Sarah Palin won the debate with Joe Biden because she came across as the Ronald Reagan candidate.
Like Reagan, Palin projected pride in America, optimism about the future, and determination to reform the government and vanquish our enemies.
Like Reagan, she was at times self-deprecating. Like Reagan, she took a swipe at the mainstream media. And like Reagan, she made it clear she was not afraid to take views contrary to conventional wisdom in Washington.
Palin immediately displayed her confidence and showed who was boss by asking Biden, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” While Palin did not display the intricate knowledge that Biden did, she was impressively well-informed and enunciated a bright bottom line on each issue. Her values and principles came across as consistent and understandable.
While Biden avoided any gaffes, his delivery was like Al Gore’s: pedantic and therefore boring. While Biden obfuscated on issues such as whether Barack Obama had said he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to negotiate without preconditions, he was far more truthful than John Kerry was in his debate with George W. Bush. But Biden detracted from his performance by occasionally smirking as Palin spoke.
As Palin suggested, Biden’s constant attacks on the Bush administration during the debate did nothing to illuminate what he and Obama would do in the future.
Despite concerns that moderator Gwen Ifill, who has written a book that favors Obama, would stack the deck in favor of Biden, she was a consummate professional. It is refreshing to see a journalist act like a journalist instead of a prosecutor. The result was an informative and entertaining debate.
Palin made a convincing case that, when it comes to change, she and McCain have done it. She could have added that Obama has mainly changed his mind. When she referred to Biden’s comment that paying higher taxes is patriotic, Palin illuminated the distinction between her outlook and his.
“In the middle class of America, which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic,” she said. “Patriotic is saying, government, you know, you’re not always the solution. In fact, too often you're the problem; so, government, lessen the tax burden . . . on our families and get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow and thrive and prosper.”
When it comes to the economic crisis, Palin issued a call to arms that resonates with everyday Americans.
“I think we need to band together and say never again,” she said. “Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars. We need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in debt.”
Then she appealed to the bedrock values espoused by Reagan. “Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card,” she said. “Don't live outside of our means. We need to make sure that as individuals, we’re taking personal responsibility through all of this.”
As they have with President Bush, many on the left and in the media have demonized the Alaska governor as an intolerant redneck. But while Palin firmly said she considers marriage to be between a man and a woman, she noted that many of her friends have diverse lifestyles. In fact, while she did not say this, one of her closest female friends is gay.
Most of all, Palin came across as genuine and real. In a convincing way, she referred to her family as ordinary Americans. Her frequent positive statements about America were heartfelt and so much in contrast to the hate-filled statements we hear constantly from the left. Even Biden seemed to glance at her at times with admiration.
Fittingly, Palin closed with a reference to Reagan saying that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction.
Palin’s performance confirmed McCain’s vice presidential choice. In the end, people make their decisions on whom to vote for based in large part on character and values. They want to know if the candidate is genuine.
In the St. Louis debate, Palin showed she is.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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