It’s a bit easier to write a sensible reaction peice when you’re no longer drunk from an exhilarating game of Debate Bingo and have had a bit more time to consider the impact of the debate. That said, I largely stand by my initial reaction: that is, Palin gained no ground and her failure to do so equates to a loss, her showing up and managing to avoid defecating in her pants notwithstanding. As each opportunity to close the gap passes, the McCain campaign’s task grows increasingly difficult.
As I was explaining to coworker earlier, I think the punditry, and so-called “educated voters” to a certain extent, tend to sell “low information voters” short. The media generally thinks that those who don’t religiously follow politics are incapable of perceiving the legitimacy gap between Biden’s informed and mostly direct answers and Palin’s evasive platitudes. But as the short term polling shows, they can, and Biden staying out of Palin’s way helped.
I’ll add though that when Palin was at her most effective (and I use the term loosely) bloviating about change without actually showing daylight between McCain and Bush, she was essentially echoing Democratic talking points and strengths. So long as McCain and Palin can’t legitimately distance themselves from the Bush Administration without sounding like watered-down Democracts, the politics of the campaign will continue to favor Obama. Coupled with the environment of the campaign — the economy — it will be quite a difficult, but not impossible, path to a McCain victory.