So I was in the car and running to the radio station, and then I was at the station watching while getting my headphones on straight, and my initial thoughts went out over the air, but in case you're wondering:
I'm not sure Gwen Ifill was even in the room. She did no follow-ups and recited her very generic questions by rote.
Palin's expectations were rock-bottom, but they were so low that she had to spend a significant amount of time defending herself. She was folksy, appealing, engaging, but about an inch deep, with little more than a series of scripted talking points. If it was a 30-minute debate she probably could have made it through, but it was three times that length, and by the end the constant refrain of "the team of mavericks" and "we're going to put government on the side of the people" and "we'll fight greed and corruption on Wall Street" grew stale. The talking points often didn't fit the question, and she occasionally appeared nonresponsive. I imagine that her image as a conservative base magnet has been somewhat restored, and as she is the key to Republican's ground game hopes, that was enough.
But I should mention that this part made no sense:
I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies.
Hm? That's kind of gibberish.
Joe Biden was excellent throughout. Among what I appreciated were: his complete and utter takedown of John McCain's health care plan, articulating that finally for a national audience; his emotional answer about being a single parent and living through adversity; and his demolition of the myth of John McCain as a maverick. Joe Biden was debating two people tonight, George Bush and John McCain. And Palin wasn't doing a lot of defending either, really, so he landed some clean shots.
In short, Palin was probably at her best, as was Biden, and yet the snap polls all went for Biden. His message is winning out as people are more receptive to Democrats on the merits. I think Palin stopped the bleeding tonight, but it wasn't a game-changer. And unfair as it is, that's what she needed.
Ultimately the most important political news today was that McCain pulled out of Michigan.
UPDATE: Here's that health care portion. This needs to be an ad.