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Voter panel gives Biden edge

But group says Sarah Palin showed she’s competent

The Times Leader Voter Panel watches the vice presidential debate at The Times Leader Thursday night.

S.John Wilkin/The Times Leader

The Times Leader Voter Panel agreed with most post-debate polls that say Democrat Joe Biden fared better than Republican Gov. Sarah Palin in Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.

But the group said Palin dispelled fears she is not a competent candidate.

Bruce German, 72, of Dallas, said he is leaning toward the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Biden though he hasn’t definitely made up his mind.

Political analyst Brian Carso, assistant professor of history and pre-law program director at Misericordia University, said Palin was the clear winner.

“It was a good round for both participants,” Carso said. “But make no mistake, most Americans tuned in to see Sarah Palin. She delivered far above expectations, so I call her the overall winner. As a result I think we’ll see some positive movement in McCain’s polling numbers.”

Carso said Biden and Palin showcased different styles with Biden speaking the language expected from a long-term member of the U.S. Senate.

“His appeal to middle-class voters is more academic than authentic,” Carso said. “On the other hand, Palin demonstrated why she is getting crowds of 50,000 at her rallies. She speaks directly to the hopes and concerns of middle-class voters with an authenticity that is unmatched in modern U.S. politics.

Carso said arguments she is unprepared to be vice president are “over and done with. To the contrary, her impact on politics will be deep and long-lasting, win or lose in November.”

Democrat and Obama supporter John Barnes, a 53-year-old college administrator from Mountain Top, said Biden has a much clearer understanding of the role of the vice president.

He said Palin “often dodged direct answers to questions and appeared to focus on repeatedly restating rehearsed talking points, such as she and Sen. McCain are agents of change, or ‘mavericks,’ but couldn’t cite a single area of economic or foreign policy recommendations that would be a departure from those of the Bush administration.

Republican Paul Stebbins, 28, of West Pittston, a mental health therapist, supports the McCain-Palin ticket.

“Biden disagreed quite frequently with Barack Obama prior to joining the ticket and Palin capitalized on that,” Stebbins said. “Sarah Palin won hands-down on energy, while Joe Biden won on foreign policy. My favorite part of the debate was when Sarah Palin actually said what I’ve been waiting for a politician to say – that the American people were also responsible for this mess on Wall Street.”

Chuck Peterman, a 50-year-old Independent from Kingston, said both did what they needed to do.

“Gov. Palin showed the country she is more than just some cheap gotcha sound bites from a Katie Couric interview,” Peterman said. “Biden showed his years of experience in the Senate and his polished presentation. He is one of the members of the old boys’ club.”

Obama supporter Bob McDonald of Kingston said Palin’s task is to save the Republicans’ chances.

“My assessment would be that Gov. Palin maybe stopped the bleeding,” he said. “What she failed to do was distance the ticket from the Bush years.”

Wilkes University student Tony Thomas, an 18-year-old Democrat from Wilkes-Barre, said he is “terrified” of the prospect of Palin being the next vice president.

“The Republicans have found possibly the worst and most unqualified individual to be vice president…” he said.

Glenys Karpavich, 56, of Jenkins Township, who turned from undecided to the McCain camp after the first presidential debate, said Palin demonstrated great leadership qualities.

“I loved the way Palin took control of the energy issue,” she said. “True change will come with her at the helm of this project in breaking our dependence on foreign oil and creating new jobs right here in our country in the energy sector. Also, Biden mentioning Scranton so many times did not change my vote. Maybe he should have mentioned Shickshinny, Pittston, Larksville, Dupont, Exeter, Wilkes-Barre or another local city the second time around to show he really knew the area that he lived in for 10 years.”

Other voter panel comments:

Dan Gildea, 59, Laurel Run Republican: “For those who saw Gov. Palin as red meat, it proved to be just the opposite. She came across to me as confident, likeable, and intelligent, with a grasp of the issues.”

Dorene Schutz, 47, Wilkes-Barre Democrat: “I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. The way Palin looked into the camera was kind of odd. She almost looked like she was doing the weather.”

Jack McIntyre, 67, Plains Township Republican: “I think the debate was a draw…both did an admirable and accurate job of presenting their side’s platform and, like the presidential candidates’ debate, there was nothing new in the discussions and the talking points.

Stephen Cheskiewicz, 44, Harveys Lake Democrat: “I would give Palin a grade of satisfactory; she did not show she had a competent grasp on issues, she showed she was able to cram information during her debate boot camp this week… Biden showed his clear leadership abilities and was cool, competent and sharp as a razor.”

The Rev. Jeffrey Aberle, 52, Edwardsville Democrat: “I think Biden easily won the debate and think Palin is very happy that this is the only debate she has to take part in. The good thing is now Saturday Night Live has some good material…”

Jill Rosenstock, 43, Penn Lake Democrat: “Sarah Palin seemed scripted, and what is with the Joe Six Pack phrase she seems enamored with? While she did better than I thought she would, she was more often evasive and off topic. I have to say, I cannot imagine four years of hearing her voice. As for Biden, he seemed to be trying quite hard to be gaffe free…”

Susan Allen, 43, Dallas Republican: “Sarah Palin has shown that she is a capable person and will be a very good vice president. Though I don’t believe her performance tonight will help the McCain campaign (no bump), she definitely did not hurt the cause.”

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