There may be signs of trouble for Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign, but Sarah Palin proved on Thursday that she’s no pushover.
McCain’s running mate did not self-destruct as some conservatives had feared she might — and some on the other side had hoped she would — during her debate with Democrat Joseph Biden in St Louis.
True, Biden stuck to the questions and showed his command of the facts.
And he defended Barack Obama and attacked McCain vigorously.
“Nine o’clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o’clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis. That doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he’s out of touch,” the senator from Delaware said.
True, Palin, whose performance in recent television interviews had raised questions about her readiness to be a heartbeat from the presidency, did not — or could not — stick to the subject all the time. But she stayed on message. She spoke about her “track record of reform” as governor of Alaska and her “team of mavericks with John McCain, also with his track record of reform, where we’re known for putting partisan politics aside to just get the job done.”
The debate touched on the war in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, energy policy, global warming, same-sex marriage and the powers of the vice-presidency but focused on the faltering economy. Both appealed to middle-class America.
“We’re going to focus on the middle class, because it’s — when the middle class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does well, not just focus on the wealthy and corporate America,” Biden said.
Palin said, “Let’s commit ourselves (to) just everyday American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation.”
She did not hesitate to distance her ticket from the Bush administration. “There have been huge blunders in the war. There have been huge blunders throughout this administration,” she said.
But when Biden tried to pin her down, Palin quipped: “For a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that’s where you’re going.”
However, Palin failed to charm the Americans, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll of debate watchers.
Only 26 per cent of those surveyed said the 44-year-old former beauty pageant runner-up was more intelligent in the debate compared to the 57 per cent who chose Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Biden, 65, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the poll of 611 adult Americans, who tuned in to watch it.
Overall, 51 per cent viewers said Biden did the best job in the debate, while 36 per cent gave the nod to Palin. However 84 per cent of the debate watchers said she did better than expected.
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week, six out of 10 adults saw Palin as lacking the experience to be president. It was not immediately clear how much her performance in the debate would help.
Meanwhile, with surveys showing Obama building a strong lead in Michigan, regarded as a battleground state, McCain’s campaign said it was scaling back operations there. Michigan has 17 electoral votes.