The following times are Eastern. I’m watching the PBS coverage.
9:00: Jim Lehrer, Mark Shields, David Brooks observe this is Palin’s big chance to prove she can talk coherently.
9:01: Gwen Ifil, the moderator, outlines the format. Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Biden come out, shake hands. Palin back in black.
9:03: First question – does the way Washington has handled the bailout show the best or worst of Washington? Biden plays it safe, quotes Obama. Dems keep fingers crossed that Biden will stick to that approach. Palin opens with a down-home approach: “go to a kid’s soccer [not hockey] game” and ask the parents how things are going. “The barometer is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting.” “John McCain has been one representing reform.”
9:06: Ifil: “How would you shrink the polarization we’ve seen?” Biden: “I’ve been able to reach across the aisle.” Then: “Two Mondays ago at 9:00 John McCain said the fundamentals of the economy was strong.” Palin: “He was talking to and he was talking about the American workforce, the greatest in the world. What I’ve done, as governor and mayor” is to have a “track record of reform.” She says Obama “has voted only along party lines.” “Put the partisanship, put the party interests aside.” “Americans are craving something new and different.” Ifil: “None of you have really answered the question.”
9:09: Ifil: “Who started the sub-prime meltdown?” Palin: “Darn right it was the predator lenders.” She continues: “Let’s commit ourselves – Joe Sixpack, hockey moms- never will we be exploited again. We need also to not get ourselves in debt.” And: “It’s not the American people’s fault the economy is hurting like it is.” Biden’s response: “McCain, while Obama was warning us,” said to the Wall St Journal “that ‘I’m always in favor of cutting regulations.’” Palin: “Barack had 94 opportunities” to vote for tax reduction. So far Palin is performing well. Biden argues that Obama and McCain “voted the same way” on the budget vote Palin is referring to. Biden cites “deregulation” again. Palin emphasizes “taxes.” She says, “I may not answer the questions the way you and Sen. Biden would like but I’ll talk straight to the American people.” Ifil cuts her off mid-sentence a minute later.
9:15: Ifil asks a question about taxing health benefits. Biden: Middle-class families “haven’t had a single break in taxes.” (You could have fooled me the last few years.) Palin: “I take issue with the redistribution of wealth principle you’re talking about.” She ties in lower taxes to the creation of more jobs. She borrows Reagan’s old “government not the solution, but the problem” line. Ifil: “Are you interested in defending McCain’s health-care plan?” Palin is, and puts the point across effectively, especially the crossing-state-lines part of the plan. Biden’s reply: “John McCain taxes, as income, every health-care plan.”
9:20: Ifil: “What promises have you and your campaigns made that you will not be able to keep” after the bailout plan. Biden notes that foreign assistance will have to be reduced, then moves into rhetoric about no longer giving big business tax breaks. Palin discusses the energy plan Obama voted for in 2005 “which gave those oil companies those big tax breaks.” An effective point which enables her to segue into her fight against the oil establishment in Alaska. Ifil: “So there’s nothing you’d take off the table” as a result of the bailout? Palin does not get into anything specific. Biden defends Obama’s vote on the energy plan.