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Editorial: Palin, Biden stand strong

OK, who was the body double posing as Sarah Palin for the past two weeks and why was that person trying to make the GOP vice presidential candidate sound so vapid?
Much to the relief of running mate John McCain and the rest of the Republican Party, Palin held her own against Sen. Joe Biden in the vice presidential debate Thursday night, unlike her interviews with Katie Couric et al. With expectations set low going into the debate, Palin soared high with colloquial terms ó “doggone it” ó and Ronald Reagan imagery ó “there you go again.” The Palin charm was probably not enough to win over many new supporters. But much like her convention speech, her debate performance is likely to rally the party faithful and lift their spirits after a dismal dip in the polls. Palin stuck to her message, vigorously cut all ties to the blundering Bush administration ó chiding Biden for looking backwards ó and painted McCain as the maverick who can set things right.
What she did not do several times was answer the questions moderator Gwen Ifill asked, and she admitted as much. Palin stuck to what she knew or had rehearsed. While her folksy ways might win over hearts ó and give comedian Tina Fey fresh material ó Biden outshone her several times by pointing out inconsistencies in McCain’s record, from voting against funding for troops in Iraq to potentially increasing families’ health care costs by taxing workers’ health care premiums.
Equally impressive was Biden’s ability to stay on point, even though moderator Ifill said the senator was known for his lack of discipline. Biden joked that he was glad Ifill mentioned only one flaw. Asked about her weakness in the area of political experience, Palin pointed to her work as a regulator, mayor and Alaska governor and described her lack of Washington experience as a strength ó all familiar lines by now. In talking about offshore drilling, she dismissed the opposition as “East Coast politicians,” further broadening the scope of her disdain.
The debate covered a wide spectrum of issues ó energy, climate change, the war, foreign policy ó and Palin scored a victory of sorts by not falling on her face. She remained poised, direct, down-to-earth and smiling. But Biden stood tall also, and he clearly drew on a deeper well of knowledge about national policy and the world. John McCain and Barack Obama both can feel good about their running mates today. On to next Tuesday, when the presidential candidates themselves debate again.

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