Committed Obamniaks (to borrow from Joe Biden's use of what is apparently the term of Bosnian Muslims) are not going to like Sarah Palin's performance in last night's debate. Too folksy and not their girl. Committed conservatives liked her performance, but generally take issue with her description of the cause of the financial crisis which, while not as wrong as the Obama/Biden Bush-era deregulation argument, still creates a fundamentally flawed picture of what has happened. There certainly were ways that Wall Street could have been reined in (although I can imagine Democrats supporting none of them), but the fiasco could not have happened without government intervention in the market through the vehicles of Freddie and Fannie, easy money and well intentioned, but misguided efforts to encourage home ownership.
But such is politics. A careful and thorough public debate over economic policy is simply not going to appeal to the overwhelming majority of voters.
So, let's move to the big picture. Going into the debate, the conventional wisdom was that Palin had to show that she belongs on this stage. There is no question that she did that. There will be postdebate back and forth on who said what that isn't true. My sense is that both of them - whether intentionally or not - tool a few liberties, but that Biden's inaccuracies were less debatable, more significant and, I think, more frequent.
But I think voters expect politicians to do that. In this debate, Palin needed to rekindle the fire that she ignited in the base early on and squandered in her interviews with Gibson and Couric. She did that. She needed to remove herself as a reason not to vote for McCain. She did that as well.
The great hope - something to be wished for but not expected - was that she scuff up a Democratic ticket that has gained tremendous momentum from the financial crisis. That depends on the spin. There were certainly enough moments in which she gave Biden a good natured schooling that this could happen.
As for Biden, he performed well. He is incredibly good at gravely intoning utter nonsense. (For example, we do not spend more in three weeks on combat operations in Iraq than we have spent to date in Afghanistan. It's not even close.)
But this debate was about Sarah Palin and she came through.