80 minutes.” 

[0331] That’s it.  For 4 years. No more debates.  But don’t worry.  After 90 minutes of debate, 90 minutes of analysis.  That’s how CNN pitches it just now, and that’s what I’m happy to provide and join in with too.

[0330] Obama: “change, not the same failed policies as the last 8 years” – he’s good at repeating a constant narrative throughout his campaign.  A really emotional, passionate ending by Obama.

[0328] Final final closing statements by the candidates.  McCain asks “who can you trust?”. Obama a lot of people will be shouting into their TV sets.

[0326] A plug on TV for where you can see all the debates in full again. Hooray. 

[0325] I suspect they’ll be some comeback for McCain on this one.  He refers to Michelle Obama but doesn’t actually name her.  A bit like the “that one” non-naming of Obama last time.

[0323] Another great line by Obama, almost immediately after the last one. “America’s youth aren’t an interest group, they’re our future”.

[0322]  At last, Obama cracks a joke.  “With Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative, he left the funding behind”.  Nice line.

[0320] McCain points out that some of the worst schools in America get the most money per student.  Does it no occur to him that some of these schools might be in the most deprived areas where parents aren’t able to provide much support and there is a need to give much more state-funded support?

[0318] The last topic – education – is answered.  Oh no, the last topic. Already.  But I am really enjoying this debate.  And the whole debate fun in general. I can go on, can’t they?

[0316] “Of course we have to come together” sounds a very pat line from McCain.  You believe Obama much more when he talks about consensus-seeking and building.  And that may be part of what Americans – at least subconsciously – are looking for after 8 years of Bush (or more if you include the partisan bitterness in Washington since 1994).

[0312] Wait, McCain does come back on this one.  And brings up Obama’s voting record, which Obama then has to spend a bit of time defending.  This does put Obama on the back foot, but at least it gives him the opportunity and time to put his positions clearly and with dignity. 

[0310] Roe v Wade. Litmus tests and ideological standards for judges.  McCain says he wants to pick on qualifications, but stays clear of talking about abortion.  Keeping quiet is better for McCain than anything else on this.  Obama on the other hand can – and does – speak more eloquently and emotionally on the rights of women, privacy and the role of the courts. 

[0305] Okay.  I’m a little wiser now.  But in a few seconds time I’ll have forgetten it all again. Not the most exciting segment.  Very detailed.  But very important too.

[0301] Aha. Last time we got a tiny remark by McCain on fines if you don’t get health insurance, or something like that on Obama’s plans.  Now we get a proper discussion about it.  The question was answered, albeit a week later.  I confess I don’t quite understand all the details, terminology and ins and outs of each candidate’s healthcare plans, as just described.

[0258] Healthcare.  We haven’t had a proper question on this for ages, until now.  Interestly it is framed in terms of costs and what can we afford, not what should people deserve.  McCain gets to bring up Joe the plumber again and how he would react to Obama’s healthcare plan. 

[0256] Obama as Herbert Hoover, that’s who McCain is trying to paint him as.  I don’t buy that at all, especially as it is a reminder that it was a Democrat – FDR – who was the saviour at a time of Depression.

[0253] McCain attacks Obama for not travelling south of America to places like Colombia.  But that immediately makes me think of Palin and her not travelling anywhere outside the States until last year/

[0248] Obama coming across as very cool and calm seems to be the general reaction.  McCain less angry and frustrated than in the past, but still gives out signs of smirks, disrespect to Obama and other unsympathetic facial expressions. It comes across badly in the split screens the TV networks are doing a lot of this debate, showing the two men’s faces in close up side-by-side. 

[0246] One of McCain’s main attack lines seems to be ‘Obama will raise taxes’.  It may not be true (except for the top 5% or so), but at least he’s decided to stick to a couple of main narratives and attacks and repeat them ad naseum, rather than the scatter-gun approach of before. 

[0245] McCain interestingly gives an unprompted backing and shout-out to Palin’s husband Todd, who got criticised alomng with his wife in the Troopergate report.

[0244] “We’re going to sweep out the old boy’s club” says McCain about him and Palin.  Does that mean he’ll sweep himself out too?

[0240] 538 and those on twitter are picking up on the fact that the wonderful CNN audience reaction dials show a significant gender gap.  Women are digging Obama and really not liking McCain at all, certainly compared to the men.  There is a stark gap on the bar chart each time McCain speaks.

[0238] McCain was too chicken to mention Ayers by name.  Obama picked that up and was able to give a clear positive answer on his relationship with Bill Ayers. “And the fact that it has become so much of a focus of your campaign McCain says much more about your campaign than mine”.  ….. cracking response. I loved that.

[0235] Ha ha. That’s hysterical.  McCain mentions ACORN and suggests that they are about to perpetuate the biggest electoral fraud in history.  Florida 2000? Ohio 2004? Republican-connected attempts to purge voter rolls? 

[0231] McCain seems a wuss and really thin-skinned. And scolding on the most minor of points. 

[0230] Brilliantly clear and effective response by Obama on Joe Lewis’s comments about the racism and nastiness at McCain rallies.  McCain dismisses it as “just a few fringe people, you always get that”.

[0229] There’s lots of talk on the wires about Bob Schieffer and his moderation, bringing equivalence to the negative ads and vitriol from both sides.

[0228] McCain says his feelings have been hurt by the negative ads. 1,2,3 aaahh ….

[0227] “Everytime a Republican has said an out-of-bounds remark I have repudiated it” says McCain.  That doesn;t stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever. Crazy in fact, given the films we’ve seen of Republican rallies.

[0224] Obama brought up all the instances he stood up to the ‘special interests’ within his own party. Interesting to see if that gets any reaction from the blogosphere.

[0222] Before I forget, I weighed into the quality of debate moderation issue over on the BBC website.  My comment on Justin Webb’s views on this subject can be read here

[0221] “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush.  If you want to run against Bush you should have stood 4 years ago.”

[0218] McCain going into specifics on how he would save money.  Gets to mention not just earmarks but also his favourite example of “the $2million overhead projector for the Chicago planetarium”.  I didn’t think it worked as an attack last time, but he and his advisors think otherwise.

[0214] Blog of the day I’m following as an extra source of comment and fun is the great Firedoglake – its a collaborative, unashamedly progressive blog and well worth a read.

[0211] “Joe the plumber” is a lucky guy.  He is the centre of this debate on the economic rescue package, and all for asking a question to Obama at a campaign event some weeks ago.   

[0208] McCain seems to have learnt from his past mistakes and is looking direct to camera and giving straight, simple answers; and attacking Obama in a more subtle way than before.  The Twitter community is pointing out how much McCain is blinking.  I hadn’t noticed it, but now it’s been pointed out to me ….. oh yeah.

[0206] Instead of bland opening statements you have McCain and Obama explaining what their economic plans would be.  McCain stresses help for home-owners and tries to put a dividing line between him and the Bush administration. 

[0205] The difference in tonight’s format, which will be much commenting on, is that both candidates are sharing a large desk, so are physically much closer together.

[0202] We are about to be underway.  Incidentally, earlier tonight I watched the ‘live’ presidential debate on the final series of West Wing.  Excellent and gripping stuff.  Hope this lives up to that kind of real debate.

[0159]  The wonders of advertising – I get a “pause” in programming whilst viewers in the States see some fun ads.  On the subject of political ads, Obama has bought up 30mins of airtime on some of the big networks at the end of October, to give himself some unmoderated, unfiltered access to the American public.  30mins is a long time to fill, but he’s doing it partly to seem presidential.

[0154] Are we going to get McCain hitting Obama on Ayers (the reformed Weatherman), just as he has promised to do?  Negative attacks don’t seem to be working at this time, so will be interesting to see whether he spends time trying to do exactly that.

[0145] So welcome to this final night of presidential debates. “I want to be a part of it …. New York, New York” is going round in my head.  The candidates are at Hofstra University, upstate New York and about to resume moderated hostilities one last time.  Shame, as I’ll miss these late night skirmishes, and the community of bloggers and others staying up to watch, comment and participate in proceedings.


October 16, 2008 Posted by | debates | , , , | 3 Comments

No Palin, No fireworks?

After the excitement of last week’s v-p debate,  tonight’s debate may be a quieter affair.  And I’m not talking about what happens in Nashville, Tennessee.  I’m talking about what happens in towns, cities, houses and bars across the US.  The debate parties tonight may take on a calmer tone … and not just because the Dow fell another 5% earlier.  Its all down to Sarah Palin and and the passions on both sides that she stirs.

A Californian friend, blogger and Obama volunteer co-ordinator, drew my attention to what happened at these debate parties last time.  She reported that people were literally yelling at the TV whenever Sarah Palin spoke.  Indeed, there’s a piece from her local Pasedena paper – look at the photo gallery. Most people had their head in their hands when Sarah came on screen. 

The conversation I had with her confirms what I’ve been hearing from others as well, that Palin not only infuriates a certain part of the Democratic base, she does so for some Republicans too, particularly women, who really are offended by her whole cutesy act.  I realised that Palin gave Democrats a real fundraising and activist boost straight after her selection, but reports from Obama campaign offices and high anti-Palin merchandise sales suggest that this is still continuing in a big way. 

Palin does provoke huge negative reaction in the UK – even amongst Conservatives who support McCain. But
I have been surprised at the level of visceral hatred of her by quite a lot of women. I’m not sure that was factored in to McCain’s calculations when he picked her.  

Amusingly, I received comments saying how people thought I was being very fair and even to Palin in my liveblogging of the debate.  Perhaps it was just that I was not yet completely out of my diplomatic, holding-my-tongue, non-partisan mode from my few days with the Conservative party earlier that week.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | debates, global perspective, Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Debate Prep

When is a debate not a debate?  Tonight would seem to be the answer. 

According to this slightly tongue-in-cheek but clear explanation by

“the Obama-McCain event tonight consists of two parallel press conferences that happen to be in the same room. The detailed rules hammered out by the two campaigns state that the questions were to have been submitted in advance by the audience members and over the Internet. The questioner may not change the question and the microphone will be cut off after the question. Neither the questioner nor the moderator, Tom Brokaw of NBC, may ask followup questions. The candidates may not question each other. There will be no debate at all. Who does this format favor? Probably neither candidate. Usually the questions the general public asks aren’t very hard, are largely predictable in advance, and have already been asked 100 times (“how will you fix the economy?”). The candidates have stock answers they will roll off. Given the current state of polling, McCain needs to shake things up and Obama needs to keep the status quo. An event that doesn’t rock the boat much thus de facto works for Obama. Nevertheless, once in a while something unexpected happens at one of these events.”

It reminds me of the one televised ‘debate’ between the Labour party’s deputy leadership candidates last year, on BBC’s Newsnight.  They individually (and on a separate part of the stage) gave a short intro spiel, then stood in a row and were fired questions by host Jeremy Paxman.  There was virtually no opportunity for debate between the candidates or for an unscripted and enlightened conversation to flow.

Still, anything is probably better than the nothing we have in the UK in terms of general election time debates between the leaders of the 2, 3 or 4 main parties.  Weekly Prime Minister’s Question Time has some positives, but is not a suitable format for more than just soundbites, partisan cheerleading and on the odd occasion holding the leader to account.   And there would be no PMQs in the immediate run up to an election anyway, as Parliament would be dissolved. 

In the past few elections there have been calls – from the challenger, as well as from organisations involved in increasing turnout – for TV debates between the main party leaders.  But the Prime Minister (Tony Blair and before him John Major) have always refused.  Major preferred his soapbox and Blair his daytime TV confessionals.  Recently, David Cameron has raised the issue of debates again. Interestingly, there is now more reason for the incumbent to accept.  Brown is trailing in the polls and might feel it is worth the risk, in order to either land one of his clunking fists on Cameron, or simply change media / public perceptions him and rebut conventional wisdom.  He’s just done that with bringing back Peter Mandelson into the Cabinet, so who knows maybe he’ll make a similar decision on the debates?

October 7, 2008 Posted by | debates | | Leave a comment

Liveblogging the V-P debate

[0447] Until Tuesday night and the next Obama-McCain debate, that’s it for the liveblogging.

[0436] In closing, the debate is summarised on Daily Kos as “the student versus the statesman”.  That’s how it seemed to me as well, on one level.  And Bill Schneider, senior analyst on CNN, has said pretty much the same thing.  But on the other hand, Palin’s folksy charm and smiling was quite appealing, even to me.  I doubt this debate is going to be a game changer, or even sway too many voters.  Early polling reaction seems to bear this out.  Interestingly, although I go on about Palin exceeding her low expectations, Biden apparently seems to have exceeded his expectations by not doing any major gaffes and a more emotional, personal style too.  He impressed me too and I think his positives will rise after a quiet few weeks. But I think Palin’s negatives may stabilise after falling heavily recently, and the Republican base may be re-energised a bit after a bad few weeks, so halting (but unlikely to do anything to reverse) Obama’s healthy lead.   

[0419] Palin receives a rapturous welcome at the Republican post debate party.  She’s actually very good in this type of partisan setting, rallying the faithful and combining both passion and zinging lines.  The crowd is loving it, and so is she.  This is like a repeat of her Convention speech, and I haven’t seen anything like it since.  She really does fire up the base in a way McCain never has done and could never do.  I think I am witnessing the start of her run in 2012. Seriously, I think she could do very well in the Republican primaries.

[0358] CNN just interviewed a guy from the website – that may be one to look at for historical context to tonight’s debate.  Though you may have to wait, as the site seems to have crashed after being plugged on national TV.

[0355] Returning to something from the last debate.  The good performance of the moderator.  Kos notes it adroitly as: “Gwen Ifil was excellent. Like Lehrer, I forgot she was on stage, and that’s the way moderators should be” .  Indeed, I was so focused on Palin and Biden and their exchanges, that I barely noticed the interventions from Gwen; except the times she wryly asked them to answer the question or reminded them they were out of time.  Makes such a pleasant change from the way the Democrat primary debates were so badly and partisanly moderated.

[0350] Palin mainly holding her own against the more experienced Biden is a draw according to the analysts in the media.  Exceeded those low expectations. (See 0254).  But as Kos says: “she needed to prove that she could get beyond pre-packaged talking points to demonstrating some capacity for analytical thought. In that regard, she failed.”   Several people on Twitter note how close Palin is to her cartoonish SNL caricature. I think that’s unfair; she seemed more confident at times than her SNL persona, but there was still plenty that fitted so well with her caricature.

[0340] Palin did have a few good lines “Obama flying the white flag on Iraq” was one; and on education. There was no ‘car crash’ and she did the down-to-earth thing very well.  She wasn’t ripped to shreds by Biden; partly I suspect as he saved most of his criticisms for McCain. Palin learnt from McCain’s mistakes last time, and there was little snarky comments or nasty attacks. 

[0336] “Cute and adorable, but not quite so (vice)-presidential” is the succinct summary on Palin by Bill Nicholson, USA Today night editor, speaking on Radio5Live. 

[0330] Biden has done well in the final sections to emotionally connect with the audience (in the hall and on TV), giving heartfelt anecdotes about his family, his experience and his values.  That was one area it was feared he would fall down on, so he’s done well in that respect.  Update [0500]: see this clip from the debate for the bit when Biden talks about his family and the hardships and personal tragedy that he has experienced.  It felt – and is certainly being reported as – a real ‘I feel your pain’ moment, succesfully and genuinally connecting Biden with ordinary voters.

[0328] Palin really is a political lightweight and novice, without much of her own experience or understanding beyond Alaska and her family.  Anywhere else that might really matter and hurt electorally.  I’m less sure it’s such a thing in the US.  It worked for Bush in 2000.  If Obama wasn’t so strong and McCain so weak a candidate, it might work again this year.

[0325] I wish my bingo card just had the word “maverick” on all its squares. I would have had crossed off every square by now.

[0323] OMG. This is brilliant. Biden has just hit a home run on McCain.  “He is not a maverick on anything that really matters to people.” And he continues in that vein in a wonderful, cleverly worded attack on McCain.  A planned exchange no doubt, but I bet it works.

[0321] Biden: “People are looking for help, not more of the same”.  I immediately think of the rhyme “McCain, McSame.”  So does the McCain campaign team obviously, as they have coached Palin to rebut this directly give as one of her number one talking points that “we need change. Change is coming.  John McCain is a maverick and will lead the reform.”

[0317] Palin says she wants a bit more executive power for the V-P position. Hmm. Controversial.

[0311] “Oh, say it’s not so, Joe.”  Palin going all folksy, or rather even more so than usual.  She’s actually quite charming and believable when she’s like this, and explaining education policy.  Even cracks a joke on school credits.  But makes me think small town mayor, or maybe at best inspirational primary school head teacher, not major national political figure.  Then again she gave a ‘shout out’, so maybe a dj or talk show host would suit her better. I’m beig elitist though, I think it may play better in some sections of US society so it may actually be a good strategy from her; going on her strengths and her differences from Biden / Obama.

[0309] Huge traffic on twitter surrounding Palin’s comment that “McCain knows how to win a war”.  Almost unanimous calling her out on this. Vietnam?  I’d love to see the news site’s FactCheck on this one.

[0303] Palin is struggling.  She was rambling, trying to mark snarky comments, searching through her notes, her body language is awkward and she sounds goofy.  But she somehow pulls out a strong answer on Darfur and divestment.  Again though it all comes down to what has done in Alaska, rather than anything relating to the other 49 states or a national policy.

[0301] The consensus on the blogs and twitter is that – unsurprisingly – Biden is winning the foreign policy section hands down.  Only issue I have is he getting a bit wordy, and sometimes changing tack or restarting sentences midway through a point.

[0300] “Past is prologue” says Biden.  We’ll be dissecting that for weeks, its such a wonderful and multi-layered line.

[0257] “We are fighting terrorists and building schools in Afghanistan” says Palin.  Biden hits back hard:  “facts matter.  Our commanding general there says an Iraq-type surge won’t work.”  I would also add that it seems disingenous at best and heartless at worst for Palin to dismiss the bombing and killing of civilians, as she seemed to do. 

[0254]  Sean on 538 says: “I can foresee the praise for Palin’s performance on the post-mortem cable shows already. She has beaten expectations – the lowest expectations in history.”  Exactly what I’ve been warnign about these past few days, and am feeling at the moment.  Palin has had enough okay moments for this to be true no matter what happens the final half hour of the debate; even though Biden is so much stronger.

[0252] Israel: “a peace seeking nation” says Palin.  History may say otherwise.  Also it is outside pressure that has helped to bring Israel to the table or moved things on to a point where Israel feels safe enough to conduct peace negotations.  Palin doesn’t seem to acknowledge this. Biden points this out.

[0250] Palin gives a very passionate answer on “freedom” and not talking to our enemies.  

[0247] Palin gets one over her boss: she can say “Ahmadinejad” properly and first time. And to rub it in she does it twice in a minute.

[0244] “God love him, but he has been dead wrong” – Biden on McCain.  He started out quite muted I thought, but has really started getting into his stride and hitting some big ones.  Tweets seem to think the oil / climate change exchanges were the turning point for Biden and has been performing much better since.

[0241] Biden on Iraq: “I didn’t hear a plan [from Palin/McCain].  Obama has a plan”.  Its just like earlier this week at Tory Party Conference, with their slogan “Plan for Change” and claims of no plans and new ideas from Labour.

[0239] DailyKos is noting that Palin seems to be looking down at her notes more and more, and wonders whether this will become even more frequent and more obvious as we go through proceedings. 

[0235] If McCain’s rallying cry is “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran”, then Palin’s is now “drill, drill, drill”.

[0233] sock it to her, Biden.  He gives a clear, sensible and 21st century answer to climate change.

[0231] Appalling answer by Palin on climate change. Fascinating.  This one will be played and played on youtube.  You sense she doesn’t have a clue; or rather ties herself up in knots trying to disguise her lack of belief in gloal warming and man’s contribution to it. She just repeats the word “climate change” several times each sentence and that’s about it.

[0230] Nate, and then some on twitter, are noting how Palin’s answers seem very scripted and over-coached, speaking too quickly and giving pat answers at points.

[0224] “Energy is my own area of expertise” says Palin.  Tries to position herself as the friend of taxpayers versus the oil producers and energy companies.  She did impose a windfall profits tax, so it can be done – note to Brown and the Government here.  Biden then hits back and tries to drive a wedge between McCain and Palin on that policy.

[0222] Great and clear explanation by Biden of government finances and where things need to be squeezed or changed or not happen (ie tax cuts to wealthy people).

[0221] Biden gets the first big laugh line, making fun of the “ultimate bridge to nowhere”.

[0218] Palin suggests that no one should be pleased with the way the State is running things at the moment.  But its not the State, its the market that has been failing so badly these past few weeks.  The State is the one that has to come in and pick up the pieces, and is the only one to be trusted to run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac etc.

[0215] Palin goes off on one, doing some “straight-talking” as she puts it.  It is interesting that when she was first picked, we all thought she was picked as a ‘gap-filler’ rather than a ‘reinforcer’ – ie. she was different than McCain and trying to hit some electoral spots that McCain didn’t.  But actually it is turning out that she is playing that ‘reinforcing role’ – stressing and doubling McCain’s maverickness and straight-talking. 

[0209] Following things on the special twitter feed, like last time. The Fix says that both candidates are getting in their hits early.  And plenty of chit-chat and yelps of joy from people playing Palin bingo, as “hockey mums” gets its first mention of the night.

[0208] “team of mavericks” – that’s not on my bingo card but it should have been. It’s one of her favourite lines.  Its her strongest strategy: to stress her non-insider and ordinary ‘joe’ status.

[0207] I like it: Biden spends a minute talking about bipartisanship and then attacks McCain.  It made sense, but brings a wry smile to my face.

[0205] Palin starts off with a folksy anecdote, much as had been predicted on blogs and by past performance in Alaskan debates.

[0203]  “Can I call you Joe?” asks Palin, trying to get ahead early by showing her down-to-earth manner.  Also sugests they have never met before.

[0202] And we’re off. Gwen Ifill is the moderator.

[0158] Another reason to stay up and follow this: Palin bingo.  I’ve got my card and am playing.  Even if you watch the debate online sometime later, download the card(s) and see if you are a winner during the debate.

[0155] It’s time for such fun and fireworks hopefully.  Joe Biden versus Sarah Palin.  One time only.

October 3, 2008 Posted by | debates | , , | 2 Comments