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So, How’d She Do?

It’s safe to say that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin far exceeded the extremely low expectations that most people had for her going into Thursday’s debate.

She made a real effort to go out of her way to play up the “folksy mom/Joe Six-Pack/Washington outsider” angle. Some will find that annoying. But if the anecdotes appearing in news articles on Palin rallies are to be believed, a lot of people — particularly women — see themselves in her. The folksiness probably endears her to these people.

Palin displayed a real propensity for not answering questions, however, choosing instead to steer away from troublesome issues — most notably the question on mortgages, which she directed back to energy. This probably bothers pundits far more than it does normal people — that is, those who don’t ingest news all day as part of their jobs.

For people who follow the campaign casually, those who may catch the evening news and debates like this, I would think Palin’s performance was probably pretty impressive. True, she didn’t answer a lot of questions, but she was poised, confident and assertive in the answers she did give. When she spoke, she directed her words straight at the camera — to talk to people in their living rooms.

She never strayed far from the McCain campaign talking points, except maybe on Darfur and her apparent support for some gay rights. While she didn’t make any huge mistakes, she repeated some debunked claims — but at this point, is that much of a surprise?

In light of her recent disastrous interviews with CBS’ Katie Couric, Palin performed about as well as could be expected. Will many undecided voters choose Sen. John McCain based on tonight’s debate? Probably not. But Palin pulled herself back into the game, after she was hanging by a thread — and some who were concerned about her abilities may give the ticket another look.

Ultimately, she did what she needed to do. Did she win? I certainly wouldn’t say so. On substance, you have to give it to Sen. Joe Biden. But when you factor in things like style and expectations, it wasn’t a huge, decisive blow-out — and that, in itself, is success.

What do you think?

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