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Palin Peanut Farm, Droppin’ the G’s Livebloggin’

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Aww, there’s nothing quite like sitting in a bar alone with a laptop.

I’m saving some tables at the Peanut Farm Bar & Grill for a few friends I’ve met along the way up here. This place looks ideal. We’ve got nine full-size projector screens with Fox News on and six flat screens also tuned into Fox.

I’d expect an interesting crowd, as Gov. Sarah Palin’s sister watched Palin give her famous Republican convention speech here.

I’ll be posting dispatches as we lead up to the debate with what the locals are saying and of course live items during the debate. For example, two people just sat down at the table next to me wearing T-shirts featuring Sarah Palin riding a polar bear in front of the Washington Capitol Building.

One of the things I’ll be watching for tonight is whether she ditches the McCain-camp rhetoric and presents herself as the Palin this bar knows.

4:28 pm (Alaska Time) — I’ve been joined by a North Slope electrician who agrees Palin’s been a popular governor, though, it’s not hard to be popular with a $10 billion surplus. Ouch.

4:32 pm (Alaska Time) — The bar is filling up. The table to my right is a group of people in their early 30s I’d say. Behind them there’s a mixed group, perhaps a family, ranging in age from 20 something to 50 something.

4:43 pm (Alaska Time) — Now we’re discussing conspiracy theories. Will Palin’s hair be down to have a mic in her ear? Perhaps she’ll have notes on written on her bandaged hand. The chatter around is mostly speculation. How’s she going to look? It’s really filing up in here.

4:47 pm — Update: The T-shirts referenced above of Palin riding a polar bear in front of the capitol say Attila the Mom.

4:58 pm — I was just handed a “Fight Night Bingo” sheet with Palin’s face in the center square. Ah, it’s photocopied from Newsweek. The other squares feature words and phrases like “experience,” “PTA,” “earmark” and “working people.”

4:59pm — Hey, a source I interviewed just sat at my table. Ivan Moore, Anchorage pollster. To my left, local reporter.

5:02pm — Here we go.

5:03pm — Bailout bill question. Was this the best of Washington or the worst of Washington? Biden says neither. It’s an example of failure of the economic policy of the last eight years. He outlines Sen. Barack Obama’s four requirements for a bailout.

5:05 pm — Palin is working her way from anecdote to policy. She seems a little nervous and ends noting that McCain suspended his campaign last week.

5:08pm — Mavericks! Everyone reaches for their beer.

5:09 pm — The liberal blogger sitting next to me took issue with Palin’s “special interest” claims.

5:10pm — Wow, way to own it. Palin says “predator lender”

5:10pm — Palin’s response to economic woes met with a spattering of applause.

5:11pm — Biden goes after McCain on deregulation. He says tax cuts are needed for the middle class.

5:12pm — Palin hits back. Obama voted no on tax relief. Obama supported tax increases for people making $42,000 a year.

5:14pm — Biden says claim is false and now goes after Palin for not responding to the deregulation issue.

5:14pm — Oooh, she says she won’t answer! She’s going to speak straight to the American people! Now she claims McCain has pushed for regulation. Except, that’s not true.

5:16pm — They’ll do as well as they did under Ronald Reagan — bar cheers.

5:19pm — Biden hits back on small businesses. Most make less than $250,000 a year, they won’t get extra taxes. He raises $3.6 trillion by taxing your healthcare plan. Biden says 20 million Americans will be dropped from plans — “That’s what I call the ultimate bridge to nowhere!” Bar cheers.

5:22pm — Offshore tax shelters are unpatriotic. That got some cheers.

5:23pm — Palin directly addresses Biden. “I had to take on these oil companies…” She claims she btokr up a monopoly. (maybe a bit strong) But she’s sounding pretty good here. “Bless their hearts.” Obama voted for the energy plan, that I had to turn around and undo in “my own area of expertise and that’s energy!”

5:25 pm — Biden wants to know, what about McCain?

5:26pm — The corruption and the greed on Wall Street. Rear that head of abuse. We have John McCain to thank for bringing a bi-partisan effort…to do what’s right to fix this crisis…(I’m thinking she means the bailout bill that failed)

5:28pm — Biden says bankruptcy courts should be able to adjust the principle that you owe. Woa. That’s pretty bold. He wants to see not just the loan rate changed by bankruptcy judges, but what people owe.

5:29 pm — Wait, what? No thank you on mortgages? Back to energy. Lots of these people are into the energy talk.

5:30pm — Alaska knows global climate change is real. She says it’s caused by both man and cyclical changes. “I don’t want to argue to effect the impact..we have to encourage other nations…about effects of impacts..we’ve got to reduce admissions……..

5:32pm — Biden takes a breath, if you don’t understand what the cause is, you can’t come out with a solution. The cause is manmade.

5:34pm — Sen. McCain does support this, the chant is “drill baby, drill.” Palin is smiling. People here are drinking.

5:35pm — My record for 25 years on clean coal is clear. The only answer you have is oil.

5:36 pm — Same sex benefits? Yes for Biden. They have it here in Alaska. When the Supreme Court OKed it, Palin didn’t try to change it.

5:37 pm — I don’t support defining marriage between one man and one woman. A handful of tables clap and cheer loudly here.

5:38pm — Biden says he and Obama do not support redefining marriage. No clapping for him.

Agreement!

5:39pm — Palin repeats McCain’s party line. She sounds pretty good here.

5:42pn — Biden wants a timeline. There’s a distinction. We wil end this war. Lots of clapping.

5:42pm — We will not surrender in Iraq. LOTS of clapping at opposite tables. This sounds like Alaska’s Palin. She sounds great, feisty, sincere, authentic. Now she’s going after Biden. You said he wasn’t ready to be commander in chief!

5:44pm — He voted against the funding because it didn’t have a timeline in it. Let’s talk about who’s right and who’s wrong on Iraq, Biden says. God love him, but he’s been dead wrong…Barack Obama has been right.

5:45pm — I’m now being criticized for not watching the screen. Good point.

5:46pm — Palin is sounding quite a bit like President George W. Bush using broad imagery of “freedoms” and “women’s rights.”

5:51pm — Palin isn’t great on Israel policy specifics. I can promise you in a McCain-Palin administration that that commitment to Israel is there.

5:53pm — Biden calls Bush’s policy in Israel a “failure.”

5:54pm — Palin disagrees. She doesn’t think Bush’s policy has been a failure.

Palin suddenly shifts to talking about “putting government back on the side of the people.” “He’s been the maverick, he’s ruffled feathers.” I’m not sure if she’s still talking about Israel here.

5:55pm — Biden wants to know how any of these policies will be different than George Bush’s.

5:57pm — What’s the threshhold for the use of nuclear weapons? Unclear what her answer is here. She’s now talking about bringing a surge to Afghanistan. We’re fighting terrorists…we’re building schools for children…and we’ll win in Afghanistan also. Back to nuclear weapons… No answer on nuclear weapons.

5:59pm — Biden cites this story in response.

6:00pm — Spencer, is Palin going to be part 10 in your counterinsurgency series?

6:01 pm — Interventionism — Biden points to Bosnia. He supported, McCain opposed.

6:04 pm — Palin smiles as she swings at Biden on Iraq. She agrees on Darfur.

6:06pm — I don’t know if you want to cite Vietnam as an example of knowing how to “win” a war.

6:12pm — Palin thinks teachers should be paid more. It’s interesting here to hear her talk about no child left behind. Alaska has an abysmal high school graduation rate, particularly in rural schools attended by native Alaskans.

6:16pm — Woa woa woa. Which branch???? “We have a lot of flexibility in there.”

6:17pm — Article 1 of the Constitution defines the office of the vice president. It’s part of the executive branch. What a controversial interpretation. Calls Cheney’s interpretation “dangerous” — lots of applause.

6:23pm — Biden swings at the maverick idea. McCain has been no maverick on the things that matter to people. Bush’s deficit, SCHIP, college tuition, heating, maverick he is not on the important things.

6:28pm — Palin reiterates her stance on taxes. Interestingly, she wants to spend on infrastructure, but lower overall government spending.

Closing statements — Palin: We are so blessed and I have always been proud. We have to fight for our freedoms also. Freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We will fight for it. There is only one candidate who has fought for you and that is Sen. Jon McCain.

I can’t hear Biden over the cheering.

Biden: There’s a need for fundamental change on economic philosophy. It’s not CEOs and oil industry tax breaks. Biden says its mortgages, sending their kids to college, veterans rights. Ends saying “selfishly” may God protect our troops.

Well, there you have it. The big question tonight was: would Palin pull another Couric moment? The consensus at my table of journalists, bloggers, an electrician and a pollster: she didn’t. She actually resembled the gubernatorial candidate from 2006. She rambled and didn’t answer questions, but still sounded confident and collected. She smiled as she jabbed and dodged. Back in 2006, it didn’t matter that she wasn’t strong on the details, but her likable personality shown through. She also spoke strongly on her best issue, energy. (And changed the subject to energy when faced with a tougher topic.) All in all, a good show for her.

As for Biden, he did well, as was expected. He was clear and concise and sharp in his answers. He showed his rough-around-the-edgers personality. My only critique would be he could have won points hitting harder at Palin for dodging questions.

The next question to consider: will this debate change anybody’s mind? That’s tougher. We’ll have to watch the polls for that one.

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