Watching the news this morning and scanning the news sites, it is incredible how wide the polls are on who won the Vice Presidential debate last night. This I think speaks more about polls than about the debate and further highlights something I believe, who won the debate is an irrelevant and unanswerable question.
The real question is how do you determine who won a debate. What does a “win” look like? Sometimes it’s obvious. If one of the participants would have spent the night stammering or showing a complete lack of command of the issues, one could point to a winner. Neither did this last night so, we can’t use this to decide.
Further, which part of the debate did either win? Did Biden win the questions on foreign policy? Maybe but how do you measure that absent a knock out? Same with the economy, war on terror, and on and on. So then how do people determine, based on the different questions posed during the debate, who won? Do they keep score at home? Is the last questions, and who won them, stuck in their mind? Is their one or two questions that they remember and this clouds their opinion of the debate?
Finally, there is the question of preconceived bias. The reality, and I am guilty of this myself, is that if you were a Sarah Plain fan, she won the debate. Conversely if you’re a Joe Biden fan, he won the debate.
Some will ask then, what about the “independent voter”?
First, I will go on record to say that I believe this notion of a vast population of independent voters is grossly over reported. I have noticed that over the last roughly 8 years, there has been an increased amount of talk about independent voters. My opinion is that it has taken on the feel of a fad. I can’t help but believe that it has become almost fashionable to say your independent. You have the media clamoring over you and if you happen to be in a diner when the media stops by, you get on the news.
Now this is not to say that there are not voters out there who truly are independent. I believe there are, I just believe it is not in the numbers reported. Actually, I believe that a true independent voter is the best kind. This means they are not blinded by ideology, they look at a candidate and vote according to what they see. They’re a model really for partisans like me.
I believe though that most so called independent voters have an inherent political bias and ultimately vote for a particular party. You will hear qualifiers such as Bob here is an independent who voted Democrat (or Republican) the last three presidential elections. This does not meet my definition of an independent.
Back to our question though, what about the independent voter. The discussion above illustrates that polling this group can be tricky at best. The main problem is what kind of independents are they polling. Do 70% of them lean one way or another, this skews the data.
I think the bottom line is that barring a real obvious win it is hard, if not impossible, to poll on who won a debate. The polls are nothing more than something else to debate and gives the media the opportunity to slant their coverage, a chance the media is taking full advantage of, based on a survey of the sites this am.
The real answer is how they ultimately help their respective campaign. We can ask 400 people who won, or we can see who ultimately wins the election.
Almost more important, I believe, than who is doing better in the “who won the debate question” is the other questions in the poll. Questions such as
-Who was more likeable?
Like it or not, this matters in presidential campaigns. I think it’s an indictment of our system that this is even an issue, but it is. Palin won this on several polls.
-Did Palin do better than anticipated?
This is an important question because Palin has had a couple of rough weeks in the media and was starting to lose ground on her popularity and was even looking like she may drag the ticket down a bit. Even people on the hard left begrudgingly agreed she did better than they thought. This is huge for the campaign. It puts to rest the whole issue of her being a poor choice.
-Do you feel comfortable having Palin or Biden being president?
Biden won this decisively but Palin improved voter’s views of her (according to the polls) significantly. Biden still scores higher but she scored high enough to neutralize it as an issue.
So the debate will rage over who won but I feel it’s not a worthy way to spend our time because there really isn’t a good, definitive answer.
For the record though, Sarah Palin clearly won.