Who won the debate?


msnbc hosts reacted instantly on-air to how they thought the debate went. Below are a few highlights:

Chris Matthews
For a while, I thought I was hearing recitation. She was more of a contestant than a candidate. I thought I was watching a spelling bee with some of Gov. Palin’s responses. It was so reciting, so automatic.

She said she wasn’t going to listen to Gwen Ifill tonight. She also said didn’t like “the filter of mainstream media,” which means she’s not going to do more serious interviews like Katie Couric.

I also thought it was interesting that Sarah Palin wanted to enlarge the constitutional role for the vice president. I’ve never heard anyone seek an office, and then ask to have its powers increased on their watch. That was extraordinary and requires more exploration for the media.

So, in essence, tonight, what a statement: “I’m not playing by the rules, and when I get elected I want more power in the office than it has had before.” There’s not too much humility there.

Pat Buchanan
Sarah Palin was sensational tonight. She not only met expectations, she wiped the floor with Joe Biden. She was personable, young, and exciting. She looked straight to the camera. I didn’t see a foot fault in the whole thing.

Of all the four candidates I’ve watched, she was the most  interesting and attractive of them all. I would take a look at the over-all impression of that hour and a half. Joe Biden was boring and Palin was exciting.

I sat with some Democratic ladies as I was watching, and they were all surprised at how well she did. I think there are conservatives and Republicans breathing a sigh of relief, saying, “Yes, we were nervous.” 

I think she has done a sensational job and she had recaptured that magic she had at the convention.

Rachel Maddow
I think Sarah Palin met the lower expectations of not being willing to discuss policy in too much substance or detail. On the higher expectations on personality and poise, I didn’t think she met them. She was certainly very folksy but in a frantic, gimmicky way.

I thought the moment when Joe Biden choked up, the way we’ve seen him do over the years on the Senate floor – about how he was not sure his children were going to pull through, he was referring to his son being injured in a car accident and losing his daughter awhile back – she ignored it, and then just talked about John McCain as a maverick. It was a talking point and she used them in a forced, inhuman kind of way. It was as if she was a character instead of someone you might like to spend time with.

She did make news by saying the power of the vice president ought to be expanded. That wouldn’t have been a big deal four years ago, but coming out of Vice President Dick Cheney and his legacy, her saying that – that’s news.

She also made a gaffe by calling the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan McCllelan instead of McKiernan. 

I don’t know, the next person that winks at me, I don’t think I’ll be able to take it.

Keith Olbermann
Gov. Sarah Palin did not crash, she did not burn, but she also did not answer the question.

Governor Palin began the debate with a request to keep things informal, asking Senator Biden at the handshake, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” From there, it was a short trip to attempting a connection with working class voters and the proverbial “Joe Six Pack.”

But in addition to viewing the actual debate questions as optional, Palin’s strategy when things got uncomfortable was to stray into energy no matter what the original topic.

Asked about her greatest  weakness, Governor Palin talked about her strengths and her marriage and her executive skills and the shining city on the hill.

Asked about Afghanistan, she got the name of the commander there wrong, misquoted him, and tried to scold Senator Biden for getting the quotes right.

Asked about Iraq, she got the number of troops there, wrong.

Asked about X, she answered about Y, and on at least one occasion said in advance she would not answer the moderator’s question.

VIDEO: Click here to watch more analysis.

The Governor of Alaska did not spontaneously combust, she did not say she’d get back to us…  in that sense, it was a triumph. And possibly, in no **other** sense.

The question tonight: Was it enough?  Was Governor Palin’s performance tonight the game-changer that was needed to reverse the downward slide of the Republican ticket?


Who won the debate?