Serious Comment: The 2008 Vice Presidential Debate

by Ronald Pecorry Editor Satire and Comment

Was the VP debate a game changer?

(Atlanta-Oct 3 2008) Barack Obama is a great orator with a broad outlook and reasonable but not tremendous experience. John McCain is highly experienced and widely admired. But his reputation for having a hot-temper and a tendency to make erratic decisions damages him. So did the VP debate help either of them secure their position in the presidential election?

wikipedia GFDL 1.2 licence Governor Palin did well in the debate. Instinctively likeable, many people recognize that they know someone just like her, the multitasking mother and career woman. The expectations for the debate were very low for her, indeed there was palpable fear that she might crash and burn after her stumbling performance with Katie Couric during the week. However she made no real mistakes and proved she is capable - albeit deeply unprepared beyond a few core experiences challenging the oil industry in Alaska.

When she addressed issues she came across as self assured but scripted and trained rather than inherently knowledgeable, reverting regularly back to slogans. Those who were going to vote Republican were reassured but those on the fence will lean away from her because her performance reinforced that she had never thought of the world beyond her Alaskan borders until 5 weeks ago when she was selected. She tried hard but it's going to be a few years before she can speak with confidence about issues of national importance.

So the debate will have damaged her if the public does not have the stomach for another President who needs to learn on the job - and with Mc Cain getting visibly older there is a very real chance Palin will be the first woman President if the Republican ticket succeeds.

McCain's pick of Palin was inspired and admirable. This choice has pushed forward dramatically the position of women in the United States. That alone would be a great legacy for McCain. If she had more experience then McCain/Palin would have the election in the bag. But her inexperience, reinforced in the debate, combined with recent damaging erratic behavior from McCain around the bailout proposal make the combined ticket look weak.

publicdomain pic Biden also did very well. Although his name is known for a long time, very few people are actually familiar with him other than his own constituents and political pundits. He came across as sincere, experienced and knowledgeable. His struggle to hold back tears when reflecting on a personal tragedy humanized him. In answering a question on what he thought of the VP role he very intelligently described how he would be a trusted advisor to Obama while being resolutely not a yes-man. He came across as someone who will be an invaluable asset to shore up Obama's relative inexperience and at the same time he came across as one who would make a very solid President if needed.

So the choices the electorate recognizes after the debate are:

  • Experienced, admired but erratic hot tempered old man who has a deeply inexperienced running mate who may become President before she is ready
  • Inexperienced but highly capable young man with very experienced advisor who would make a solid President if needed.

One would expect that any undecided independent or fence sitting Hillary supporters will now move solidly to Obama. Will that be enough to win?

If McCain does not win, the VP debate will, in this writer's opinion, have been the game changer that solidified the position of those who were unsure about making the leap to Obama and pushed them to finally commit to vote for him.

For Palin, should she lose in this election, she would be well advised to run for the Senate or some other office or high profile private sector role. This will give her national and international experience and open the chance to try again in 8 or 12 years. She has a strong future in the public eye but objective analysis leads to the inevitable conclusion that she is not ready today to lead the country if needed.

Of course not being ready does not mean she will not get elected!

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