Bay Area reacts to Vice Presidential debate

Palin and Biden, the Democratic vice presidential candidate from Delaware, met at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., to debate issues ranging from the failing economy to the war in Iraq.

Many people across the nation were focused on Palin's performance due to her poor showing in her few on-air interviews, San Jose State political science professor Larry Gerston said. "Palin met expectations, but those expectations were very low."

While Palin performed well in the context of what the media and nation at large expected from her, "she obviously doesn't have a grasp of the issues," Gerston said.

Executive Director of the Alameda County Republican Party Ryan Hatcher disagreed and said Palin proved to be knowledgeable on a number of issues, especially energy. "Energy stuff is something that she knows very, very well."

Regarding Biden, Hatcher said he did poorly on foreign policy issues during the debate because, "(Sen. Barack) Obama served as a weight around his neck."

If Biden had been able to espouse his own foreign policy instead of having to tout Obama's lack of knowledge in the area, he would have done much better, he said.

Santa Clara University associate professor of political science Jim Cottrill hosted a debate viewing party that around 80 to 100 students attended. After the debate he polled the students and the "vast majority" felt Biden won.

"They seemed to think Biden did a better job, although they did think that Palin did well enough," Cottrill said.

One area that Palin wanted to convey to the public is that she understands the middle class, Cottrill said.

"She used common, colloquial language to try and show that she is a real person," he said. Presidential and vice presidential candidates have been changing their strategy for the past 20 years, now it's a race to see who's in touch with the average American, he said.

It all started when President Bill Clinton went on "The Arsenio Hall Show," it's been a race since then, Cottrill said.

He added that the results might not be totally indicative of the debate, because often people who have already made up their mind about who to vote for tend to think their candidate won the debate.

Pleasant Hill resident Katie Peoples, a registered independent, said Palin sounded like a student who was reading off of notes that she used to study for a test. "I thought Joe Biden did a better job overall, he sounded more professional and had a better depth to his answers."

This vice presidential debate was vastly more anticipated than past years, due in large part to Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain's age, 72, and the fact that he has had four bouts of cancer, Gerston said.

"That is the kind of circumstance that we really have to think about," Gerston said of the possibility that Palin could be elevated to the rank of president.

The vice presidential debate was an "interesting distraction" for a few hours, but now its time for the main event again, Gerston said. "The momentum has remained with Obama, and people are waiting for Tuesday's debate."

McCain and Obama will be debating in Nashville, Tenn.

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