In his Washington Post analysis, Dan Balz wrote that, during the vice presidential debate, Gov. Sarah Palin "did not stumble over names of foreign leaders." But Balz did not note that Palin misstated the name of Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, twice referring to him as "McClellan."
In his October 3 Washington Post analysis, "Palin Delivers, But Doubts Linger," on Gov. Sarah Palin's performance in the October 2 vice presidential debate, chief political reporter Dan Balz wrote: "Republican strategists not directly connected with the campaign, some of whom had low expectations about how she would do, were thrilled by her performance." Later, Balz asserted: "Palin, who struggled with questions in televised interviews, came to Thursday's debate well briefed. She did not stumble over names of foreign leaders." But while crediting her with "not stumbl[ing]" over foreign leaders' names, Balz did not note that Palin misstated the name of Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, twice referring to him as "McClellan."
During the debate, Sen. Joe Biden stated: "The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today that a surge -- the surge principles used in Iraq will not -- well, let me say this again now. Our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan -- not Joe Biden, our commanding general in Afghanistan." Palin replied:
PALIN: Well, first, McClellan did not say definitively that the surge principles would not work in Afghanistan. Certainly, accounting for different conditions in that different country and conditions are certainly different. We have NATO allies helping us for one, and even the geographic differences are huge, but the counterinsurgency principles also could work in Afghanistan. McClellan didn't say anything opposite of that.
Media Matters for America has noted that, before the debate, several members of the media asserted that Palin would win if she simply beats (lowered) expectations despite praise of her debate skills by others in the media and by McCain campaign surrogate Mitt Romney.
From Balz' October 3 Washington Post analysis:
For Palin detractors who expected a meltdown onstage at Washington University, the night was a disappointment. Republican strategists not directly connected with the campaign, some of whom had low expectations about how she would do, were thrilled by her performance. And if Biden's detractors hoped he would be windy or overbearing, they, too, were disappointed. He showed off his three decades of Washington experience in a way designed to instill confidence in voters about himself and Obama.
Palin, who struggled with questions in televised interviews, came to Thursday's debate well briefed. She did not stumble over names of foreign leaders. She had quick comebacks when Biden challenged her or went after McCain.
Reactions to the debate among political strategists fell almost predictably along partisan lines. But even some Democrats said Palin handled herself well. "The VP is no longer an issue," said Democrat Tad Devine. "Joe did well, too, especially at the end. I think there will no longer be a sideshow for the VP."
Other Democrats said that as well as she may have done, she probably did not sway undecided voters. "For people who were already inclined to vote for John McCain, there was nothing about Sarah Palin's performance to keep them from doing that," Democrat Geoff Garin said. "But McCain's problem is that there aren't enough people who are inclined to vote for him, and nothing about Palin's performance changed that, either."
But Republicans had a positive reaction, as if a weight had been lifted off McCain's shoulders. "She delivered big-time," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire-based GOP strategist. "It was the best 90 minutes this campaign has had in two weeks. ... Whatever expectations there were, she blew them away."
The vice presidential debate came with high interest and big expectations and certainly delivered, though not as some had predicted. That leaves it to Obama and McCain to argue it out for the next 32 days.