Shallow Palin Survived Debate on "Talking Points," Won't Help McCain

The Times thinks the Palin-Biden vice presidential debate will soon be forgotten. Would it feel the same way if Palin had flopped?

Sarah Palin may have pleased Republicans and surprised Democrats with her strong performance inThursday night's vice presidential debates, but her "carefully scripted talking points" and shallow stylewere the opening theme of Friday's lead story by Patrick Healy, "Cordial but Pointed, Palin and Biden Face Off."

Gov. Sarah Palin used a steady grin, folksy manner and carefully scripted talking points to punch politely and persist politically at the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night, turning in a performance that her rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., sought to undermine with cordially delivered but pointed criticism.

Healy returned to the theme in paragraph five:

She mostly reverted to and repeated talking points, like referring to Mr. McCain as a "maverick" and the Republican ticket as a "team of mavericks," while not necessarily quelling doubts among voters about her depth of knowledge.

In her semi-positive TV Watch column on Palin's performance, "A Candidate Recaptures Her Image," Alessandra Stanley also said that Palin "stuck to practiced talking points."

Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney's front-page "News Analysis," "Surviving One Test," damned Palin and the McCain ticket with faint praise.

Gov. Sarah Palin made it through the vice-presidential debate on Thursday without doing any obvious damage to the Republican presidential ticket. By surviving her encounter with Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and quelling some of the talk about her basic qualifications for high office, she may even have done Senator John McCain a bit of good, freeing him to focus on the other troubles shadowing his campaign.

Yet Nagourney thought it would do McCain little good in the end:

Short of a complete bravura performance that would have been tough for even the most experienced national politician to turn in - or a devastating error by the mistake-prone Mr. Biden, who instead turned in an impressively sharp performance - there might have been little Ms. Palin could have done to help Mr. McCain.

Nagourney concluded:

That, [former George W. Bush campaign strategist Matthew] Dowd said, was why an adequate performance from Ms. Palin Thursday night fell short of what Mr. McCain needed and will probably be forgotten before the presidential candidates meet for their second debate next Tuesday in Nashville.

Of course, if Palin had flubbed the debate, the Times would have reminded its readers of the fact from now until November 4.

Lastly, the Times ran the debate through its fact-checking feature "Check Point," and found Palin "inaccurate on several levels" onthe idea that Obama would mandate government-run health care. Palin also "made assertions about Senator Obama's policies that are not correct" on tax increases. Nothing Biden said was characterized as a misstatement, though McCain campaign blogger Michael Goldfarb found 14. Even, which has been accused of having a pro-Obama tilt, found some Biden goofs during the debate. Here are two the group found:

Biden incorrectly said "John McCain voted the exact same way" as Obama on a controversial troop funding bill. The two were actually on opposite sides.

Biden wrongly claimed that McCain had said "he wouldn't even sit down" with the president of Spain. Actually, McCain didn't reject a meeting, but simply refused to commit himself one way or the other during an interview.