Initial Reaction

My global thought on this debate is that it helped the Obama-Biden ticket more than McCain-Palin’s. But I also think it probably helped stop some of the hemorrhaging and morale breakdown among hardcore Republicans.

One clear fact about this debate is that Palin didn’t have one of those stammering moments that we’ve seen especially in the Couric interview. She got the name of the top general in Afghanistan wrong. And she dug in on a clearly false claim when she said that Joe Biden had supported McCain’s Iraq policies up until this campaign started. That’s nonsense. And I suspect we’ll see that whopper taken apart over the next hours and days. Still, though, these whoppers and gaffes aren’t in the same category. (I mean, a pretty ridiculous standard — she clearly has virtually no grasp of any major national political or policy issue.) For that reason, as I said, I think she gives base Republicans a reason to feel reassured and permission to stop feeling embarrassed.

One thing that I think is easy to overlook here is that Biden did really well. He started a little slow. But he quickly got into his groove and in the second half there were several answers that he took the debate squarely to John McCain in a way that I thought was very effective.

So basically a win for Biden because he just did a lot better and it’s Obama-Biden who want the trajectory of the race to stay as is. She made herself less of an embarrassment and gave core Republicans a reason to stop being embarrassed. But there were a bunch of flatly false or nonsensical things she said — and we’ll see those picked apart over the next few days.