Kara Watt lives and works in London. She previously held positions at the Heritage Foundation and interned at the White House during the 2004 re-election campaign. ConHome apologises to Kara for not posting this piece until today. It was submitted a few days ago.
Nearly 70 million Americans watched the showdown between Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden and the contenders did not disappoint. The debate after the debate – you know, the one where political pundits go back and forth over who “won” and who “lost” – in this case has proven to be one of the largest wastes of time in the history of political reasoning.
As much as the Commission on Presidential Debates would like to see a more Prime Ministers Questions style of back-and-forth, US debates have never played out this way. Instead, you see a candidate present their policy objectives directly to the nation, being held to account by their competitor and the debate moderator. US debates are not a winner takes all contest as in PMQs and British-style debates. Rather, with each debate, participants attempt to gather more support from the undecided voters through a combination of moving stories of the main street people they’ve met on the campaign trail and other folksy anecdotes.
The sole debate between Vice Presidential candidates is not meant to be about the actual VP candidates themselves, but about the principals on their respective tickets. You can poll win/loss perceptions all you want, but what matters in the end is how the voter perceives McCain and Obama – particularly the undecided voters in swing states like mine, the Badger State of Wisconsin.