Thursday's vice presidential debate was a serious and substantive affair. With superb moderating by Gwen Ifill, the conversation stuck to policy-driven sparring, but the footage is already taking a different shape on YouTube.
Before the debate clock had run out, spicier clips from the debate were piling up on YouTube. Two of the most passionate featured Biden, speaking about personal adversity and why the "past is prologue" when it comes to John McCain's record:
Palin's pluckier side -- love it or hate it -- is on display in a short clip quoting her own assessment of her experience as a running mate. "How long have I been at this - like, five weeks?" she asked.
The policy debates over Iraq seemed more ferocious and slightly less scripted than the nominees' debate last week. Palin went after Biden for changing his position on the war -- and she misrepresented Obama's record on troop funding, as FactCheck.org reported -- but both candidates spoke passionately about the service of their own children. (Biden also went out of his way to note the service of McCain's son, something the Republican nominee almost never mentions on the trail.) While most voters oppose the Republican ticket's Iraq policy, Palin went on offense anyway, accusing her rivals of waving the white flag of surrender, although she had previously called for an "exit strategy" before she joined McCain's ticket:
Yet watch that same exchange with CNN's distracting dial charts, which crawl across the screen with live reactions from swing voters in Ohio, and you'll see it didn't play well with the focus group. One YouTuber is already pushing that failure, under the banner "Sarah Palin sees support dive when attacking Joe Biden." Of course, watching for Palin to fail makes viewers more likely to think she failed, so some reactions to the debate will depend on whether voters watched the raw footage, or CNN's real-time strategic clutter, or handpicked clips on YouTube.