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What the media are saying about the debate

The vice-presidential debate drew a wide variety of comments and reactions from media around the country. Here’s a sampling:

Susan Page writes in USA Today:

“Instead, the two vice presidential candidates delivered a fierce, fast-talking back-and-forth with tougher criticism than the presidential contenders traded in their first debate last week. Palin chided Biden but reserved her harshest words for Barack Obama, calling him ‘downright dangerous’ for being open to meeting with rogue leaders and ‘reckless, reckless’ in criticizing U.S. incidents in Afghanistan. Biden rarely focused on Palin — he did make a passing reference to Alaska’s notorious ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ — and instead targeted McCain as ‘out of touch’ with the economic concerns of middle-class Americans and offering no significant change from Bush administration policies that have led to stalemate in the Middle East and five years of war in Iraq. …Both candidates exuded confidence and determination — a victory of sorts for Palin, the first-term Alaska governor performing on equal terms with the six-term Delaware senator. Neither made a major obvious gaffe, and both spoke so quickly and relentlessly that the encounter surely scored a record word count in the annals of national debates.”

Dan Balz writes in the Washington Post:

“But the Palin who showed up for Thursday’s debate against Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. was anything but defensive. In a fast-paced exchange about a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, she was the aggressive campaigner who in the first weeks of her candidacy had so energized the Republican faithful. As a result, what was touted as a moment of truth for Palin instead turned into a lively and civil argument between the two vice presidential nominees over the policies and records of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. For 90 minutes, they sparred over Iraq and Afghanistan, energy and global warming, the economy and taxes, and which candidate would do more to protect the middle class.”

Adam Nagourney of the New York Times put the debate in the broader campaign perspective:

“It was not a tipping point for the embattled Republican presidential ticket, the bad night that many Republicans had feared. But neither did it constitute the turning point the McCain campaign was looking for after a stretch of several weeks in which Senator Barack Obama seemed to be gaining the upper hand in the race. Even if he no longer has to be on the defensive about Ms. Palin, Mr. McCain still faces a tough environment with barely a month until the election, as he acknowledged hours before the debate by effectively pulling his campaign out of Michigan, a Democratic state where Mr. McCain’s advisers had once been optimistic of victory.”

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times was not as kind to either participant:

“Republicans can now remove their hands from their eyes. Gov. Sarah Palin shared a stage with Sen. Joe Biden and for 90 minutes skirted the edge of the abyss but avoided the plunge. Luckily for her, their debate Thursday night avoided serious civics — no questions about Supreme Court rulings and only the briefest exposition on what constitutes the vice presidency. She did nothing to arrest her slide from phenomenon to embarrassment, but her conservative supporters, many jumping ship in recent days, can take solace that she correctly pronounced the names of several world leaders. In avoiding catastrophe, she was aided by Biden, whose looping answers drifted along a current known only to him. His best friend was the clock.”

Laura Meckler and Christopher Cooper write in the Wall Street Journal:

“Gov. Palin brought to the Washington University stage a homespun tone that she has showcased on the campaign trail. Asked about the economy, she suggested talking to a parent at a soccer game. ‘I’ll betcha you’re going to hear some fear in that parent’s voice,’ she said. Asked who was to blame for the subprime-lending crisis, she said, ‘Darn right, it was the predator lenders.’

“Sen. Biden delivered a withering critique of Sen. McCain’s economic agenda, and noted that as the economic crisis was spilling over, Sen. McCain called the economy fundamentally strong, only to call it a crisis later that same day. ‘It does point out he’s out of touch,’ Sen. Biden said.”

Jeremy Pelofsky of Reuters notes Biden’s reference to the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere”:

“Biden tried to link the health care plan offered by Palin and presidential hopeful John McCain to Palin’s past support of a now-famous congressional earmark to fund a bridge to a small island that was labeled the ‘Bridge to Nowhere.’

“‘So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the ‘Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere,'” Biden said.”

Fact checks

Several news organizations provided fact checks on the debate and found a number of areas where both candidates hedged the facts. Here are two:

The Associated Press

USA Today

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