LIVE BLOG NOW – The 2008 Vice-Presidential Debate

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The first, and only, debate between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin is happening now at Washington University in St. Louis. The debate has been slotted as a “showdown” by several media outlets, and could garner higher ratings than last Friday’s presidential debate.

Readers, feel free to join Missourian Public Life reporters Mary Elise DeCoursey, Molly Harbarger, Holly Jackson, Shelby Prucha-Mitchell, Casey Smith, and Spencer Willems in the comments section below as we fact check and make commentary on the candidate’s responses and candor during their debate about domestic and foreign policy.

MU alumni Jill Hampton will be at the debate venue and will Twitter live for Fox 2 News KTVI St. Louis. See her Twitter page for a unique perspective from inside the debate hall.

For more information on the candidates and the issues see: Biden’s Senate Biography and Palin’s Gubernatorial Biography.,, and are good non-partisan resources concerning the election.

Food for thought: Cup an ear for the questions from the moderator, PBS’s Gwen Ifill. Today, some commentators reported Ifill could be a biased moderator due to her book “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” The book follows the history of black politicians and features Obama’s candidacy. Ifill and supportive colleagues say she will remain a professional journalist throughout the debate.

UPDATE: The link for Jill’s Twitter site was incorrect. It has now been fixed.

108 Responses

  1. Welcome everyone – economics has already taken a front seat in the debate, much like it did in the first debate between McCain and Obama.

  2. This is an interesting article by Nicholas Kristoff, a New York Times columnist who gives a more global perspective on the economy and is an interesting counterpoint to Biden’s comments about not letting CEOs profit from the bailout.

  3. The debate seems to be about McCain so far.

  4. How would Biden reverse the polarization of modern day politics?
    Biden answered by insisting his record reflects a history of non-partisanship. He then went on to undercut the current President, and assault McCain and his party’s positions. Is it me, or is that just more of the same partisan bickering?

  5. Gov. Palin immediately jumped on her method of relating to the ‘people’ too, she brought up the sidelines of a soccer game and fear before referencing the chaos on Capitol Hill.

  6. Economics are definitely the talk of the first 15 minutes. I think Gov. Palin’s answer regarding McCain’s push to add more restrictions to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago was interesting, and backed off stronger language the McCain campaign brought out in a recent commercial. The commercial said the Democrats killed the bill, while Obama “was notably silent.” According to, the Rebublican-controlled Senate never brought the measure to a vote.

  7. Scary thought. Biden just asserted that McCain’s policies on health care might create a health care crisis in proportion to our present financial crisis… due to privatization and de-regulation. How would that affect mainstreet?

  8. Palin admits she will answer the questions the way she wants, whether the moderator likes it or not. It’s actually not a surprising move, she’s a maverick in her own right, but Ifill has the ability to cut her off.

  9. This is the article John McCain wrote that Biden referenced:

    Gov. Palin seems definitely to be trying to do “straight talk” right to the American people while Sen. Biden is taking the more traditional politician character. I wonder which style people relate to more- the generalizations and vignettes about beer and soccer or stats, voting records and pasts.

  10. Palin repealed the property tax as Governor? Sounds like she’s got John Locke’s vote:

  11. Spencer, definitely an overstatement on Biden’s part. By the way, according to the Tax Policy Center, McCain’s health care plan would increase the national deficit by $1.3 trillion over 10 years and trim the number of uninsured Americans by 1 million in 2009 and 3 million by 2013. But after that, the number of uninsured would rise because the tax cuts would not keep pace with the rising cost of premiums. Obama’s plan would cost $1.6 trillion, but reduce the number of uninsured people by 18 million in 2009 and 34 million by 2018. But, far from covering everyone, the Center projects that 34 million would still be uninsured in 2018.

  12. According to Biden, Obama’s tax plan would give 95 percent of Americans a tax cut. That’s only half-true according to PolitiFact – .

  13. ok, so as i watch i am seeing that the moderator is already an oboma fan, so no mater what she is running into a brick wall. but have you listened to Biden’s answers all sound scripted i mean the first question had four points of fact i mean it sounds so scripted

  14. To answer your comment Molly, I found it interesting that Biden just cited his “small town” roots by listing off Scranton, etc. (I just picked up on that one because of the office, I guess). Definitely looking to offset the perception of him out of touch in Washington.

  15. This is an interesting perspective questioning Gov. Palin’s knowledge and experience dealing with taxes from the executive director of the Truman National Security Project, who lived in Alaska.

    Bottom of page 2 of the article

  16. Seth, I think Biden does sound somewhat scripted, as you note. He sounds like a Senator, whereas Palin is staying true to her small-town governor of Alaska persona. It works for both of them, in a sense. It’s up to you/the voter which approach you prefer.

  17. I feel like the candidates feel pretty comfortable with each other. They are both smiling (I think I even saw a wink in there) and looking straight at each other. It’s a different atmosphere than the Obama/McCain debate.

  18. McCain hardly made eye contact with Obama, this debate is a nice change.

  19. Wow. Sen. Biden gave credit to Gov. Palin. Aw, they’re getting along. Something not seen in the Obama/McCain debate for sure.

  20. She might not want to talk about the causes, which was the question, because it might not win her points when it’s commonly accepted that climate change is man-man.

    Q: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

    A: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.

    Source: Q&A with’s Mike Coppock Aug 29, 2008

  21. Palin: a model of altruisms

    “We need to put politics aside”
    “Put an end to greed and corruption”
    “There are real changes going on in our climate.”
    “We have got to clean up this planet.”

    I agree with all of these things, the problem is, she uses one truism as a segue to another without explaining the how/what/why of what her ticket is promoting.

  22. On CNN Palin is getting high marks from the uncommitted voters they are polling on her talk about the climate. It was rather consistent. Biden not so much with his talk about it being caused by man. It is just going up to Palin’s height now.

  23. They are both very well-coached. Biden is backing way off the idea that he would bully her around, and she is doing a good job staying on-point and bringing to the forefront some of Biden’s more unfortunate comments.

  24. Here, Joe Biden is clarifying a statement he made to a voter in Ohio. He had originally said “We’re not supporting clean coal…No coal plants here in America” and cited that same China example. The McCain campaign has jumped on that comment in recent weeks, and not surprisingly, as Obama’s platform does support clean coal, as he is saying now.

  25. man made? for real? global worming is man made, when volcano’s erupt and cow’s farting? i mean i know we pollute but the U.S. isn’t the whole world, its not just us, and on the second hand, global warming…we are breaking records set back in the 20’s Ect. so why is this sounding like it is just something so new?

  26. It’s interesting Biden referred to Palin as “Sarah Palin” before changing to “Gov. Palin.” Is that a result of American knowing her as Sarah Palin? And is that indicative of the institutional bias against women in power positions?

  27. Yeah, I think the McCain campaign has jumped on that one comment, which is a shame, given all the other statements he’s made that are less than stellar…the “higher taxes are patriotic”…Roosevelt addressing the country after the crash in ’29. There’s a much wider field to play in.

  28. Both vp candidates are meant to reach the middle class, maybe he’d benefit if she referred to him as ‘Joe.’

  29. “Adults in America?” Why not kids?

    She uses the “tolerance” argument that many race relations scholars consider part of institutional oppression.

  30. To go back a bit to the financial sector, I think everyone would be better off looking at this list of McCain’s top contributors than fretting about gay marriage (again). It seems Senator McCain’s assault on the corruption/greed of Wall-Street might be a bit dubious.

  31. spencer…remind me again why Wall Street support is such a smoking gun…especially in light of Obama’s Fannie Mae ties.

  32. Palin on Russia and foreign policy: “It’s very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where—where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to—to our state.”
    Read the rest on Newsweek’s take on Palin as the second in line for Commander-In-Chief @:


    “Obama is the largest individual recipient at about $112,000, federal campaign finance reports show.”

  34. They are covering an immense amount of issues tonight. I think the moderator is doing a good job, and I don’t get a partisan vibe from her. Anyone disagree?

  35. In the debate on Iraq, both candidates are sticking to their positions so far. There’s been a bit of confusion after the first debate…last week, Obama said he would “reduce” the number of troops in Iraq within 16 months, whereas his platform says he will get “all troops” out of Iraq in the same timespan

  36. yay, the white flag, haha sorry i thought that was kinda funny

  37. Does anyone have any idea what just happened with the same-sex benefits points? ….does Palin just not understand the questions or is she purposely answering completely different ones?

  38. Palin spend a lot of time attacking Biden on his record rather than putting out the numbers and plan for Iraq, like Biden.

  39. how was McCain dead wrong on that????

  40. Holly, I agree with you. I think that that might have a lot to do with the publicity her book is receiving. The (balanced) fourth estate doing their job.

  41. Holly, I think that Ifill is doing a good job of being impartial. But I’m surprised that ‘bipartisan commission officials’ didn’t know about her book until after she was asked to moderate.

  42. Is it an accepted fact that Ahmadinejad is not sane? It seems like a dangerous word to use against another leader, especially one that may be considered dangerous. I like to play it safe though.

  43. Casey, that’s a good point. Moreover, is it inconceivable to remove her in light of her literary commitments and lack of forthrightness?

  44. Ahmadenejad talks a virulent game over there about the West. But I think it’s just as much politics over there as when our politicians use religious images/phrases when talking about fighting terrorism. He may be off his rocker, or he may be rallying his base.

  45. Please tune in over the next few weeks in the Missourian for “translations” of the candidate’s platforms. Here’s a bit below:

    From Cooper Drury, an assistant professor of political science/international relations at MU:

    “I don’t know if (Obama’s plan is) wise, to be honest. It certainly sounds nice that we’re going to unconditionally sit down and talk with these people… And, the one thing that is very important to realize, by going and talking to these foreign leaders, you give them legitimacy…I don’t think there’s any value in engaging North Korea,” because they’ve gone back on their word in the past. I don’t know whether (what’s true of North Korea is) true of Iran, and so, therefore, I think maybe the one difference that could come out…(is) Obama, while he’ll put pressure on them, he may be more willing to try and engage them, as well. I think there may be a value in that.”

  46. It’s going to be hard for Palin to go toe-to-toe with Biden on foreign policy considering that’s considered his forte by many.

  47. Per your post, Holly, here’s the transcript of a really interesting interview Ahmadinejad did with Brian Williams over the summer.

  48. And he held his own when they discussed her forte, oil and energy.

  49. Speaking of Ahmadinejad:

    Governor Palin, since you were selected as a vice presidential candidate, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given more press conferences to American reporters than you have. Why do you have less confidence in the American press and people than the president of Iran does? And when will you dare to face the press for real?

    — ANDREW SULLIVAN, a blogger for The Atlantic and the author of “The Conservative Soul”

  50. first off, why should we pull out of the middle east now? we have done this so far, why just drop out of the middle east? wouldn’t it be like viet-nam all over again? i think if we was to pull out, then the evil we are searching for, would move back in, take back over and we would have terrorist to watch out for, YET AGAIN!. so im trying to figure out what we would benefit’s from us pulling out

  51. Hi guys!
    I like this debate a lot better because they’re actually following time constraints and covering a lot of issues. They also seem to be actually debating each other.
    Keep up the good work.

  52. she just said nuc-u-ler about 4 times….really?

  53. Wow. Afghanistan is still a mess. And the truth lays somewhere between Obama’s call for reform (from bombing civilians) and Palin’s accusation that Obama doesn’t realize what is really going on.
    The Human Rights Watch has Afghan civilian casualties numbering in the thousands:
    But clearly, something more needs to be done. My suggestion?


  54. We’re way over “why ya voted for it,” dear.

  55. Can anyone help out on what Joe Biden said about the costs of Iraq v. costs of Afghanistan?

    Because if he’s talking about just general war costs, he’s way way off:

    Cost of Afghanistan over the past 7 years: $117.5 billion
    Cost of Iraq over a 3 week period: $7.2 billion

    Numbers courtesy the Congressional Research Service.

  56. Did anyone else hear the loud sigh off of Biden when talking Palin was talking about the general not specifically saying a surge would not work in Afghanistan. Was it Biden? It’s the little things like that that the media sometimes likes to pick apart. Their interactions seemed more pleasant than the Obama/McCain debate until that. It caught me by surprise.

    What do you guys think of their interactions so far?

  57. Its true Spencer, Afghanistan is down and out. I’ve heard a lot more about it in this election and through debates than I have in the past couple years — maybe it will prompt some change.

  58. She spent the first part of her answer about Darfur talking about the war in Afganistan and Iraq. She did eventually agree about Darfur, but didn’t have the plan, only the conviction. But, she’s a also new to having to worry about it. It’s an interesting quandry if should she be given slack for the that now that she’s a VP candidate?

  59. Seth, I think that maybe Biden is concerned about terrorism but doesn’t see the war as hitting the problem at its nucleus. This was posted on his bio:

    “Senator Biden is recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on terrorism. In a major speech on September 10, 2001, Senator Biden argued that the Bush administration’s focus on missile defense had diverted out attention from more likely threats. The new threat to the United States, he said, “would not come from an inter-continental ballistic missile with a return address” but in “the belly of a plane” or from a “vial smuggled in a backpack or a bomb in the hold of a ship.” After the attacks of 9/11, he argued that real security comes from prevention, no preemption. ”

  60. He knows how to win a war? Oh wait, I didn’t know we “won” Vietnam! Or that it was because of him!

  61. Yes it is.

  62. That reference that Sen. Biden made to the Great Depression with ‘1932’ is ominous.

  63. Shelby, it reminds me of Al Gore sighing all over the place during his debates with Bush in 2000. The media did pick on him a lot for it later. I could see a similar case happening here.

  64. Can she answer a f’ing question? Has the country been obsessed with “the corruption on Wall Street” here lately? Where is THAT coming from?

  65. I can tell that Palin is becoming more relaxed. Whether it be the winks or the “doggone it,” it reminds me of her RNC acceptance speech. Charisma has always been a big part of politics – what will it mean for Palin?

  66. I can’t wait for her to say “god bless her” & “doggone it” when she gets together to chaw on some seal lard with all the foreign dignitaries.

  67. “Say it ain’t so Joe!” She’s definitely charming and personable. Does it translate into also being able to negotiate and lead? It’s not a new approach, but she’s tapping into at a high level.

  68. He keeps talking about Scranton like it’s a “small towny” place. Seems kind of silly to me. It has a population of 76,415,_Pennsylvania

    Coming from a town with just barely over 7,000 citizens, that doesn’t seem too small town to me.

  69. Mary Elise, Biden did mispeak. According to a congressional report, the expected future annual costs of operations=
    -$653 billion (Iraq)
    -$172 billion (Afghanistan)

  70. That wasn’t the question.

  71. i just think that we need to help out because we are a superpower, when we bombed heiroshima and nakasaki we helped them re-build and helped them, and look at them today, i believe that the help we have for the middle east, over time we could see the fruit of there labor and see a greater outcome to benefit the greater good of the world.

  72. THERE. Biden answered the question that they asked Palin.

  73. Yay!!! Let’s produce more energy! Good answer to global warming. She’s pitiful & embarrassing.

  74. Not many politicians willingly limit their own power like Biden is asserting about the VP being an executive and legislative power. It’s one thing to say it now, but another to live it out if he has the chance. That would be a situation he’s faced with. Do you think he would stay true?

  75. A little emotion out of Biden. Will that help or hurt him?

  76. Did Biden just get choked up? Did someone catch that? I couldn’t tell.

  77. Who here saw a glimmer of sincerity in Biden’s response?
    Contrast that with Palin’s reiterations on how Maverick is McCain.

  78. I think he did — and I bet it could only help. He certainly has a reason, even though the tragedy was 30 years ago, he lost a wife and a child. Both of the candidates have pretty interesting life stories.

  79. track record…mavericks…change……..john mccain….partinship……..what is she talking about??? we’ve got to…….partinship…….Is that about all she can say? She’s talking in circles. Needs Adderall.

  80. the live debate also on current Election Twitter

  81. Susan, could you be more biased?
    I honestly don’t think there’s anything she could say that you wouldn’t be angry about and against.

  82. That was an intense 5 minutes for Biden. He went 360 from emotional to his bit on John McCain as “not a maverick” — some of the most biting words we’ve heard, definitely from him, if not in the entire race so far.

  83. I pose this question to the crowd? Was this debate better or worse than the Presidential last Friday? How so? How much? And if you like playing the ponies (horse-race coverage), who won? Or are we all winners?
    (Pardon the Cheese there)

  84. Amber i agree, full extent on that, but i see, how people from a diff party just picks the opponent apart

  85. A shot at Katie Couric from Sarah Palin in her closing statement?

  86. Her family is diverse in political views. Her mother-in-law may not even vote for her and McCain.

  87. and a shot at Obama’s wife at the “i have always been proud…”

  88. Can you think of a single policy issue you would change your stance on if you could?
    Biden: to be sure I was completely clear on the judicial philosophy of a nominee. very wise & honest.
    Palin: I didn’t veto “some things.”

  89. ignorance is bliss, but palin looked fine tonight

  90. Biden used the same “champ” closing when the Missourian covered his appearance in Columbia.

  91. For anyone who missed all or part of the debate, here’s a running transcript the NY Times has been doing. I will update with a complete transcript once it becomes available:

  92. To go along with Spencer, what were the highlights and the low points for you?

  93. Whoa Molly, did her mother-in-law seriously criticize her for keeping her child even though she knew he was going to be disabled?
    That’s pretty cold.

  94. I think it was better than the Presidential debate, only because there was more issues covered. Because these candidates are so different and their stances are less known than the presidents, it was enlightening.

    NBC commentators say that both candidates proved to be good debaters, strayed from public gaffes, and that the debate may not be a game changer.

  95. I agree Holly, having so many more issues covered really made it more rewarding from my stand point.

  96. I’m listening to the PBS commentators, and they made an interesting point about how well Palin mentioned McCain but Biden barely talked about Obama.
    I wonder if that has to do with still having his doubts about his running mate. It’s clear the two of them have not always agreed, and early in the election Biden even said that Obama was not experienced enough to run for president.

  97. I definitely agree with Holly that more issues were covered. I would’ve liked to hear more on their views on civil rights. Even though some issues are pretty worn out, that doesn’t mean that they’re not very relevant to a lot of Americans. I’m sure there are a lot of viewers who were interested in the expansion of gay rights. There are many other civil rights issues out there that were overshadowed by the economy, health care and the war. Big and important issues indeed, but what happens when those controversies die down?

  98. I think they were both a lot more lively, which made it more interesting. Both candidates look strong, but I agree that they probably won’t tip the balance too much. Both stuck to the familiar territory and reiterated those buzz words like Maverick and Main Street and Change that we’ve heard this entire season.

  99. Could it also be possible that Palin referenced McCain more because she has less of a record to fall back on and doesn’t have her own basis to stand on like Biden does? I wonder how the public will take it.

  100. I honestly think that it could be both.

  101. Yeah, this is what Biden said:

    “Look, we have spent more money — we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country.

    Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. Now, that’s number one.”

    If you look back above, it was way off. But I haven’t heard any one on the major networks comment on that yet.

  102. ABC commentators generally agree Biden won. If you’re watching post-debate coverage, do you agree with what the commentators are saying? Or not saying, as Mary Elise is pointing out?

  103. just got the full debate transcript up.

  104. Over on NBC no one is declaring a winner, but many pundits comment about Palin’s performance and how it might boost the ticket.

  105. CNN right now is talking about how Palin did do well, but will not sway the independent voters or change the shift toward Obama. But they say that is not her job because the shift is due to the economy and she is not connected to that.

    The question now is how they will use her going forward.

  106. Thanks everyone for participating!

  107. I’m a 1972 MU alumni. When I was a senior, the school shut down before finals so people could work for peace. I cut my hair to work for Clyde Wilson, an unspiring candidate, against Richard Ichord, who said anti-war protesters were paid by the Soviet Union (then why didn’t they pay my tuition?). Ichord, and Nixon, won in a landslide, and the war continued.

    I believe this generation of MU students stand at a similar crossroads. Will you register, and will you vote to return our country to the middle class, to fight global warming (yes, Gov. Palin, it exists), and, yes, to work once more for peace? I believe you will. Yes you can!

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