Um, I guess you can ignore that needlessly inflammatory title if you want, but I suspect it will be good for generating blog traffic.
So, I think if we were to score this debate solely on substance, on who answered the questions most fully and who had the right answers, Biden wins hands-down. He did a good job of poking holes in McCain's record and undermining this silly idea that he has a history of being tough on Wall Street. He spoke with a lot of confidence on foreign policy, and, like Obama, did not hesitate to go through the litany of erroneous predictions that McCain made on Iraq. He also got off a great zinger about the ridiculousness of McCain's health care plan ("the real bridge to nowhere").
In contrast, Palin used the the same stupid talking points over and over (especially towards the end), often dodged questions entirely, and reduced complex issues to simple sound bites: Taxes = bad. Ahmadinejad = badder. McCain = maverick. Me = desperately reaching for the mute button.
In short, she reminded me a lot of George Bush, with her dishonest and intellectually vacant answers, and her faux-folksy style of speaking.
But if the expectations game really means anything, you have to think this was a pretty good night for Palin. After the debacles of the past couple weeks, she would have impressed people simply by not drooling on the lectern. And to her credit, she came out and spoke with a lot of confidence and poise. There were no deer in the headlights moments, in sharp contrast to the Couric interview, and she was actually able to speak semi-coherently on economic and foreign policy issues, even if everything she said was dumbed down to wingnut levels of intelligence.
Frankly, I think Biden benefits from even being on the same stage as Palin, so invisible has he been since late August. I think this was a good re-introduction of Joe Biden to the nation, and it reminds people that Obama has a pretty impressive running mate with a long record of accomplishment and experience in government, not to mention one who has very real and authentic connections with the middle class.
PS: I forgot about the Cheney question; Palin really bombed that one. People do not want to hear Cheney's extremist views being affirmed by his possible successor. He's much less popular than even Bush, and that's really saying something.
PPS: And might I just say that Biden struck the perfect tone. He was never overbearing, always a perfect gentleman. I don't think anyone can accuse him of "bullying" Palin (which was a big fear going in).