South Beach, Florida could hardly be considered a hotbed of political activity, what with its sun-drenched days and liquor-soaked nights, politics are generally about the last thing on anybody's mind. But you've gotta hand it to Sarah Palin, she sure can galvanize a crowd - especially when it consists of folks who completely disagree with her.
And to be sure, last night's debate watching party here at a Haitian restaurant called Tap Tap was packed with people who completely disagree with the moose-hunting Governor from Alaska. Then again, that's pretty much to be expected when the event is sponsored by MoveOn.
What might not have been expected was that the polyglots in attendance actually don't like Palin -- personally or otherwise. They don't like her grating accent, they don't like her coy winks, they don't like the fact that she stared at the camera and spoke as if she were selling used cars, and, of course, they don't like her politics.
But what they really don't like is the fact that the Governor didn't seem to answer one question asked by moderator Gwen Ifill, and opted instead to spout platitudes. Again and again, "answer the question" became the refrain. And over and over Sarah Palin failed even to do that.
"It's insulting," said a 27 year-old South Beach resident. "She's insulting. For her to think that women -- or anybody else - would fall for the rhetoric. I didn't hear a plan, I didn't hear a proposal. Most of all, I didn't hear an answer -- to anything."
Another Beach-dweller said she "kept waiting for her to say: I'm Sarah Palin, and I approve this message."
And though in the end one man in the crowd did think the Governor "did stronger than expected," most thought she was "well-briefed," "well-prepped," and "stuck to the script," but "offered absolutely nothing" and "sounded like a sound bite."
There was even concurrence among the foreigners in attendance, which included Line Prasz, a reporter for the Danish newspaper Politiken, (who didn't think Palin did better than expected at all - and "didn't expect much" to begin with), and Miami-based French designer Daniel Venissac, who "cannot stand her," and "thinks she should be the vice-president of Alaskan tourism."
This being Obama country, everybody was behind Biden, who received cheers for the "Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere" slam against the McCain/Palin healthcare plan, his crack about Palin's position on climate change ("if you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution"), and again when he declared "Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history."
By far the most resounding cheers though came when Palin misspoke and said McCain "is the man that we need to leave." A Freudian slip? The crowd sure thought so - and laughed out loud accordingly.
Biden did receive some small criticisms. A North Beach man "felt [he] held back on a few too many points," especially about Palin not answering questions, except for once when he called her on deregulation. And his friend wondered why Joe never brought up Rick Davis when Palin mentioned Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac.
Still, it was Sarah Palin who everybody came to gawk at, mock and deride, and the Governor provided no shortage of opportunities for all that and then some. Her misremembered sentences, her sham folksiness, those doggone "doggone its," each elicited bigger and bigger cackles.
A consensus: If Palin was playing this for laughs, she certainly won.
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