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  • WaPo hid right-wing affiliations of debate observer it portrayed as neutral

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post turned to five people to assess last night's VP debate for its "Topic A" feature:

    Political analysts, pollsters and others assess Joe Biden and Sarah Palin's debate. Here are contributions from: Carter Eskew, Greg Mueller, Jeremy Lott, Ed Rogers, Douglas E. Schoen.

    Here's how the Post described the five:

    Eskew: "Chief strategist for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign"

    Mueller: "Republican strategist; former senior aide to Steve Forbes's and Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns; president of CRC Public Relations"

    Lott: Author of 'The Warm Bucket Brigade: The Story of the American Vice Presidency'"

    Rogers: "White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; group chairman of BGR Holding"

    Schoen: "Democratic pollster and author of 'Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System'"

    Looks pretty balanced, right? Two Democrats, two Republicans, and a neutral expert on the Vice Presidency (Lott.)

    Except ... Jeremy Lott has been assistant managing editor for the far-right American Spectator, a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and was Manager of Editorial Services at the Cato Institute.

    Given his right-wing bona fides, is it any surprise Lott praised Palin's performance and panned Biden's?

    Of course not. Lott is anything but the neutral observer the Post led readers to think he is.

  • The David Brooks contradiction

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In his pro-Palin column in the NYTimes, Brooks, the embodiment of an East Coast Beltway elite and self-styled intellectual (he actually starts off his column by citing "midcentury psychologist Abraham Maslow"), cheered the fact that all night Paliln advertised "she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe."

    He went on to note how Palin's "accent, her colloquialisms and her constant invocations of the accoutrements of everyday" likely connected with "casual parts of the country."

    In essence, Brooks, the conservative East Coast intellectual, toasted the fact that Palin projected an anti-East Coast, anti-intellectual style (she was folksy!), while conceding she didn't win on substance.

    Another example of how campaigns can force pundits out of their comfort zones?

  • Why DC pundits shouldn't presume to speak for "non-elite Americans" (Part ... oh, let's call it 46)

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker:

    Well, darnit all, if that dadgum girl (wink, wink) didn't beat the tarnation out of Joe Biden. ... Palin is a populist pro. She hit all the notes that resonate with non-elite Americans: family (Hi Mom and Dad!), "Can I call ya Joe?" personal responsibility, Wall Street greed, children with special needs. Her most effective technique was speaking directly to the American people and letting Joe know that's what she was gonna do, doggonit. Stylistically, she used the language of the people to great effect. ... I'll have to go to the transcript to figure out what Palin actually said and try to figure out whose facts were right. But there's no question: She won the debate on popularity.


    Uncommitted voters who watched the vice presidential debate thought Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden did the best job by a margin of more than two to one, according to a CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll taken immediately following the debate.


    Forty-six percent of these uncommitted viewers said Biden won the debate Thursday night, while 21 percent said Palin won. Thirty-three percent thought it was a tie.

    Even a quarter of Republican uncommitted voters thought Biden won the debate.


    A national poll of people who watched the vice presidential debate Thursday night suggests that Democratic Sen. Joe Biden won, but also says Republican Gov. Sarah Palin exceeded expectations.

    The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. said 51 percent of those polled thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job.


    Respondents thought Biden was better at expressing his views, giving him 52 percent to Palin's 36 percent.

    On the question of the candidates' qualifications to assume the presidency, 87 percent of those polled said Biden is qualified and 42 percent said Palin is qualified.

  • Politico blurs the line

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Between reporting and opinion. We've noticed this in the past; Politico puts up a big sweeping piece, often co-written by two of its most prominent writers, that to us read like straight editorials because they're pure opinion about the days big events.

    This morning the Politico does that with a debate wrap-up. In this case, we happen to agree wtih the Politico's assessment about who 'won' and 'lost' the debate in St. Louis. ("It is hard to count any objective measures by which Biden did not clearly win the encounter.")

    But it strikes us as bad form to have the daily's writers post opinion like that and not label it or present as as such, as least with an "analysis" tag. It's only going to lead to trouble down the road.

  • Frank Luntz draws much meaning from three voters

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Following the debate, Fox News pollster Luntz suggested there would be a "shift" in the national polls in the direction of McCain-Obama thanks to Palin's St. Louis performance.

    That, he said, was based on the responses registered among Luntz's debate focus group members. How many focus group participants changed their votes and moved over to the GOP side after the debate? Three.

    Meanwhile, actual debate polls raise doubts about a pending "shift."

    And here's what happened when CNN polled its focus group:

  • Even Kathleen Parker lowered the bar for Palin

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    She's the National Review columnist who created a major stir last week when she wrote that Palin should drop off the GOP ticket because she was, bascially, an embarrassment. She was in over her head, Parker announced.

    But wouldn't you know, appearing on MSNBC tonight, Parker herself suggested that all Palin had to was show up at the debate and she'd "be fine."

    (h/t CJR)

  • Fine line for moderators

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's tricky, we know. Because in the past we've suggested that what viewers and voters don't want is for the debate moderator to insert himself/herself too much into the proceedings; that people don't tune in to watch them.

    That said, moderators ought to fee free to step in, politely, and redirect candidates when they so blatantly ignore the stated question. Palin just did that when Gwen Ifill asked her what her true Achilles heel was. (When it was his turn, Biden at least used the basic framework of the question to form his response.)

    The debates are already so tightly scripted in terms of the ticking clock, why waste time by having candidates give answers to questions that were never asked?

  • The ref, worked

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The McCain camp's attacks on Gwen Ifill may have paid off. As many reporters have noted (see for example, Ambinder) Sarah Palin has ducked several questions. She even announced near the begining of the debate that she wouldn't bother answering Ifill's questions if she didn't want to. And Ifill doesn't really seem to be pressing her to do so.

  • RE: theater criticism

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The first AP article about tonight's debate notes that "Palin said Obama had voted to raise taxes 94 times" -- but fails to mention that number has beed widely debunked., for example, calls it "inflated and misleading" and "padded" and noted the figure includes "Double, Triple and Quadruple Counting."

    But the Associated Press uncritically reports Palin's charge. Rather than fact-checking Palin, the AP touted her folksiness:

    As is her custom on the campaign, she spoke in familiar terms, saying "betcha" rather than "bet you" and "gonna" rather than "going to."