Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin held a generally cordial vice presidential debate Thursday evening as they battled to claim the title of change agent and promised to fix a broken Washington.
Palin touted her record as Alaska governor and pointed out that she rooted out government corruption, took on powerful oil companies, and worked across party lines to get legislations passed to benefit her constituency.
Meanwhile, Biden emphasized that he has a strong track record of bipartisan efforts and will work with his running mate, Barack Obama, to drastically change current policies regarding energy, tax policy, the Iraq war, and the war on terrorism.
Analysts say both Palin and Biden performed well and achieved their goals as they exuded confidence and looked relaxed.
Among those who praised Palin's performance, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was glad to see "the real" Palin back.
"The Sarah we saw tonight was the same Sarah from the GOP convention - the real Sarah. She is back," Dannenfelser said in a statement just after the debate. The Susan B. Anthony List is a nationwide network of pro-life women.
Matt Barber, director of Cultural Affairs with Liberty Counsel, who has condemned mainstream media's attacks on Palin, said Palin may have gotten the last laugh Thursday "by delivering a sound victory over Joe Biden in the Vice Presidential debate."
"Her wit, confidence and folksy demeanor was reminiscent of another great maverick, Ronald Reagan. In just 90 minutes, she managed to shatter the false bimbo image the mainstream media have spent weeks meticulously fabricating," he commented.
Republican political commentators on FOX News say Palin won the debate while CNN and CBS News/Knowledge Networks polls show that their viewers sided with Biden.
Throughout the evening, Palin frequently inserted the words “mavericks” and “reform” into her responses as she tried to portray herself as a Washington outsider and an average American.
“We’re known for putting partisan politics aside to just get the job done,” she said of herself and running mate John McCain.
But Biden charged McCain of agreeing with unpopular President George W. Bush on nearly every policy, and argued that electing McCain would be voting for the status quo.
McCain's policy "is the same as George Bush's, and you know where that policy has taken us," Biden criticized.
The first half of the evening’s debate focused on domestic issues - such as energy independence, climate change, the economic crisis, and tax policy – and then shifted to foreign affairs such as the war in Iraq, Iran and its nuclear ambition, eliminating the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and U.S.-Israel relations.
But during a brief point in the debate, the two vice presidential candidates discussed their views on the rights of same-sex couples.
Both Biden and Palin agree that same-sex couples should have the same civil rights benefits as heterosexual couples in terms of hospital visitation, property ownership, life insurance policies, etc.
Palin carefully clarified that she is tolerant although she may disagree with people, including close friends, on the homosexuality issue, which in an earlier interview she has called a “choice.”
“[N]o one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties,” Palin said Thursday.
“But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means.”
Opponent Biden also clearly stated that neither he nor Obama “support redefining from a civil side what constitutes as marriage.”
“We do not support that,” he stated. “That is basically the decision to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.”
In her concluding remarks, Palin again hammered on the ideas of change and a team of mavericks.
“People aren't looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years,” she promoted.
“He's taken shots left and right from the other party and from within his own party, because he's had to take on his own party when the time was right, when he recognized it was time to put partisanship aside and just do what was right for the American people,” Palin added.
In protest, Biden countered that although he loves McCain, the Arizona senator has been “no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives.”
He ticked off a list of criticisms that included siding with Bush’s enormous budget proposals, voting against new health care measures, and not supporting tax cuts for parents sending their kids to college.
“So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table,” Biden argued.
The debate on Thursday was the first and only vice presidential debate of the election season. It took place at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and was moderated by PBS’s Gwen Ifill.
Next week, the second presidential debate will be held between Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain on Oct. 7.