Patterico's Pontifications


Does Joe Biden have the better debate strategy?

Filed under: 2008 Election,Current Events,Politics — Karl @ 3:32 pm

Seems like it, if the Politico’s Mike Allen has it right:

Sarah Palin plans to go on the attack in tonight’s debate, hitting Joe Biden for what she will call his foreign policy blunders and penchant for adopting liberal positions on taxes and other issues, according to campaign officials involved in prepping her for tonight’s showdown.


By contrast, Biden plans what an aide calls “a just-the-facts, prosecutorial approach laying out the case against McCain and defending Obama.” The aide said Biden will be “keeping the eye on the target, which is McCain.”

In other words, Biden’s strategy is to do the job a vice-presidential nominee is supposed to do, while Palin wants to attack her counterpart, rather than Obama.  She — and the McCain campaign — would probably do better to use Biden’s words to attack Obama, as ABC’s Jake Tapper thinks may happen.

Of course, the strategy will not matter much if Palin turns in another lackluster performance.  There’s plenty of speculation about the expectations as to both Palin and Biden.  However, much of that speculation does not take into account the general rules of modern presidential debates, as explained by former McCain consultant Mike Murphy:

Good debate prep is designed to build up, not tear down, the candidate’s confidence. The first trick is to practice with a stand-in who has memorized the opposing candidate’s likely answers. This is far easier than it sounds. One of the best-kept secrets of politics is that there are only about 20 “typical” questions. Odds are that one’s esteemed opponent has publicly answered every imaginable policy question by the time the debate finally occurs. It is vital that your candidate not hear your opponent’s answers for the first time onstage, since that will often lead to panic if a candidate feels the opponent’s answer is far better than his or her own. Hmmm. Great answer. I’ve got nothing like that. I’m a loser. I’m going to lose this debate. In high school, Belinda would have wanted to go to the prom with him, not me. Anger. MUST … ATTACK … NOW!!! At that point something very bad usually happens.

A lot of debate prep is given over to mastering another basic rule: never make the rookie’s mistake of actually trying to answer the question you are asked. Candidates are told instead to quickly “pivot” into their central campaign message whenever possible.

NRO’s Byron York has thoughts relevant to the first factor:

By the way, word is that Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s top foreign-policy adviser, played Biden in Palin’s debate practice.  Perhaps that’s a good choice.  But you have to wonder whether a Republican senator who has listened to Biden blow hard for, say, the last 20 years, might not have a better feel for what he will say.  We’ll see.

There is also the issue of whether — or how far — compromised moderator Gwen Ifill will stray from those 20 “typical” questions.

As for the second factor, both Patterico and I have noted that Palin has been bad at giving the sort of BS non-answers that are second nature to Biden — sounding good, even when they are not.  Perhaps Palin will be more comfortable in a debate environment, having been encouraged to be aggressive.  Or perhaps she will do as poorly as she has in the MSM interviews.  To invoke the journo cliche, time will tell — and rather soon.

(h/t Memeorandum.)

46 Responses to “Does Joe Biden have the better debate strategy?”

  1. I can’t watch it. Too much anxiety: by fiat of the MSM the fate of the election and the nation hangs in the balance–Obama’s or Biden’s qualifications are deemed irrelevant.

    Patricia (b54e0e)

  2. Just let Sarah Palin be “Sarah Palin”. :)
    Question is, who is the real Sarah Palin? Do we know?

    love2008 (0c8c2c)

  3. I hope Palin uses Biden’s words to attack Obama and his policies.

    DRJ (c953ab)

  4. Ditto what DRJ said. I have been hoping that Gov. Palin uses every last zinger that Biden let fly in the Dem primary, where he was so unpopular amongst the Dems, they gave him less than 2% of the vote.

    JD (f7900a)

  5. Typo: compromsed

    Al (b624ac)

  6. Given current events, I’m pretty sure that the then-lackluster choice of Romney would have worked a lot better for McCain. Romney could have torn the Senate Democrats a new a$$hole on the financial mess and been VERY credible doing it.

    If Palin bombs tonight there will be calls to dump her for Romney. I hope she doesn’t because I rather doubt that Romney could hold the Christian base, a group that really doesn’t care all that much about media approval.

    I can’t believe that she’s going to continue with the failed fact-lady strategy. Her strength is from the heart and she should use that.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)

  7. Help may be on the way as the FBI talked to a big Obama crony in Illinois.

    I’ll watch the debate but may have a couple of snorts first.

    Mike K (155601)

  8. Everyone keeps overlooking
    a. McCain and Obama have two debates left
    – Oct 7 is McCain’s venue with town hall setting
    – Oct 15 is three weeks out from the election
    b. The Wright and Rezko clips have not aired yet and probably won’t until about ten days out (expect the Wright one to be one week out from election — will get MSM play and endless analysis on whether it is racist; definitely not what Obama would want as the last undecideds finally tune in)
    c. Unless you are in a battleground state you are not likely to see the barrage of ads being sent
    d. WLS may have an idea but when he needs the cash the most will Obama have enough to saturate the airwaves the last couple of weeks

    Unless Palin just jumps off the edge this election is far from a done deal. If she exceeds expectations she IS the news cycle for the next week.

    voiceofreason2 (f0f6bb)

  9. Amy Holmes posts an insightful look at the need for candidates to be trained in stagecraft. Its one thing to memorize company lines and deliver, its quite another to be at ease and effective in that delivery while in front of a camera. Whether Palin has had that sort of training or just had her brain filled with endless facts, we’ll soon find out.

    Being on camera is very different than being in the political trenches. A person can know exactly how to strategize against an opponent, be perfectly decisive in political matters, and not know how to command a debate stage or an on-camera interview. Turning in a compelling, likeable, and engaging performance is in large measure a physical and psychological process that’s hard to master, and hard to make look easy. I’ve read that even Robert De Niro rarely gives on-camera interviews because he finds them so nerve wracking. Gone is the mesmerizing thespian who knows every trick of the trade. He locks up and stutters and mumbles. Just “being himself” is excruciating.

    Candidates need coaches who understand the performance aspect of the job and who take no shame in embracing it. Unfortunately, there are very few in DC’s political press offices who have that background. There are lots of people who’ve engineered interviews, manipulated reporters, know a lot about politics and, thus, are considered “media pros.” Maybe they’ve even become regular talking heads. But they don’t know how to help a candidate become a compelling performer. And the candidate doesn’t know either. They’ve been going on instinct. So, you get coaching, and cramming, and criticism that ends up doing more harm than good. Believe me.

    Dana (973491)

  10. A lot of debate prep is given over to mastering another basic rule: never make the rookie’s mistake of actually trying to answer the question you are asked. Candidates are told instead to quickly “pivot” into their central campaign message whenever possible.

    Yet more advice from the “elites” that is worthless. Americians are tired of spin. If someone would actually answer a question I think american may elect them King/Queen for life.

    unseen (f8f32d)

  11. unseen,

    Love ya, but you obviously missed the first presidential debate this year.

    Karl (1b4668)

  12. Sorry – But Give me a break….you are too stressed to watch??? Do we want another Quayle or for that matter another Cheney??? Cheney has re-defined the position. We need a qualified person in that position.

    H. McAllester (113bef)

  13. So, let me get this straight. It is imperative to have a qualified VP, but not that imperative to have a qualified President?

    JD (f7900a)

  14. unseen,

    Love ya, but you obviously missed the first presidential debate this year.

    Comment by Karl — 10/2/2008 @ 5:33 pm

    don’t believe the polls, the reaction after the debate said it all. Everyone though McCain won hands down. It wasn’t until some polls from CBS “fake but accurate” came out that people started to say Obama won. The national daily tracking polls didn’t move much but they did show McCain gaining a pt or two. until the economy came up again.

    Plus McCain is not Palion

    unseen (f8f32d)

  15. Cheney has an incredible influence on the President. NO – I do not want a VP that will deny my right to choose. Oh yeah…in regards to the first Presidential debate – McCain was a condescending A-hole. He did not even know the difference between strategy and tactic. Strategy is a long term plan versus Tactic is a short term plan. In case you did not know….

    H. McAllester (113bef)

  16. NO – I do not want a VP that will deny my right to choose.

    Evidence that Gov. Palin would do this? This is a standard Leftist canard.

    JD (f7900a)

  17. I was fine w/ Romney as VP choice but the problem always was that part of Bain capital’s turnaround strategy involved layoffs. Sure, that prevented more layoffs down the road, but commercials of displaced worker after displaced worker (“while Romney made tens of millions for his fat cat investors”, the ad would no doubt say) would have gone down extremely poorly in this environment.

    Sean P (e57269)

  18. Palin had a lousy answer on the subprime lending. Nobody held a gun to anybody’s head to take out a mortgage that they could not afford. Fuck, that pisses me off.

    JD (f7900a)

  19. SP is on record as pro-life. She is the bait for the ultra conservative wing. see below for the definition to Canard. In my opinion – you did not meet this standard.

    Canard is a French word for a duck, and is often used in English to refer to a deliberately false story, originating from an abbreviated form of an old French idiom, “vendre un canard à moitié,” meaning “to half-sell a duck.” In French it can also mean a journal. It may refer to:
    Canard (aeronautics), flight control surfaces mounted at the front of an aircraft or an aircraft bearing such surfaces
    Le Canard enchaîné, a satirical French newspaper. The newspaper itself gave birth to another meaning for canard: newspaper.

    H. McAllester (113bef)

  20. So, H. you should be able to show us where she took affirmative steps, as Mayor or Governor, to take that choice away from the citizens. You cannot, because she has not.

    JD (f7900a)

  21. Correct – but that is her opinion. Which is a voting position for many people. I don’t want people to vote along this line.

    PS – I don’t wear lipstick unless it’s tasteful!!!!

    H. McAllester (113bef)

  22. This lady likes to talk TOO MUCH about HERSELF, and she isn’t really answering the questions, she is very evasive on alot of things, I would Never Want her as My President, and you people Should be thinking about this, what with McCain being alot older than most running presidents have been. I am a woman, and I Wouldn’t want My Destiny in this Female’s Hands.

    Angela (17cd5b)

  23. Evidence that Gov. Palin would attempt to deny americans the right to choose; her pro-life stance. Unfortunately, that also means she is NOT pro-choice (which is not a synonym to pro-abortion). Yes, abortion is not the right and or good option, but sometimes it is necessary. She would look to make women have the baby regardless of rape, incest, or health issues. Thats WRONG. She repeatedly beats around the bush when it comes to homosexuals.She is Anti-gay. Period. Her face just wrinkles up when mentioning ‘homosexuals’. Its evident that neither Obama or Mccain support gay marraige but atleast Obama gives full constitutional rights that heterosexual couples get, where McCain and Vladimir Palin clearly do not. It came to a simple yes or no as far as constitutional rights and what did she say..? ‘You asked if he supported gay marriage, where he says no..and yes, I agree.’ How in 2008 is it overlooked that she wanted to ban books. Even sought to fire the woman who refused to even consider it. Or that she kept earmarks to build a bridge to an island with the population of 50.
    She is clueless, uneducated, and small minded when it comes to recognizing, understanding and respecting an individuals right to difference, whether homosexual, Arab, or pregnant with health issues. Even though she is far younger than McCain, she is as out of touch with the proggressives and overall growth of the American people as McCain is. If Decrepid Mccain and vladimir palin take office, they’ll put gays, liberals, and pregnant teens in concentration camps (except her daughter and america’s BFF, the jews, ofcourse).

    Laila (2d58c5)

  24. The Obamabots are already out …

    Laila – You should be able to show that she has taken action, as Mayor or Governor, to take away those choices. You cannot because she has not.

    Gov. Palin did much better than I expected tonite, and people like Laila confirm my thoughts.

    JD (f7900a)

  25. I am listing to the Debate while I am on line and they could Debate all Night but the only words that keep going around in my head is Palin saying she relates to the 6 pack joe. I don’t know about you but, i really want more from a vice president then a 6 pack joe I live with the 6 pack joe all around me . and i don’t like it. mad mothers against drunk drivers . even though she never says a 6 pack of beer . I am sure she isn’t talking about root beer ??

    maria (deeffe)

  26. Palin had all of the advantages going into this debate. The public has low expectations of her, so it was going to be easy to impress them. She also knew that neither the moderator or Biden could attack her. Biden would look like a bully picking on a vulnerable woman while the moderator would be accused of favoritism since she has published a relatively favorable book about Obama. The only thing Palin has needed to do was rehearse how to bring up a canned attack against Biden at every possible opportunity.

    Biden can only grin and bear it like a man being slapped by a girl.

    Oh, and did anyone else notice Palin’s butt? I couldn’t help noticing due to the frequent ‘backside’ views offered by the cameras. That was very considerate of the media.

    Bryant Arms (b8f31a)

  27. maria – We are all better people for having read that drivel. Thank you for your efforts.

    JD (f7900a)

  28. She did better than you expected…I’m sure. She probably did better than McCain or anyone expected, why? Because she is just unfit and clueless.
    She did better than I expected too, yay her. But that does not make her any more suitable to be commander in cheif if 72 year old McCain happens to trip off a curb and break a hip, backbone, etc. and be hospitalized. God forbid.
    Regardless of whether she has taken that sort of action as governer of little wasilla, this is still her position that she stands firmly by and would have more power to see it enforced if she were vice president of the united states of america. Especially since McCain has made it clear that he is ready to follow Bush’s footsteps and would probably give her the same amount of rope Cheney has.
    Obamabots? thats cute. Can we keep focus here.

    Laila (2d58c5)

  29. Thank heavens the liberal media is protecting Joey Biden and Hussein Obama. They will have a hard time knocking her down anymore.

    Joe Biden, licked his eyebrows, showed off his teeth and had a vicous look as she field dressed him. ”’

    Typical Whte Person (e84912)

  30. governer of little wasilla

    You are a bright one.

    this is still her position that she stands firmly by and would have more power to see it enforced if she were vice president of the united states of america.

    Do explain. This should be enlightening.

    JD (f7900a)

  31. Laila – Please, let’s keep focus. What is your native language. Have you been in this country a long distance.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  32. JD Palin- Did better than what? it wasn’t hard to do better than she has done in the past. she is a very pretty lady and we need to see be on that . we need to really see what she is bringing to the table. Its really nice to see so many people talking the time to speak out on how they feel. after all america is our country . we are so lucky to live in such a country .

    maria (deeffe)

  33. she is a very pretty lady and we need to see be on that

    Did you just learn English last week?

    JD (f7900a)

  34. Maria – I don’t vote for someone because of their appearance or sex. My vote is too important for that. Are you planning to vote for Barack because he is black?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  35. what you need to know is that i am a American .. just like you !
    maybe because i don’t talk like you or write like you .
    I have 6 members of my family in Iraq . and I am proud of them they are there fighting the good fight for us to have this right!! I just want some one in office that really cares for our needs . so you can Laugh the way i say things or write .that dosen’t make me less than anyone else !!

    maria (deeffe)

  36. Daleyrocks – I really am not sure who i am voting for I really liked Palin the very first time i heard her but, then it went down hill from there.
    white, Black , Green or what Ever . I will vote for the one I think that will keep us safe and Helps us to go back to that strong america that we are known for .

    maria (deeffe)

  37. if the goal of his strategy was to get his ass kicked by a grrrl on live TV, then, yes, he had the right strategy, ’cause that’s what happened.

    i guess when you spend 35 or so years in a whore house, you forget how things are on the outside. %-)

    redc1c4 (27fd3e)

  38. #18

    The easy answer is to simply go back to requiring people to put 10% down on a mortgage – no exceptions. Accomplishes two things 1. subprime loans as they have been done lately reduced greatly 2. Savings rates will go up as a result

    voiceofreason2 (590c85)

  39. Comment by voiceofreason2 — 10/3/2008 @ 6:03 am

    Requiring a down payment would go a long way towards eliminating the sub-prime mess; but, I think that you would have to have major changes to CRA to do that, for that is where the base of the problem lies.

    AOracle (44565b)

  40. Interesting cast of Trolls here – not only grammatically – challenged, they’ve put in everything plus the kitchen sink.

    – Palin’s going to deny the right to choose
    – my entire family’s serving in Iraq
    – I’m surrounded by trailer park trash, and I know Trailer Park Trash when I see it.

    Beautiful – job well done, Trolls!

    Dmac (e639cc)

  41. In case you wanna see all of the Palin gaffes up until the debate then check this out. Every wonderful little nugget of truth one on page. I never even knew about a few of these. I’ve made it my homepage now.

    TseeBaeng (c50762)

  42. Tsee – Can I subscribe to your newsletter?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  43. VOR – I concur. That is a great start.

    Dmac – It is an interesting lot, to be sure.

    JD (f7900a)

  44. trolls, another cute one. I like Obamabots better. sounds less bitch-like than Palinians or Mcgrampsies.
    Yes, Biden had the better debate strategy. Which wasnt too hard considering all she did was big herself up and talk about how she is sooo for tax breaks for the middle class because she’s so middle class. Spare me the elevator music. shes bulshit and lies.

    Laila (2d58c5)

  45. Or Bosniacs.

    Thank you, Laila. We are better people for having read that.


    JD (f7900a)

  46. Laila – Do you and TseeBaeng and maria all live or go to school together or something?

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

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