Thursday, September 4, 2008

Joe Biden is better than a strong cup of coffee

Joe Biden sounded great with Matt Lauer this morning. Without saying anything personally negative about Palin, he blandly laid bare the hype of her speech and the fact that several big policy questions remained virtually unaddressed amidst Palin's self-agrandizement. Of course, since the job of both VP candidates is to bark at the opposition, there was nothing unexpected in either delivery. But Biden came out strong and seemed only to struggle with his inclination to be even more blunt-spoken in his assessment. His closing remark, that Palin's gas station-owning sister (who couldn't attend the RNC) would be better off under a Democratic administration, was a nice sound bite.

The follow-up interview with Palin's aforementioned sister looked pretty lame and scripted by comparison (and would have on its own, simply because the woman admits to little political interest, couldn't be trusted to answer any serious questions about "Troopergate" and hasn't yet slept.) Another pundit came out afterward and called Palin's attack strength an "11" on a scale of one to ten; if that's the case, Biden must be a 20, and Palin's sister a solid 6.

I'm looking forward to a debate, assuming Biden can focus on the facts long enough to keep from tearing strips out of Palin just for being a walking gimmick. As much as Scully's Palin speech focused on the practical experience being a governor affords, they have to restrain themselves given the company of senators on both sides, and all they have left to sell is Palin's family (particularly her Down Syndrome infant and her Average Joe husband.) The pregnant 17-year-old daughter showed up with her boyfriend at the RNC, and McCain's people have shrewdly reconstructed the family narrative to enhance the "working-class-ness" of family problems like teen pregnancy. That combined with the repeated "blue collar husband" references would seem to me to promote a really narrow and stereotyped view of what it means to be a working American. Will voters fall for it?

What remains to be seen is the clarity each candidate will convey on the issues. Obama's precision is a strength, and Biden has no trouble with policy references; both have good energy and incisive delivery. In all though it's far from a slam dunk at this point.

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