My brother called me last night before the big debate. "If Palin does really bad tonight, she could lose the election for McCain," he said. Many of the pundits said similar things before the debate began. One commentator said Republicans were watching the debates by peeking at their television sets from behind their couches, hoping it wouldn't be the end of their presidential campaign this year. But this morning they were saying, "Whew! Sarah Palin did fine."
While many of the polls and pundits say Joe Biden won the debate, Palin didn't embarrass herself as commentators said she had been doing for a week, as snippets of her interviews with Katie Couric and others came out day after day and made many Americans grimace. Even people who don't support Palin or McCain were secretly hoping she would bounce back and redeem herself by sounding only like a newcomer to the national political stage -- not somebody who was intellectually lost on it and quickly plummeting into panic. Last night Palin regained her footing, sounding like the fresh, if still inexperienced, conservative populist that won the hearts of the conservative base at the Republican National Convention.
The repetition of the Couric interview snippets, interspersed with the "Saturday Night Live" parodies of them, was beginning to feel like the endless reruns of Jeremiah Wright's greatest hits video. Enough already! Last night got us back to the more serious and sober evaluations of the presidential choices in this election campaign, which is what vice-presidential debates are supposed to be about, and the public estimation of whether the VP candidates will really help a new president to govern and whether they are prepared to step in if the unthinkable happens. Two of my favorite columnists, David Brooks and E.J. Dionne, weighed in this morning with their opinions on those questions, one from either side, and I found both pieces helpful. Take a look.