5:48 p.m. PDT: I’m here for the next hour and 45 minutes, blogging during the debate between Sarah Palin and Joseph Biden. CNN’s Candy Crowley points out the obvious — that Palin is the one who has made this such a big deal, not just because John McCain picked her unexpectedly, but because of the doubts that have been raised about her following a series of interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. In recent days, Palin supporters and the McCain campaign have argued that the media’s treatment of her mistakes is a double standard, given that Biden has made his share of gaffes, including a recent statement that FDR addressed the nation on TV in 1929.
6:02 p.m.: Gwen Ifill shares what a lot of people forget about this debate: It will be much more structured than in previous matchups.
6:03: A more informal, charming Palin? She takes the stage, shakes Biden’s hand and asks him, "Hey, can I call you Joe?" Both are wearing lapel flag pins.
6:04: Palin looks into the camera — as Obama did on Friday and McCain did not. She shares a personal story of going to a soccer match and talking to parents. "I’ll betcha you are going to hear some fear in that parents’ voice," she says. She is trying to speak to the soccer moms, the hockey mom, the average Joe.
6:07: Both candidates seem nervous and rushed.
6:07: After Palin mentions McCain suspended his campaign, Biden hit McCain on his statement that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong."
6:09: On the blame for the economy: "Darn right it was the predator lenders," Palin says. With these "Fargo"-esque expressions, she is playing up populist connections, and making no bones about it. "Joe six pack and hockey moms, I think we need to band together and say never again."
6:11: Biden’s response on the economy is more pedantic, talking about regulation. Palin uses "darn right" in her rebuttal, then hits Obama on taxes.
6:13: Biden is not looking at the camera. I wonder if he notices that Palin has been in every one of her answers.
6:14: Palin is reciting a list of accomplishments as mayor and governor. I see a lot of preparation and eagerness to introduce himself to the audience — and Ifill even has to cut her off at one point.
6:16: Biden looks at the camera to charge that McCain is planning tax cuts for corporate America but not the middle class.
6:17: Palin makes her first attack at Joe Biden on his comment that paying taxes "is patriotic." There’s been a lot of speculation that she would hit him personally as a way of drawing him in to attacking her. The theory is that he’d be prone to a mistake or, even worse, would sound condescending.
6:20: Biden doesn’t appear to take the bait, other than to say about McCain’s health care plan, "I call that the ultimate bridge to nowhere."
6:22: "Unpatriotic," Biden emphasizes in citing examples of corporate shenanigans in avoiding paying taxes.
6:23: Palin emphasizes taking on oil companies, and hits Obama for giving tax breaks to the oil companies.
6:24: What would she take off the table because of the economic crisis? She can’t name anything, other than to "do what is right for the American people." She cites the fact that she has only been on the ticket for five weeks.
6:27: "Massive oversight," Palin promises, reflecting a big change from the deregulation environment drive, even from Republicans. She is driving home the point of McCain’s reformer credentials. One gaffe, I think: "It’s a toxic mess on main street that is affecting Wall Street."
6:29: Biden is much more at ease in offering details, while Palin does seem scripted when she recites details, and even reads off of notes. She is better, however, when talking about energy plans, or when sharing personal details of her own experience. Again, both candidates seem rushed, as if they are trying to unload all of the cramming that they have been doing in recent days.
6:32: Climate change. "I think it is man made," Biden says. Palin’s answer was just plain confusing, trying to reconcile past positions with the present. But she reciting so many details about the climate that it may help stem doubts that she’s just not smart.
6:34: "The chant is drill, baby, drill," Palin says, after Biden gets the McCain campaign slogan wrong.
"You have said no to anything in trying to find a domestic energy solution," she says.
6:36: Palin again hits Biden on a comment he made a rally about coal. "A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context," he says.
6:37: Same sex benefits? "Absolutely," Biden says, and says couples will get the same legal benefits as married couples.
Palin: She cites fears of a redefinition of marriage. "I am tolerant," she says, but she uses the word "choice" when talking about adults and their partners.
She and Biden agree in opposing same sex marriage.
6:42: Iraq: Palin hits Biden by using his words against him. She cites him calling Barack Obama’s vote on troop funding as "political."
6:43: Biden cites their plan, one that he notes is supported by al Maliki and pursued by Bush. But Palin calls it a "white flag of surrender."
6:45: She swings again, even hitting Biden with his comment that Obama was not ready. Biden keeps it on McCain, and will have none of it. "I love him, but he has been dead wrong on the fundamentals of the war."
6:46: What is the bigger threat — Israel or Pakistan? Biden on Pakistan: "There are 700 madrassas built along that border, we should be building schools to help them compete for the hearts and minds."
Palin cites an array of dangerous dictators, again raising Obama’s statement that he would meet with enemy foreign leaders. "That is beyond bad judgment, that is dangerous."
6:49: Biden does well, arguing that the candidate is so opposed to diplomacy that he recently said he would not meet with the prime minister of Spain.
6:54: Has Bush’s policy on Israel been a failure. No, Palin says, but "there have been huge blunders in this adminstration, as they have in any adminstration."
6:56: Nuclear weapons profileration? Palin is struggling. But then she switches to Afghanistan, saying "the surge principles of Iran have to be applied to Afghanistan."
6:58: Biden: "Our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principles will not work in Afghanistan."
7 p.m. Palin says that McClellan, the commanding general, says that the counter-insurgency can work in Afghanistan. She cites him by name, which should help allieviate some fears after the Couric interview.
7:02: Palin smiles at Biden, attacks him for voting for the war then turning against it, and says, "I watched those debates and I remember what those were all about."
7:11: Biden seems much more energized now that he did in the part of the debate.
7:12: "Say it ain’t so, Joe." "Doggone it." "God bless her." She even winks at her dad in the audience. "Here’s a shout out to all those at Gladyswood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching this debate." It’s a pure core-pone performance — and I worry that it may be overdoing it.
7:14: Where would she work as VP: Palin: "Energy independence" and children with special needs. Biden: I will be the point person on legislative initiatives, and he would be in the room with Barack during major decision making.
7:16: Vice president not part of the executive branch? "I do agree with him in that we have a lot of flexbility in there," Palin says. This may be a gaffe on her part. Biden cites that the constitution cites its explicitly. "Everyone should know that," Biden says. Is this patronizing? Biden directs his fire at Cheney, and doesn’t mention Palin.
7:20: "I will place my record and Barack’s record against John McCain’s and anyone else," Biden says. Then he goes into a very personal story of his families struggles, and his own struggles as a single parent. For the first time, he appears to even challenge Palin’s inference that he doesn’t know what it is like to raise kids. I didn’t see it, but he said it, and it was as if he was responding to Palin patronizing him. He even appeared to be choking up when talking about his kids.
7:25: Palin seems to be set off stride by Biden’s comments.
7:26: How change tone in Washington? Biden cites his experience in Washington in reaching across the aisle. Palin cites her family’s different political stripes, then goes into a litany of campaign planks.
7:30: Closing statement: "I like to answer these tough questions without the filter of the mainstream media." Then a personal appeal, "I’ve been there. I know what the hurts are."
7:31: Biden is making a personal appeal, too, speaking to the camera. It’s a little smoother than Palin’s last words.
Biden inquires about Ifill’s health.
7:36: On NBC, Chuck Todd says this is not a game changer. I agree. I think Biden started off weak, then came on strong. Palin came off strong, then struggled on some points. He predicts it will be forgotten in the next day.
Expectations, however, were so low, and there were no major blunders, so it is hard not to see how she didn’t gain. (One mistake" Calling the commander in Iraq, Gen. McKiernan as Gen. McClellan.)
Ferrero" "She has shown she is certainly capable of going toe to toe with a man."