Well, the "make someone look bad by quoting 'em directly" strategy is going to be somewhat harder to use after Sarah Palin's generally poised and confident performance in the debate. Did Tina Fey actually help the Republican ticket by helping to lower expectations for tonight? I and my friends with whom I watched the debate had to admit we were pleasantly surprised by Palin--we'd figured she'd be much more of a deer in the headlights. Yes, she evaded a lot of the questions, but at least she's mastered the political art of gracefully transitioning from the moderator's question to what she really wants to talk about.
That said, I don't think she delivered a knockout performance, and when Joe Biden got choked up talking about the loss of his first wife and child, I thought "That's it, he just won the debate right there." Unlike Palin smilingly proclaiming that she is a "hockey mom," this moment didn't feel like a cheap appeal to American parents, and unlike John McCain describing his years in Vietnam for the hundredth time (though it's still a moving story, don't get me wrong), it was more powerful because I think a lot of people weren't aware of this about Biden. It humanized him--he's not just "that talkative and gaffe-prone Senator" anymore.
I also thought that Biden made the right decision to repeat "McCain" and "Bush" and avoid personally attacking Palin; that way, no one can accuse him of being unfair to or contemptuous of her. (He even avoided calling her "Sarah," which might have been seen as patronizing, though she happily called him "Joe." Funny, how these double-standards work...)
One thing I'm worried about, though, is Biden's answer to the final question of the debate: when Ifill asked if he'd ever changed his position on something during his time in office, he responded that he once thought that judicial appointees deserved to be approved as long as they were intelligent and had a clean record, but he then realized that he also needed to take their judicial philosophies into consideration and vote against judges whose ideology he disagreed with. I admire Biden for his honesty, but I worry that the Republicans will slam him because he admitted in front of millions of viewers that he supports "activist judges."
Well, we'll see how it plays out. 32 days till the election! (and register to vote if you haven't done so already--many states have a registration deadline of Oct. 4!)