Post Vice Presidential Debate Analysis

Well, Sarah Palin managed to not drown in tonight’s debate, but I’d say it was a pretty clear victory for Biden. The first thirty minutes or so I thought both candidates were turning in sub-par performances, but then Biden really hit his rhythm and after that it wasn’t close. Biden sounded like someone talking about issues from a knowledgeable perspective, while Palin nearly always spoke in broad generalities and was clearly sticking to a limited set of talking points. It was kind of like they were giving a book report and Biden had actually read it while Palin had scanned Spark Notes for fifteen minutes beforehand. And maybe it’s just me, but I thought she leaned too heavily on that folksy charm business. I think when she said “doggonnit,” she jumped the shark and became a parody of herself.

I was watching this on CNN and their instant audience reaction graph consistently demonstrated that Biden was greatly outmatching Palin with independents. At the end of the day, that’s all this is about: who’s reaching independents. If CNN’s audience sample was at all accurate, Biden won independents in a route.

Now, in my opinion, there were two factors that contributed to Palin managing to get out of this debate alive. The first is that the expectations were so low for her in the first place. It was very low bar she had to reach. The second is the fact that the debate had no follow-up questions. So basically, she got away with broad answers that lacked much in the way of specifics, because no one could say, “but specifically, Gov. Palin…” If you watch her interview with Katie Couric, the real train wreck answers were the ones where Katie pressed for specifics in her follow-up questions. Without those two conditions, Palin’s performance tonight would have been judged a complete disaster.

It’s kinda sad that she can turn in a “good” performance simply by not having a total melt down.

There were two key moments in tonight’s debate, and they both belonged to Joe Biden. The first was this gem where Biden called b.s. on Palin’s claim that the Democratic ticket shouldn’t be looking backward at the Bush administration when criticizing McCain. This is a near-perfect example of the rhetorical device of repetition:

And the second was this emotional response as Biden talks about the tragedy that befell his family right around the time he was first elected to the Senate, and Palin’s tone-deaf response:

I hate to be so callous about it, but Biden opened up and revealed this very deep pain he experienced — not in telling the story of his wife and daughter’s death, which is well known, but in getting a bit choked up as he did so — and then Palin completely failed to offer even the mildest sympathy to him. It was almost as if she didn’t know what he was talking about. It made her look a bit cold.

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And Then There Is Troopergate

Seems like Sarah Palin and her cohorts just can’t shake this Troopergate investigation.  No matter how hard John McCain’s paid lawyers tried to shut down this investigation, it just keeps rearing its head.

Today, an Anchorage judge refused to halt the investigation.  Excellent!  This judge would not be bullied by DC lawyers.  Now that’s change that I can believe in.

From Mudflats

An Anchorage judge today refused to halt the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin and denied the state attorney general’s attempt to throw out legislative subpoenas.

Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski heard arguments from both sides this morning and ruled just before 5 p.m. this afternoon.

“I think it’s great. It’s a big day for the state of Alaska,” said Peter Maassen, the lawyer representing the Legislative Council, which ordered the investigation.

Maassen said he expected the other side to attempt a last-minute appeal to the state Supreme Court.

It’s last-minute because the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, Steve Branchflower, is to present his report in a week. Branchflower is looking into Palin’s dismissal of her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, and whether she improperly pressured him to fire a state trooper divorced from her sister. There is intense national interest in the outcome now that Palin is the Republican nominee for vice president.

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg said he didn’t know whether he’d appeal or if he’ll now advise the subpoenaed state officals to cooperate with the investigation. He said he needed to consult with them.

Looks like “The Show must go on.”

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A trip down VP Debate memory lane…

(Thanks to BuzzFlash for all these links)

Tonight is the long awaited, highly anticipated, and one and only VP Debate between Joe Biden (D) and Sarah Palin (R).

Here is a look back at previous VP Debates and some of the more memorable moments:

Who could forget the VP Debate of 1988 between Dan Quayle (R) and Lloyd Bentsen (D):

How about the VP Debate of 1996 between Jack Kemp (R) and Al Gore (D) – and Gore’s opening joke?

Here’s the debate with Dick Cheney (R) and John Edwards (D) in the 2004 VP Debate (which by the way was moderated by Gwen Ifill) where Cheney lies through his teeth when he denies ever connecting Iraq to the attacks of 9/11. (Actual quote: “I have not suggested there’s a connection between Iraq and 9/11..”)

Then, in the VP Debate of 1984 with George HW Bush (R) and Geraldine Ferraro (D):

One highlight Joe Biden might want to watch to prepare for tonight is this brief exchange from the 1984 VP debate between VP George H.W. Bush and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro. It’s a rather patronizing explanation of foreign policy by Bush, and Ferraro calls him out on it. 

Here is finally the VP Debate of 1992 with Dan Quayle (R),  Al Gore (D), and Retired Vice-Admiral James Stockdale. Gore had a great opening statement (which was interrupted by Dan Quayle). The contrast between these three men was astounding..

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A Democratic Senator from Alaska?

Ted Stevens and another proud Alaskan politician


As it happens, things are not looking rosy for Ted Stevens these days. His trial on charges of failing to disclose a quarter million dollars worth of gifts in his Senate financial documents began this week, and his former BFF Bill Allen was in court today (and tomorrow) to testify about all the goodies he provided Stevens over the years. Senator Ted is already at a disadvantage trying to run a Senate campaign while fighting off the charges in court, in large part because his attempt to move the case to his friendly home territory was a bust. Instead, he’s facing a much more ethnically diverse (as in, almost all Black women) jury in Washington DC, where no one ever got a benefit check or a new bridge from Ted’s Palace of Pork.

Coverage of the trial is interesting. If I didn’t know better, I’d suggest that AP was doing a bit of editorializing in their description of today’s testimony.

A longtime friend of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens crossed the powerful lawmaker Tuesday and testified that he gave the Republican senator thousands of dollars in gifts.

The fiercely loyal Stevens gave no indication he even saw Bill Allen enter the courtroom, and the two men barely looked at each other as Allen testified about their 26-year friendship and the expensive gifts he gave along the way.

“Fiercely loyal”? An interesting choice of words which seems designed to contrast Stevens to his turncoat former friend. Newspapers running the AP story used headlines like “Friend turns on Stevens”, rather than the McClatchy story: “Former Veco Corp. head takes stand in Stevens trial”, with no attempt to characterize Bill Allen as a weasel testifying against a loyal friend just to save his own skin.

Meanwhile, in moose country, polls show Democratic challenger Mark Begich holds a slim lead over the incumbent Stevens, 49% to 45%. This in a state as red as any in the country, a state in which Ted Stevens has brought home the bacon repeatedly since 2000, every single year winning the award for most pork per capita for his home state. (The jackpot year was 2005, when the per-capita pork was nearly $1,000 per Alaskan.)

With any luck, the country will be able to wave goodbye to Ted Stevens and his corruption, when he trades his Senatorial suit in for an orange jumper, putting one more Democrat into Congress.

UPDATE. Thursday, October 2.

Ted Stevens may not have completely run out of luck after all. Instead, it appears the prosecution may have so damaged their own case that the judge will declare a mistrial or even dismiss outright.From the NY Times:

Judge Emmit G. Sullivan dismissed for the day the jurors in the trial, in its second week, and hurriedly scheduled an afternoon hearing on whether he should dismiss the seven felony counts Mr. Stevens faces.

“It’s very troubling,” said a clearly angry Judge Sullivan, who questioned whether someone in the department deliberately concealed the information. “If it wasn’t deliberate, it was gross negligence.”

Steven’s defense team has argued that their entire case would have been handled differently if they had only known about this single piece of evidence which they claim to have just received. The prosecution, while apologizing for the error, claims that the evidence has no real effect on the case for either side and that the information had been provided to the defense on September 9.

At the heart of the trial is the issue of whether Mr. Stevens knowingly failed to list the gifts and services. Mr. Allen has already testified that he did not send bills to Mr. Stevens because he was explicitly told not to do so by the senator’s personally designated liaison to him.

The belatedly disclosed document is the agent’s handwritten report of an interview of Mr. Allen in which Mr. Allen said he believed that Mr. Stevens would have paid the bills had they been sent to him.

The judge has suspended the trial and is considering his options. We can only hope this is a tempest in a teapot, and Stevens’ trial can continue.

UPDATE TWO. Thursday, October 2.

Judge Sullivan has ordered the trial to proceed, and denied the defense request for a mistrial or a dismissal. From Reuters:

Although U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan allowed the trial to go forward, he said he had lost confidence in the ability of Justice Department prosecutors to fulfill their legal obligation to turn over helpful evidence to the defense.

The judge said he thought there had been a violation of that obligation. “I am very disturbed that this happened,” Sullivan said.

Prosecutors admitted a mistake had been made, but said the oversight was not serious enough to warrant dismissing the case or ordering a new trial.

The judge’s decision to allow the trial to go forward was a setback for Stevens, 84, one of the Senate’s most powerful Republicans who is seeking reelection in November.

The trial will resume on Monday.

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McCain Leaves Michigan – “Reeks” Havoc on Ohio

McCain is pulling up stakes in Michigan and leaving. With only a month before Election Day; he has decided to pull all TV ads also. The McCain Campaign is having a difficult time trying to change voter’s minds in many blue states.

McCain had several large rallies there that didn’t do as well as they had hoped.McCain is to stop dropping mail there and send most of his staff to more competitive states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Wisconsin went for Kerry in 2004, Ohio and Florida for Bush.

With the Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and skepticism among blue-collar voters about Barack Obama could make it competitive. But recent polls there have shown Obama extending what had been a small lead, with the economic crisis damaging an already sagging GOP brand in a state whose economy is in tatters.

Ohio has taken many steps to correct the problems they experienced in the last two elections. Election ’08 opened in Ohio with a surge of first-time voters and the subpoena of a electronic operative who may have helped steal the White House, a subpoena that may be followed by one for Karl Rove.

By our count, at least twelve Ohio counties have split the presidential contest over two columns on their paper ballots for this November’s election. This “column split” often confuses voters and results in double voting in the presidential race – and an uncounted vote. Today the Brennan Center urged election officials and advocates in Ohio to make sure that voters are aware of the split, and to make sure they vote only once for president.

The twelve Ohio counties whose ballots spilt the presidential race over two columns are: Ashtabula, Athens, Auglaize, Champaign, Delaware, Lawrence, Logan, Madison, Ottawa, Seneca, Shelby, and Wyandot.

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