As the presidential candidates are set to take the stage tonight at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., we can only hope they took notes last Thursday night. The debate between their candidates for No. 2, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was everything the first exchange between the two men vying to be elected the next Commander-in-Chief should've been.
We were disappointed after the Sept. 26 debate between Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. We weren't convinced either of them really deserved our or your votes because they didn't do a solid job of specifically defining their platforms. They didn't debate, either. They spoke generally to moderator Jim Lehrer as if they were addressing a town hall meeting. Such a demeanor was inappropriate in a setting established to watch candidates argue their positions and differences on with each other.
This wasn't the case with the vice presidential candidates. Considering it was the first time they met, they didn't have a problem responding to and addressing one another as opponents in this historic election.
Biden did the best job of addressing moderator Gwen Ifill's questions and staying on point. His responses clearly defined his and Obama's strategies and plans for their administration, and via the third person, clearly explained to voters his experience in the Senate is his best contribution to his party. Palin presented herself in a way that recalled Ronald Reagan, whom she mentioned a few times - she talked directly to the middle class and came across as someone who knows what Americans are experiencing.
But the candidates definitely exhibited their own shortcomings throughout the night. Biden's experience worked against him as he spoke in political jargon and referenced names and legislation that, while important, didn't necessarily add to his comments. He was slightly guilty of speaking at, instead of to, voters.
Palin, though it was the first time she composed herself somewhat effectively, had an inappropriate, condescending tone. She effectively avoided most of Ifill's questions, sticking to what the "maverick" knows best - Alaska, energy and Israel.
Both candidates avoided the strategic question of what they would do if their running mates were compromised and they were forced to take command. They, along with Ifill and the audience, also made an immature mockery of gay rights with collective laughter after both candidates vehemently stood for same-sex unions but against gay marriage. Ifill quickly changed direction.
But overall, Biden and Palin gave the audience and the nation a debate worth spending 90 minutes watching. For what it's worth, they gave their stances on the issues that are important to this election to the best of their ability. In comparison to the first debate between presidential candidates, it felt like each campaign let these candidates hash out the finer points of the platforms. Biden obviously did a better job at this than Palin.
Tonight, we hope to see Obama and McCain engage each other directly and give us something that will either reassure those who've already made up their minds or sway voters on the fence in the remaining weeks of this election.