If the debate last night was a football game, Chris Berman would not have been able to yell out his trademark, "Fumblllllle." Although he would be able to say "rumblin, bumblin, stumblin" a few times, but not that many.
The expectation was a train wreck. With Joe Biden's frequent missteps and Sarah Palin's sketchy performances in recent TV interviews, the night seemed as if it would be rich in miscues, foibles, and Homer Simpson-like "D'ohs".
Debate watching parties sprouted up across the nation. People could download their own Palin Bingo cards eager for the predictable phrases to come from the Alaska governor's mouth . If you had a card with the words "maverick," "drill baby drill," "darn right," "I'll betcha," and
I can see Russia from my house "doggone it" -- you would have won big. She said all of them.
Plus, if you were playing in the lightning round, there were even more nuggets like "git down to gittin' business done."
Newbies to the political scene say they watched the event because we are at a critical time in our nation's history and nothing is more important than a substantive debate on public policy. That's a good thing.
But there were plenty of viewers who, like NASCAR fans, say they watch for the racing, not the wrecks.
Palin bein' Palin
Conservatives calling for Palin to abandon her handlers and "be herself" got to see a more relaxed version of the Republican vice presidential nominee.
It was as though she had an epiphany that it was OK to be the governor of Alaska and former mayor of Wasilla.
Example #2: Responding to moderator Gwen Ifill's question as to whether there was anything Palin had promised to do as vice president that would be rescinded as a result of the financial crisis, Palin said, "There is not. And how long have I been at this, like five weeks? So there hasn't been a whole lot that I've promised..."
Example #3: Responding to Ifill's question on what the "vice presidency is worth," Palin produced the most comedic moment of the night. She took a shot at Biden (perhaps unknowingly) for his statement - back in 2007 - that he wouldn't want the VP job. When there was mild speculation over her being a dark-horse candidate months ago, she had a similar reaction saying that she didn't even know what the vice president did.
Last night she explained that her answer "was a lame attempt at a joke and your's [Biden's] was a lame attempt at a joke, too, I guess, because nobody got it."
The Vote is guessing that the McCain team must have focus-group tested the word "maverick" and the company responsible told them it was OK to use 60,000 times in a week.
It was only mentioned 15 times last night. A couple times even by Joe Biden. Sometimes it flowed well in a sentence. Sometimes it was painful.
Where "maverick" worked:
"I think that's why we need to send the maverick from the Senate and put him in the White House, and I'm happy to join him there."
Where "maverick" didn't work:
"And I've joined this team that is a team of mavericks with John McCain, also."
Where "maverick" worked quite well:
"As for disagreeing with John McCain and how our administration would work, what do you expect? A team of mavericks, of course we're not going to agree on 100 percent of everything."
Where "maverick" was a disaster:
"Also, John McCain's maverick position that he's in, that's really prompt up to and indicated by the supporters that he has."
Biden's use of maverick:
"Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives."
The great part about that statement was Biden's insertion of the words "I love him" right before the slam.
It's like when you are talking to a friend about someone and you don't want to sound too harsh. So you preface your remarks by saying, "I love him like a brother, don't get me wrong. But ... (insert body slam here)."
No more Couric?
After last night's performance, Palin just might be out of the woods. That doesn't mean the poll numbers are going to flip around. But maybe, just one day soon, there won't be any further installments of the Katie Couric - Sarah Palin interview. Although it would be ratings extravaganza.
Even the McCain campaign's favorite newspaper had some nice things to say about Palin's performance.
"Ms. Palin spoke far more fluidly and confidently than she had in her devastating interviews with Katie Couric of CBS," writes TV columnist Alessandra Stanley. "Ms. Palin did stumble into a few loop-the-loop non sequiturs, but mostly she stuck to practiced talking points."
"She was friendly and respectful to Mr. Biden," she continued. "Then, every now and then, she cocked her head, winked, and nudged him hard — like a little sister who knows her older brother cannot hit back."
If the poll numbers start moving in the other direction, you can bet Obama-Biden will hit back. Right now, they'll probably just leave her alone.