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US political expert declares debate a dead he -

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LISA MILLAR: Let's return to our top story and the vice presidential debate.

Not since George Bush senior took on Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 has a debate between the vice
presidential candidates been so highly anticipated.

It's now wrapped up and to discuss who came out on top we're joined by our regular commentator Dr
Simon Jackman, professor of political science at Stanford University.

Dr Jackman let's start with a quick scorecard. Was there a clear winner?

SIMON JACKMAN: I think you'd probably have to score it pretty even, frankly. I didn't detect any
major gaffes. Frankly I thought both of them performed really well and I guess given how low
expectations were for Sarah Palin, perhaps on that basis you'd probably have to score it for her
actually.

LISA MILLAR: Well I know I read somewhere that Sarah Palin only had to walk on stage and not pass
out to be considered to have been a success.

SIMON JACKMAN: It had almost gotten to that point. Those interviews she had on CBS News with Katie
Couric asking fairly seemingly innocuous questions and her coming up fairly disastrously short on
that, and just the way that CBS sort of trickled those out sort of over the, night after night
there seemed to be more. Expectations were just so low, that's right, going in. And frankly she
performed so far in excess of those very low expectations. Again that's why I think perhaps if you
were to score this one, if you had to you know declare someone the winner you'd be tempted to say
it was her.

LISA MILLAR: Well let's kick off at the start. She walked on stage very confidently and said to
Senator Biden, "Can I call you Joe?" What did you think of that as the start to this debate?

SIMON JACKMAN: Very disarming wasn't it? It was a lovely, I mean there were some real moments of
what I like to call political theatre and that was one of them.

The other thing just staring down the barrel of the TV camera, speaking to people at home watching
it, an awful lot of smiling and grinning and nodding and maybe even the occasional wink at the
camera, acknowledging family members and that sort of, that very folksy persona she brings and a
beaming smile for most of the debate.

Again people, you put that in contrast with the performances you were getting on CBS News the other
night and it was a very different Sarah Palin.

LISA MILLAR: Well there'd been a lot of talk about how she was being managed and she'd bunkered
down at McCain's ranch all week with his advisors. Did you get a sense of that? I mean was that
obvious? Was she over-managed at all?

SIMON JACKMAN: No I didn't think so actually. I think they hit a pretty good balance frankly. There
was evidence of schooling. It was clearly in evidence there sort of her ability to name the
political leadership in Iraq and rattling off countries around the world, referring to Israel's
treaties with Jordan and Egypt over the years, sort of displaying what I thought was a relatively
impressive command of world affairs, parts of the world that she's never been to as best as we
know.

And so there was some clear evidence of schooling there but I thought it was nicely tempered with
this, the buzz word through the week was let Palin be Palin. Again, what I was referring to
earlier, sort of that charm offensive - staring down the barrel of the TV camera, smiling
throughout it all. I thought she hit her marks very, very well; a great blend of some cramming
clearly that's been going on since she's been on the ticket but with that, not letting go of that
small town Alaskan charm.

LISA MILLAR: Well Joe Biden had a difficult task. I mean, he needs to try and be more likeable and
he couldn't risk patronising her. How do you think he came off? And talk about the use of language
that he brought to the debate.

SIMON JACKMAN: Look, yeah, exactly. I thought he had a great debate as well. Let's not take
anything away from him. All eyes were on Palin but Biden had a great debate as well.

I thought he hit some real emotion hot points frankly talking about his kid over in Iraq, talking
about what's really at stake in this election towards the end of the debate. The emotional content
of what Biden had to say was really starting to soar in the last 15 minutes.

A particularly I thought effective critique of John McCain's maverick credentials. I thought that
was another high point for Biden.

And for a guy that over his long career in the US Senate has had the occasional gaffe or two, I
thought he had a nearly spotless performance frankly and that ratcheting it up in the last 15, 20
minutes, reminding American voters what may be at stake in this election, I thought he had a great
debate as well frankly.

LISA MILLAR: Well we'll come back to the sons that they have in Iraq at the moment but he also
almost broke down it seemed when he was talking about his family because he's had quite a sort of
tragic story there, hasn't he? And do you think that was part of making him connect a bit more with
the audience?

SIMON JACKMAN: Oh look, it's difficult to know, you know, how much of that is scripted and how much
isn't. I guess you have to think when the stakes are this high it's all scripted. But yeah, that
was duly noted on this end as well. That was an especially sort of touching moment.

And it's very delicate I think for these politicians, some of whom have these personal tragedies in
their background. You never want to be seen to be trafficking on that or seeking to sort of draw
undue attention to that but at the same time that's part of your personal story and that is a real
rhetorical challenge to find a way to work that in.

When he did, and again I think a bit of emotion there and frankly maybe Barack Obama could afford
to take a page out of that part of the Biden playbook. If anything was missing from Obama's
performance last week it may have been some of that emotional content I think connecting with
voters a little bit at that emotion, visceral level.

And you're right, that moment of the debate was particularly a good one I thought for Biden as he
brought that...

LISA MILLAR: One of the things that came out of the debate which I suspect quite a few people don't
actually realise is that both those vice presidential candidates have sons either in Iraq or
heading to Iraq and so does John McCain. But we don't hear a lot about that. Has that been a
deliberate decision from the candidates and was it slightly awkward then when it's deliberately
brought up by the moderator in this debate?

SIMON JACKMAN: I don't know the reasoning behind it frankly. I think that frankly when they, the
Palin unveiling as it were at the Republican convention, that was, there was no great secret of
that, the fact that her son was deploying. Typically something the military doesn't like details of
specific deployments and specific locations being released. Nonetheless that was sort of quite
public I thought in the Palin case.

Look I think these people in public office and it's true in Australia as well that you know, you're
very reluctant or at least very careful in the way that you work your kids into your own political
narrative. And I think it's almost a standing rule of the game as it were that you know, one is
very careful how you do that. At what point are you holding your kids up to become "fair game",
quote unquote.

And you know, you'd hate to be in a position, I think, and I'm speaking now just thinking about
this as a personal matter for these people, that you've opened in an effort to sort of bolster your
political career you've somehow opened up your kids to criticism or scrutiny that they may not
welcome or particularly deserve.

LISA MILLAR: And tell me, these debates, they're such an intense study of your candidates. A raised
eyebrow or a sweating forehead could capture the headlines. Was there anything that you saw that
we'll be reading about tomorrow?

SIMON JACKMAN: Oh just the Palin charm offensive frankly. I think, you know, we haven't seen a
female candidate in one of these debates since Geraldine Ferraro right at this level, and we
certainly had Hillary Clinton through the primaries.

But that was really quite remarkable the way that there was one part of the debate where Palin was
sort of in that you know shout out to the kids in some school to Alaska or whatever that was. You
know that was quite remarkable and I think those down home touches that Palin brought, as we
dissect this as a matter of style and panache, I think that will be what we'll be talking about,
along with the thing we were just talking about as well I think, that very emotional moment that
Biden injected into the debate as well.

LISA MILLAR: And can you tell me just how important will this debate be in the wash-up, in the next
month as we head to election day?

SIMON JACKMAN: Look it's a great question and I tend to think we've approached a stage in the
campaign where people are starting to lock in and so much of this gets filtered through one's
partisan goggles or one's leanings that one had before you turned on the debate. And so if you were
for the Democrats you liked what Biden had to say. If you were for the Republicans, you didn't like
it and you thought Palin did a great job.

I think the trick for us is to sort of try and stay a little objective and look at this and I
think, you know frankly I think Palin exceeding expectations the way she did could have a slight
effect there. But I don't think it's going to be a vote switcher at this point.

The story here in the United States has been the economic meltdown over the last couple of weeks,
the way that that's really blossomed into a full blown crisis in Washington and the seeming
inability of the Congress to deal with it expeditiously. And frankly McCain floundering around - a
very difficult week for John McCain, suspending his campaign to go back to Washington and then
promising to get a deal done and then they didn't get a deal done and the turmoil on the market
since. That's really the story here.

And the other thing to keep in mind is that we're going to have two more presidential debates in
short order. I mean here we are in the United States...

LISA MILLAR: And they will be just as keenly watched I'm sure. Simon Jackman, thank you for joining
us.

SIMON JACKMAN: A pleasure Lisa.

LISA MILLAR: Thank you. Simon Jackson, professor of political science at Stanford University.