ST. LOUIS -- Sarah Palin survived.
You betcha, as Palin indeed did say.
She did not prevail -- Joe Biden was too good. He did Barack Obama proud. Biden was pitch perfect. This debate may have ruined Biden's reputation for verbosity.
But Palin was left standing in her spike heels after 90 minutes on the stage at Washington University, and after some of the loopy interviews she gave in the run-up to the first and only vice presidential debate, that was some accomplishment.
In this much anticipated matchup, Palin tried to pre-empt critics -- assuming there would be some -- early on when she said, "I may not answer the questions the way that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people."
Near the end Palin bashed the "filter" of the mainstream media, and "East Coast politicians" just for insurance.
She seemed to be reading off some papers on her podium -- I'm not sure -- and at times worked to stress areas where the McCain-Palin ticket agreed with the Obama-Biden ticket. Each tried to outdo each other on support for Israel and their common opposition to gay marriage.
While Palin has been a hit in conservative circles -- offering a new kind of feminism and role model for American women--she seemed to understand that her job was not only to jazz up the base, but to appeal to independent and swing voters. That's how I took her riff on tolerance -- in the context of talking about benefits for same sex couples.
Whatever good she did in that department, however, she may have erased when she said she was not entirely sure that global warming was a man-made problem.
"I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said, also, for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet. But there are real changes going on in our climate, and I don't want to argue about the causes."
The main point of this grand political theater was to yield votes for Barack Obama or John McCain.
Palin, elected governor of Alaska in 2006 -- the first female -- had the biggest challenge by far. She not only had to sell McCain -- but she had to convince people that she could be president if the 72-year-old Arizona senator died in office.
Biden methodically kept on task -- saying McCain was in lockstep with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney -- while stressing the Obama message of helping the middle class.
Biden won because he was better.
Palin won because she did not massively goof up.