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Analysis of Vice Presidential Debate

Aired October 2, 2008 - 22:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's see if we can hear. I guess we can't hear a whole lot more of what they were saying afterwards. Relatively polite, with a lot of compliments going back and forth from the two.
But obviously, a spirited debate in the process, a spirited debate where both of them were trying to score points, Anderson Cooper, by -- Sarah Palin going after Barack Obama and Joe Biden that, if you want to elect John McCain, you're going to get more of what you just received over the past eight years with George W. Bush.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: A debate crackling at times with energy from both sides. Clearly, both worked very hard in preparation for this debate. It was probably one of the most fascinating debates we have witnessed, certainly, in the primary season and even in this election season, when you compare it to the presidential debate between Obama and McCain. And a debate widely watched, no doubt not just in the United States but also around the world.

We have an entire team -- the best political team on television here for this post-debate version of 360, going now all the way through to the midnight hour here on 360. We'll be giving you the best analyst opinion on what we have just witnessed.

Let's take a look. Let's go over here with some of our analysts.

John King, what do you think?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think if you're grading Sarah Palin, who I think is the main question mark going in tonight by Washington standards or by debate coach standards, debate grade standards, it was an uneven performance.

If you're grading her by what she needed to do most tonight, which was it was a morale crisis in the Republican Party coming into this debate, the polls had changed. John McCain's performance in the economic debate over the past week was viewed as uneven, maybe even erratic.

If you look at the buzz of conservative activists I've been e- mailing, if you go to conservative activist Web sites, they are very happy with her performance tonight. There is more energy among the conservatives who are going into this debate. That was challenge No. 1 for her tonight, and I would say she's met that test.

The bigger test, and we'll learn more of this as we go on, is how did she do with independent voters? She tried to be folksy. She tried to talk like Ross Perot: "I'm not one of those Washington people. I don't speak their language. I don't answer the questions like they want me to answer those questions." That's charming and folksy. We'll see whether it has the sustainability to actually bring people over, as opposed to just not turning the people away.

COOPER: We're also going to be checking their comments versus the facts, "Keeping Them Honest" throughout this next hour and a half.

Campbell, what are your thoughts?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think -- I don't disagree with John. I think the big picture, there were no major gaffes here, so I don't see it. At least, you know, I'm certainly not going to be the judge. The polls will show whether this is a real game changer.

But I think Palin did what she needed to do, which was to be reassuring to conservatives, those who supported her already. She seemed to do, I thought, quite well the first half of the debate.

The second half, on foreign policy, she did seem a little bit out of her depth. Not, you know, her area of expertise. And she often felt like she was reciting memorized talking points.

I thought Biden showed remarkable self-restraint throughout the evening. A number of occasions, for example, when she got the name of General McKiernan wrong, and she kept calling him General McClellan. I would assume Biden knows who he is and could have corrected her and chose not to. You could sort of see him in his head saying, "I'm going to leave that to the pundits to do after."

But again, I think he lost people a little bit when he got into the Senate speak. If you were watching our bar, you know, he seemed to do very well with the plainspoken language, and he when he started talking about amendments, or whatever, kind of lost people a little bit. But again, in terms of the big picture, I'll see what everyone else thinks, but I didn't think it was a major game changer.

COOPER: We're going to have, again, about an hour and 20 minutes of analysis. And then we'll replay the debate for anyone who might have missed it.

I just want to get, as quick as possible, quick takes from all of you -- David Gergen.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Give credit to Sarah Palin. She was -- it was not -- it was the Sarah Palin of the early part of the campaign, not the Sarah Palin, that Palin who showed up for the Katie Couric interview. She was spirited. She came out well. She came out strong. I think there's every reason for the conservatives to be happy.

That said, Joe Biden gave the best debate performance of his life. He was -- I thought he had superior knowledge. I thought he had superiority on the debate overall, on points. On political points, it may be a bit of a draw. As a debate, I thought he was a superior debater. COOPER: Jeff Toobin?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought this was a return to an issue that has largely faded from this campaign. The war in Iraq was some of the most dramatic and riveting confrontations during that -- during that debate. I thought it was a reminder this is still a major point of controversy. They were completely different in their focus and in their priorities. And I think that was a real lesson here in what is at stake in this election.

COOPER: Roland Martin, you're an Obama supporter.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I certainly thought that Palin was strong in terms of the folksy nature. But when it came to the pocketbook issues, she kept reverting to simply one issue, tax cuts. That was it. Biden was absolutely strong about bringing up health care, about bringing up those hard core pocketbook issues. He did his job in that regard.

And so I think if you had to pick out of the two, he was absolutely on his game. And he was very effective by continuously to nail John McCain.

COOPER: Alex Castellanos, from the Republican perspective?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think Campbell is exactly right. There were two debates. The first one was on the economy and energy. And I thought Palin won that. And in that, she established herself as a legitimate contender for the vice-presidency of the United States.

In the second part of the debate, you know, Republicans aren't going to win debates on Iraq. I don't care who you put on that stage tonight, we're not going to win debates on Iraq, and we didn't tonight.

But overall, we've had a rough week as Republicans, you know? This has not been our best week. When you look at Republicans, what have you been seeing? You've been seeing Wall Street. You've been seeing economic meltdown. But you didn't see that tonight when you looked at Sarah Palin. You saw America. You saw outsiders. You saw Main Street, not Wall Street. The Republican brand needed to see that tonight, and they got it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to disagree with you a little, Alex. I think at the beginning of the debate, actually, Sarah Palin's problem was that she wasn't answering questions directly. That when she was asked about what would you cut from your spending plans as a candidate, she didn't answer it. She didn't answer bankruptcy questions. She didn't directly go back to the gay civil rights issue.

So -- and whenever that occurred, at least in the first two, she would go back to her comfort zone, which was -- which was energy. I think she did improve later on in the debate, because Biden was uncharacteristically restrained. COOPER: Want to try to -- just get to a couple other folks. Just a quick analysis. We'll come back to Alex for more detail.

Hillary Rosen, your thoughts?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought on the two big issues facing the country right now, domestic autonomy and Iraq, there's no question -- I didn't feel like she really substantively gave answers. She wouldn't even talk about bankruptcy and consumer debt and the mortgage crisis. She diverted it back to energy, which had been -- she had been answering several times for several minutes before that.

And then when it came to Iraq she sort of wandered all over the place. And it took Joe Biden -- the only time all night, I think, he actually challenged her -- to say, "I didn't hear a plan." And nobody heard a plan.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, Republican.

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: She far exceeded any expectations I think Republicans had going in here. I think she connected with ordinary people. She reinforced our base.

Again, I will take issue that neither of the presidential candidates could talk about where they were going to cut their budget. So I think she helped her party tonight. Nothing was going to be a game changer tonight.

COOPER: Going to take a quick break. But very quickly, Paul Begala.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You had two different strategies. Joe Biden's strategy was to hammer McCain, link him to the status quo and Bush. He succeeded.

Sarah Palin's strategy was to defend Sarah Palin and repair her damaged image. And I think she did a pretty good job.

COOPER: Leslie Sanchez, Republican?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I think she did a terrific job. She connected with middle-class voters. She talked about reforms and greed in Washington. And it spiked through the roof with audience dials. It connected with those issues.

COOPER: All right. A lot more coverage ahead. Another hour and 20 minutes of coverage. Again, we'll be replaying the debate at midnight eastern. 360 post debate analysis continues. Also, check it out, and also

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: And welcome back. We're continuing to get reaction that's coming in from this 90-minute debate, the first and only debate between the vice-presidential candidates.

Let's go to Columbus, Ohio, the campus of Ohio State University. Soledad O'Brien was watching and listening together with a focus group. And we were monitoring how they were reacting to what they were hearing during that course of that hour and a half.

Soledad, it was fascinating to see what they liked and what they didn't like, especially what the men liked, as opposed to what the women may not necessarily have liked. But go ahead and give us what they're saying to you now, the aftermath of what we just saw.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been absolutely fascinating to get a sense of what resonated and what did not resonate and what they take away from this evening.

So let's begin, folks, if we can. Thirty-two people, roughly again, Wolf, broken down, registered independents, registered Democrats, registered Republicans. So basically evenly.

Show of hands, who do you think won the debate? If you think Joe Biden won the debate, raise your hands. OK, that looks overwhelming. Let's now do if you think Sarah Palin won the debate, raise your hand. So small handful. Joe Biden wins by a significant margin there.

Let's talk a little bit about some moments that resonated with you. I'm going to -- excuse me for reaching over you, if you will. What's your name?


O'BRIEN: And you are a registered independent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Independent, yes.

O'BRIEN: So what was the moment that really resonated with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think early on, Palin just seemed more real, more genuine, straight talk. And once she got into that mode, I think Biden did the same. And that was much different than the last debate with the presidential.

O'BRIEN: We had you in that last panel, and you did not like that you weren't getting some specific answer answers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. I think we're getting straight talk tonight.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's move down here a little bit. What did you think was a moment that maybe made you not feel so good, where you were dialing way down on your dial tester? What's your name? Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gary Timco (ph). When Gwen Ifill asked both the candidates what promises would you not be able to follow through with because of the current financial crisis. When Sarah Palin said, "I've only been at this for five weeks; I don't have any promises," that indicated to me that, if she's only been at this for five weeks, then she is no way, in shape or form, ready to be vice president or, much less, president.

O'BRIEN: You are a registered Democrat?


O'BRIEN: So that was your moment of feeling that did not resonate with you.


O'BRIEN: Let's go up here. First start with your name, if you will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Jason Robbins (ph). I'm a registered Republican.

O'BRIEN: So there were lots of folksy moments we saw in this debate. I think mostly, really, from Governor Palin, saying, "There you go," moments like that. As a registered Republican, did you respond positively to that or did you not love those?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I didn't find them super compelling. I recognize that I suspect a lot of Americans do. But for me, it didn't -- you know, that's not going to swing my vote one way or another.

O'BRIEN: That was interesting to see in the panel, across the board, actually, people all dialed down on those. I thought that was kind of interesting.

Now, you had all mentioned, one of the things that we asked when you came in was are you persuadable? Maybe you're leaning one way or the other, but you'd be willing to change your minds. I'd like to see a show of hands after this evening's debate, anybody feel, "OK, I've now made a decision"? Raise your hand if you've made a decision.

Wow. So this debate, the vice-presidential debate, has solidified it for you. I'm going to read right here. Go right here, and tell me your name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah Reclock (ph).

O'BRIEN: And what was it that made you make a decision and now who are you voting for?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm pretty sure I'm going to vote for Obama.

O'BRIEN: What happened in the vice-presidential debate that made you think that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I just liked all their answers. I watched the presidential debate and now this one and just liked all of his answers, and the economy and just everything, more than Palin.

O'BRIEN: Anybody here make a decision to vote for John McCain at the end of this evening? We've got one McCain supporter. You are a registered Republican, is that correct? What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Becky Mock (ph).

O'BRIEN: What did you hear in this debate that makes you weigh towards McCain now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think Sarah Palin was able to regain -- regain that she is a real person, and that she knows what she's going to be doing. And I think she's able to restore the confidence in McCain's choice as her being his vice president.

O'BRIEN: Excellent. All right. Let's do a show of hands for our final question. Who do you think's going to win this election?

Raise your hands if you think Barack Obama will win this election. Overwhelming. Raise your hands if you think John McCain's going to win this election.

Follow-up question. Raise your hands if you're going to vote for Barack Obama. Interesting. Roughly half, I'm going to say. And raise your hands if you're going to vote for John McCain. Well, our undecideds, interesting -- OK, not everybody is decided.

So Wolf, as you can see, it was -- far more people made their decision at the end of the vice-presidential debate -- almost twice the number, really, than we saw last week at the presidential debate. We're losing more of our panel as people start making their decisions. They no longer are flexible and persuadable, so we cannot have them back.

We'll be back, of course, for the presidential debate and continue the line of questioning for our folks on our panel.

BLITZER: Interesting. Fascinating stuff. We're going to be coming back to you. I want to hear more from those folks in Columbus, Ohio, Soledad.

Take a look at this. For those not who are not watching in high definition, if you were watching in high definition, along the side panels you saw what our analysts were saying, how they were scoring this debate as they went along, who scored opportunities, who some missed opportunities.

And take a look at this. Ed Rollins, for example, a Republican strategist, says Palin did a lot better, scoring -- look at that -- 48 positive moments for her, as opposed to 22 for Biden. Negative moments for her, only three, seven for Biden. Ed Rollins.

If you take a look at Alex Castellanos, he obviously gave a few more positives, to -- well, actually Joe Biden, he gave him a few more positives than he did to Sarah Palin, 26-24. We're going to talk to all of these analysts. Paul Begala, Gloria Borger, John King, Hilary Rosen, Alex and Ed, as well.

Much more coming up. Remember, is a great place where you can go and get a lot more useful information. Much more of our special coverage right after this.


COOPER: And welcome back to this post-debate version of 360. We're here with the best political team on television. A fascinating night.

Where does the race go from here? How will Sarah Palin be used from here on in? Are we going to see any more Katie Couric-style interviews?

ROLLINS: There's not going to be any more Katies. And that's last week's story. Tonight's story is that she basically is now back, a very valuable resource to this campaign, where she can go back out, have cheering crowds again and race resources.

COOPER: But no press conference? Maybe some...

ROLLINS: I think she'll do press conferences, but it's not going to be national. And it's going to be live, unless they're foolish. I mean, the bottom line is they -- you see her perform in front of a camera. She does very well. So I would do a lot of local interviews, one-on-one, but live.

COOPER: Moments tonight, Hilary, that stood out to you?

ROSEN: Well, you know, I kept going back to thinking of about -- if 9/11, the president is flying around on Air Force One and the vice president is in the situation room, seeking authority to shoot down aircraft that come into U.S. airspace. And does Sarah Palin meet the test that she's the one in that room making those judgment calls with our generals?

Joe Biden stood there. You felt comfortable with him. Sarah Palin, I don't think she met that test tonight. And I just don't think that you can get that out of your head when you think about a vice president.

COOPER: Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist. Leslie Sanchez, Republican?

SANCHEZ: Well, there's no doubt about it. I thought Biden was very slick.

COOPER: Do you think Palin, though, met that criteria?

SANCHEZ: I do. Absolutely.

COOPER: She gave you confidence?

SANCHEZ: She did. She reinvigorated this ticket. Exactly. Alex had the right point. In an economic downturn, there were a lot of people. It's a really difficult time for the Republican Party right now. She engaged because she talked about common sense reform.

In middle-class America, she's talking about things like energy independence. We heard energy independence enough.

But it was things like education reform...

COOPER: She did seem to bring it back to energy an awful lot.

SANCHEZ: Well, she did. But if you look at the spikes -- look at the spikes from the audience. They were on particular things like ending corruption and greed. They were on education reform. She did very strong on the domestic reform. She was much weaker on foreign policy, but people expected that.

But it was refreshing. She looked young; she looked engaging. He looked professorial. She looked like the right match for the right time.

COOPER: The format, though, did make it difficult. For whatever the reason, Gwen Ifill did not seem to follow up on a lot of details. Many things were kind of left hanging.

BEGALA: I suspect Gwen saw her job as a moderator, just to moderate, throw the questions out, let them answer them as they see fit, not you know, the sort of prosecutorial mode that maybe somebody like me might have preferred.

I was struck that, you know, with Governor Palin, her job, the Republicans will win if they make Barack Obama too risky. I didn't see one moment where she made the case Barack Obama was too risky. Many moments, though, where Joe Biden was pushing the Democratic line, which is that John McCain will be more of the same.

COOPER: So you think she helped herself tonight. She didn't help McCain?

BEGALA: She helped herself, but she hurt John McCain. She's running for 2012.

COOPER: We've got to take a short break. AC360 continues in a moment. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Quite a night of politics here on 360. An hour more, and then we'll replay the debate for you at 12 midnight on the East Coast. You can also follow along, But right now, 360 is the place to be.

Let's check in with Candy Crowley who is in the Debate Hall right now in St. Louis. Often the way something appears in a television, the way it plays in the hall is very different. How did it play in the hall and what are you hearing from the people in the hall now?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things that I noticed and this is in comparison to the presidential debate. If you watched this group after the debate, it was a much warmer atmospheric between Biden and Palin than it was between Obama and McCain.

These are two different people with warmer personalities. There was a lot less animosity between them. She walked up to him at the beginning and said, may I call you Joe? He said, yes. She spoke with some reverence about his son being in the military, he hers at one point.

So there was a whole different atmosphere in this arena than in the presidential debate down in Mississippi. And I think you saw that both in body language and indeed in some of the things they said. It wasn't that they didn't go after each other's top of the ticket, but they didn't go after each other that much.

And I think that was largely Joe Biden kind of leading the way. He could have gone after her, he didn't. Because their whole point was this is about John McCain. So he kept his focus there and she kept her focus on Barack Obama.

So it just made for a friendlier atmosphere. And again, you saw it at the end. I mean, he was talking to her children, she was talking to his, that kind of thing.

So there was a real difference in this hall from Mississippi.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, at the Hall.

Let's check in with your panel here. John King, what are you hearing from people? I know you're furiously on your Blackberry, a lot of people are e-mailing you. What do you think the perception is right now?

KING: I'm going to take this out. Because someone is talking in my ears at the same time here talking to me, but what you're hearing and again the question, all this is framed in, what did you expect tonight? What did you want from the candidates tonight?

If you look at Sarah Palin's job as reinvigorating the Republican base that was having a little bit of morale slump because of the shift in the polls, because of the economic debate, because of some questions about John McCain's performance in the economic debate over the last ten days, Sarah Palin met the test and exceeded the test without a doubt.

With all the e-mails you're seeing, if you try to get on to, and, they're live presentations during the debate, they were full, it was hard to get in. Conservatives very engaged, all of the back and forth is very encouraging. I was keeping in touch with some soft McCain supporters around the country by e- mail, all of them said they liked her performance, they were impressed with her performance.

They had some criticism, they weren't all -- they're not drinking the kool-aid, they had some criticisms, but it was enough for them to be satisfied. If you're wondering among Independent voters who started to shift towards Barack Obama, did she turn the tide? That's something we'll learn in the days and weeks ahead and my guess would be, just from communicating from people tonight, it was probably not but that's not her job.

COOPER: How much of that shifting tide is because of economic issues and how much of it was the doubts about Sarah Palin?

KING: It's almost all about economic issues.

COOPER: Right.

KING: I think that she might reinforce her -- I think sometimes we're forgetting because she was so important to John McCain in the post Democratic convention, through the Republican convention, in those first two weeks after, that she was so important to changing the dynamics of this race, I think that we sometimes are judging her by a standard that vice-presidential candidates are not judged by.

It is the old do no harm is the normal standard. But she is important to John McCain beyond that. Because she gives energy to the Republican base, a lot of conservatives, and we talk about -- how long did we talk about this in the primaries, his voting record is fine, is he really one of us?

When he picked her a lot of conservatives that he must be because she's like us. And the one other thing I will say just from recent travels, these guys -- both of them are lucky that there's not a Ross Perot on the ballot. Because people are increasingly fed up with Washington.

I don't know who would hurt more, probably the Republicans more than the Democrats, but people are increasingly fed up with Washington, and because that mood is on the rise, I think if she can get back to being what she was at the beginning, it helps. How much, I don't know.

BROWN: The question becomes how do they use her going forward. Because she was very successful for him in being out there on the stump rallying crowds, to energizing the base, but then all that changed in terms of sort of how she was viewed because of the problems she's had over the last week with this interview.

So the question, and you may be able to answer this question before the night's over, at the map. Even if she does go out there and campaign with him and energize the crowds, how does that ultimately change the electoral map? You know what it is.

KING: You are hitting on the fundamental question, which is let's assume for the sake of this discussion, Sarah Palin had a pretty good night tonight for her fundamental challenge, which was boosting Republican morale again. What does that do to the Electoral Map? Not that much. John McCain is going to have to close this deal.

COOPER: And tomorrow when the headlines turned back to the bailout, and when that is the story of the weekend and that is the story of the beginning of next week, what happens? Does this night just kind of go away?

BORGER: I think from the Republicans I'm hearing from and I heard from the one in particular, who is a political consultant and he said and I think probably hopefully after tonight, is that it changes the conversation from the financial crisis and the notion that McCain is doomed, that's his hopeful thoughts. I think you get back to the financial crisis. But at least we're not going to be talking about Sarah Palin as much.

COOPER: David.

GERGEN: I think the problem -- one of the issues of going into the debate was that Sarah Palin was threatening to become an embarrassment for the McCain ticket. And she was threatening to drag it down. A lot of people were concluding very negative things after the Katie Couric interview.

I think she erased that tonight. I think she now does get the boisterous crowds. I think John King is absolutely right about that, but I don't -- I think the problem for John McCain is it does not change the dynamics of the race which have shifted in Barack Obama's favor.

And I don't think you can say enough just how good a job Joe Biden did tonight. I thought he was appealing, he made those arguments --

TOOBIN: I thought before George W. Bush won the election by motivating the base like it had never been motivated before in a completely passionate way. They are not enough to them to win this election for John McCain.

He simply needs more than that. And I don't see how this -- this debate gets the Independents who have gone in a significant way to Barack Obama in the last couple of weeks --

MARTIN: Anderson, Joe Biden kept coming back to the economic issues, and he kept laying out no, this is the real John McCain. Even when he came back, late in the debate, and say, you know what, let me address this maverick point.

I mean, he wanted to really nail the whole issue of deregulation, kind of tear that down. So I think that's what his role is. He's saying, I know the guy, this is who the guy is. And as long as they keep this thing on pocketbook, that's how they are able to do so well.

COOPER: I just want to tell viewers what they're seeing Sarah Palin has just gotten off the bus at a Palin rally at the hype of it's auditorium in St. Louis. This is where she is headed after her debate.

We'll try to check out where Joe Biden has headed as well, clearly in that crowd, very popular indeed. ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that one of the things though that you shouldn't discount, is that there is a wave, an angry wave out there of Americans who think what are these people in Washington doing? Look at the mess they've made. Now, they're going to give booze to the alcoholic, they're going to bail out Wall Street.

And they didn't see that tonight. And John McCain, as a Republican has become a Bush-Wall Street Republican this past week with this economic crisis. Tonight, we saw very different face on that Republican Party.

So a vice president, a vice president helps when the vice president is message, when the vice president is more than just someone on the ticket. The vice president is the story that she is.

COOPER: Before the debate, John King asked a question, can Sarah Palin tap into that anger that Alex is talking about and if she can --

BORGER: She's trying.

COOPER: She was trying, do you think she did it?

BORGER: She was trying, I think look, I think she exceeded expectations, I think Joe Biden exceeded expectations. I think they both performed well and she tried to tap into that outsiderism that I'm different from Joe Biden, I understand.

COOPER: It was an interesting moment where at the end, that Joe Biden really got emotional talking about, and almost angry about the implication that because she is a mother she can sit around on the kitchen table --

BORGER: They both did well.

MARTIN: Limits in the shot and that was a striking moment because again, he brought it home. But look, she can talk all day about being an outsider and talking against Washington but you're running with the guy who is from Washington.

CASTELLANOS: Just like Barack Obama is.

MARTIN: It may sound nice but -- right, but the point is, he's there 26 years. And so you can dance all day but he's been there as part of the issue as well. And on the bailout deal, you can talk about the anger of America, but it was a little hard when your candidate and the opposition has voted for the exact same bill. You can't show any difference.

COOPER: How effective, Ed Rollins, do you think Joe Biden was at hitting head on that maverick issue?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Joe Biden is exactly what he normally is. He is a very astute brilliant analyst on foreign affairs and he has been for a very long period of time. So no one is shocked by his performance. I think the critical thing here, and no vice president ever basically turns around. Lyndon Johnson dealing on whatever won anything and that's because he has the ability to take Texas and help in Illinois.

At the end of the day, what she has done is she has lived another day. Five million people watched the Katie Couric, another 10 million probably watched it replayed on cable. 50 million watched her give her speech and 50 million people watched her tonight.

She's going out a star. When George Bush did Geraldine Ferraro, I had to basically take union people from all over the country to give him 500 people the next day. She'll have 15,000 where ever she goes tomorrow.

COOPER: And here she is right now clearly a crowd at (inaudible) auditorium, very happy to see her move. Maybe we'll try to listen in a little when she begins talking. Let's listen in.





PALIN: Thank you all so much.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, you're saying Sarah Palin clearly has her confidence back.

ROLLINS: She has her confidence back. She doesn't need her hand held. She got through this thing, I'm sure she was nervous, I'm sure last week she had little second thoughts, about why did I leave Alaska. Tonight she's got to go out and she's going to help this ticket.

COOPER: Those are her parents standing behind her. Her father there over her right shoulder.

Paul Begala.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think it's a sort of a sideshow. She now has at least gone from being a national punchline to being you know maybe at best neutral to the ticket, which is probably the best a vice-presidential candidate generally does.

But that's not going to swing any votes or any state. She did not do McCain very much good today. She did Sarah Palin a lot of good.

COOPER: Throughout this hour on "360" we're going to be checking the facts, "Keeping them Honest" with some what the comments were. We'll check those against the record. John King though has some results from a new national poll that is just out -- John. KING: National poll we conducted Anderson, during the debate, and these results are only people who watched the debate, so that's not necessarily representative of the country as a whole.

Remember last week's debate, more Democrats are watching than Republican. Well, look at this one over here and here we go right now, who did the best job in the debate; 51 percent said Senator Biden did the best job and 36 percent graded governor Palin as doing the best in the debate.

So if you're scoring who is the winner by that poll you would say Senator Biden.

Here's another key question, did Biden, Senator Biden do better or worse than you expected; 64 percent said Senator Biden did better than they expected, 14 percent said he was worse than they expected, 20 percent said he was about the same as they expected.

Here's an interesting question here and what about Governor Palin? Did she do better or worse than you expected? 84 percent of the people watching the debate said that she did better than they expected. 7 percent said she did worse, 8 percent said she did about as expected.

One more question here and I hope we have the graphic for this one. Is Palin qualified to serve as president? Heading into the debate, 42 percent said yes, 54 percent said no, after the debate, 46 percent said yes, 53 percent no. So by a very small percentage point she moved up the percentage of people who said she's qualified to be president.

But certainly, if you look at Biden was scored as the winner, better than expected they both did better than people expected, Governor Palin scored better on that one and too many betters in that sentence really.

COOPER: You need some coaching on that.

Our coverage continues, we're going to have a lot more and more polls and more from that focus group of how undecided voters reacted in real-time and of course, the best political team on television and you can follow along on

We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to "360" post-debate analysis. We're just joined now by CNN's Carl Bernstein. Carl what are your thoughts?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, is this woman ready to be President of the United States, I think that's the underlying question, and how people watching react to that question.

Yes, she's ready to be Secretary of the Interior in a McCain administration. But I'm not at all sure that she was reassuring enough on the big questions about National Security or even domestic policies involving the economy to show a command of the issues.

Did she help herself and help the Republican base? Yes. But in terms of I think that the numbers that John King is coming up with here tonight, preliminary as they are, tell the story. This has been a bad time for John McCain because he's been perceived by too many people as erratic. And part of that perception has to do with the choice of Palin.

And I don't think she undid that perception, though she performed much better than she did with Katie Couric.

COOPER: Ed Rollins if there has been this momentum shift over the last two weeks because of the economy largely although some doubts about Sarah Palin among voters toward Barack Obama.

Did she do anything tonight that would have convince -- that convinced any of those people who have shifted over to maybe give John McCain a second look?

ROLLINS: No. John McCain has got to go and make -- he's got five weeks to go out and convince people that he cannot just be commander-in-chief if she won that battle earlier on, but if he can be economist in chief and he has a game plan. John has been erratic over the last couple of weeks and he has to get very stable and has to be some major break through here, other-wise this thing is going to dribble away.

COOPER: And overall I mean how does the news look Paul? You were looking at the states there was a political reporting about John McCain leaving Michigan or pulling out of Michigan, perhaps?

BEGALA: Yes, which is terrible for McCain. He ought to be contesting that state. It looked like it's going to be a tossup, there was a call apparently in the McCain campaign had with reporters, they listed these states as their battle grounds, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina.

Now, what do they all have in common? George Bush carried every single one of them. So that means the entire battlefield is on terrain that McCain can't afford to lose a one of them or he loses the election. That's terrible news for John McCain.

ROLLINS: And you counter that with the Republicans National Committee announcing that they raised more money last month than ever before, so we have plenty of money and we can compete anywhere we want to compete, and we need to be competing in Michigan.

LESLIE SANCHEZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As long as this economy down turn is a reality is front center, people want to punish the incumbent party I mean that's the natural things. If this stays and it's just calm in the next five weeks, McCain is going to have a problem I mean in all of these states and that's why he has to shift, which is interesting to this kind of cultural conservative common sense principle.

She's talking about let's go in and reform Washington. And that's when you saw the spikes on the dial. People connected with that idea but that's still a tremendous amount to accomplish.

BERNSTEIN: Quick point on that that she did not know John McCain's record and Biden did. And I think that's what undermined her. If she had known --

SANCHEZ: He's been there longer.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. But I think it was a very important point. And I think that it didn't serve her well and didn't serve McCain well. She didn't know his real record.

COOPER: Well, she's also came off on the one issue on equal rights for gays and lesbians, it came off as if she actually supports the same policies as Obama and Biden do, which is just factually not the case.

BEGALA: Let's wait and see, let's set the stopwatch to see how long it takes Ed's old client, Mike Huckabee, to hammer Governor Palin and maybe by extension even Senator McCain.

ROLLINS: I hope it's not for me, I hope he's doing all right now.

BEGALA: I hope it's right, I suspect she'll walk that back now. But she seemed to say that she supported the Biden-Obama position that we should treat all Americans equally. That would be a radical step for the Republican Party.

MARTIN: I could deal right then the moment she answered that, Evangelicals were going on, what in the world is she doing? They'll be like the rest about that but trust me, they're not going to like that comment. So you're going to see its policy is backtracking.

COOPER: How does the race now change? Alex Castellanos there are some who are say that McCain needs to basically just go much more negative in commercials, even in the rhetoric he is speaking and really to Leslie's point earlier, bring up culture issues, bring up doubts about Barack Obama, bringing up Reverend Wright.

CASTELLANOS: I think the race changes this way. I think now, Senator McCain has to go ahead and paint what this future would look like under Barack Obama. And it's not hard to do to make a Republican case. You say, look, this economy is on a precipice right now. And we're awfully close to the edge.

Do you want a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President? Do you want a car with two accelerators and no brake? What do you think would happen to this economy? Do you really trust those guys? I'd be cutting those TV spot right now and putting the spotlights back on Barack Obama and putting that up and I wouldn't pull out of Michigan, I'd be in those states putting out that economic message out.

BORGER: They did.

COOPER: But as long as the economy -- I mean, it seems like there has been this shift in people's, certainly in who they're supporting right now but in what they want to hear. And as the economy, and people look at their bank accounts disappearing do they want to hear that kind of stuff? Do they want to hear that negativity?

BORGER: No I think they want answers.

GERGEN: Anderson, all day today it's been apparent that - A - first of all, they don't have the votes in the House yet on the bailout for the rescue package. But B - this problem on Wall Street is spreading. It looks as if we're going into a severe recession that could be pretty long. It seems to me that what John McCain could best do is come up with a plan to deal with the onset of a potential recession.

I think all this negativity and so forth is a sideshow compared to what's really going on in people's lives.

COOPER: John King, you have more numbers that looks fascinating.

KING: Let's show a little bit more as we continue this discussion and we'll get back to Obama and McCain. And I think David is right, but anyone watching and try to process tonight, what do you think of these guys. Number one, we'll start with main headlines again, who did the best job in the debate. And this is a poll of not of all Americans but people who watched the debate tonight; 51 percent say Senator Biden did the best job and 36 percent say Governor Palin did the best job.

And then, here's some more interesting question, who was more in touch with people with problems of people like you, a very important question in the midst of this economic crisis. Senator Biden scored on that one the best; 50 percent said Senator Biden was more in touch with the problems of people like you, not far behind, 44 percent for Governor Palin. But advantage, Biden on that one.

Here's another interesting question especially again given the mood of the country right now as they watched this debate in Washington, who seemed more like a typical politician, 70 percent says Senator Biden seems more like a typical politician and 21 percent said Governor Palin. So interesting numbers, perceptions of these two vice-presidential candidates at a time when A, Washington is dealing with a pretty big deal, this economic crisis and most Americans aren't happy with what they see, no matter how they stand on the package is not happy with the way this is working and you have this anti- Washington mood going. It's interesting.

BORGER: But these same voters also said 53 percent said that Biden was more likely to bring change, to Palin 42 percent. So that's kind of interesting if change is what voters are looking for, change is what voters are looking what Republicans are looking for in the McCain campaign is consistency.

TOOBIN: I think John McCain walked away from his best opportunity to shake up this race completely, which was voting -- he could have voted against this package. He could have said, you know, all these people are bums, this pork barrel, the hell with you all. COOPER: Embrace some more populist message.

TOOBIN: Embrace some more populist message but now, the central issue, he has the same vote as Barack Obama. So how does he draw that distinction? Now, maybe if there was a statesmanship -- an act of statesmanship to support the bailout but he didn't draw the distinction and so I think it makes his job a lot harder.

GERGEN: But that's why he needs to go beyond the question of the rescue package. This whole economic issue is starting to move beyond the rescue package. He needs to be upfront and how to deal with what could be a severe recession. And that is -- and Obama has got the beginnings of a plan of a stimulus package, it's not at all clear what McCain offers to deal with what's coming.

MARTIN: And his own words are hurting him when the Obama folks says, you said it yourself, I didn't see it coming. It's a little hard now to keep saying I saw it coming when your own words say, I didn't.

COOPER: I want to bring -- I want to go to a quick break. and follow along right now.

When we come back we'll take a look at some of the best moments and also some of the moments in the factual dispute. We'll look at that, "Keeping them Honest."

Also we'll look more at the focus group and we'll check back with Soledad O'Brien who is looking in the focus group and their reaction in real-time and a whole a lot ahead and also a lot of Internet reaction as well.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: And welcome back to "360." In about an half hour we're going to be replaying the entire debate for you, a fascinating debate tonight. We have a lot more analysis ahead.

Also we're going to have these new poll information and also some focus groups will be replaying you some key moments that we witnessed during the hour and half or so of the debate and show you how undecided voters rated those moments in real-time.

Let's continue the discussion we were having before. Essentially now moving forward, I mean does this really change anything given what the headlines are going to be over the next couple of days regarding the economy.

TOOBIN: Not a bit. I really don't think this will be a cultural artifact of this election. People will remember this as the night that Sarah Palin did a lot better than people expected. But how many votes were shifted? Boy, I doubt many.

BROWN: When are we going to be talking about Sarah Palin again between now and Election Day in all honesty given the crisis in the economy right now?

BORGER: When Anderson gets an interview or you get an interview with her right?

BROWN: When's that going to happen?

COOPER: Or if Katie Couric still has little excerpts under her belt somewhere that she's going to be parceling out.

KING: I would ask the time frame of the question if you will on the sense, does this change anything Election Day or people are going to say this is the night that made up their mind, I think that would be a small percentage of people.

In the next 72 or 100 hours, I think this helps the Republicans even though I scored Joe Biden as the winner of the debate on points tonight. And I think he made a very assertive every time he could, Bush-McCain, Bush-McCain or a Cheney-McCain, tonight Biden I think did everything they could have expected of him from the Obama campaign coming into this.

The issue in the race was the morale in the Republican Party, a bit of a morale crisis in the Republican Party. , I think Sarah Palin helped considerably there for the next 72 hours or up until the next second presidential debate.

COOPER: But given that John McCain and Obama both have supported this bailout, how does John McCain then now turn this around in the time left --

BROWN: It's a plan --

BORGER: He has to do what David was saying. He has got to have a plan. And now this opens up some space in the campaign.

TOOBIN: This where the substance matters and this where is there is a crisis in the Republican Party of ideas, that there are no ideas in the Republican Party on the economy except tax cuts.

We'll see.

TOOBIN: Tax cuts is what the Republican Party is about now. They're popular but --

CASTELLANOS: Which by the way is not a bad idea though to have, and it's certainly done well tonight. And by the way, both sides tested these debates tonight, Democrats and Republicans. And certainly Paul might know what the Democrat testing looked like.

But I can tell you from inside that some of the Republican testing was pretty good for Sarah Palin precisely because they were talking about stimulating the economy. Stimulating the economy by putting money in my pocket is a good thing for Middle America.

MARTIN: I'll tell tonight, if you look at those dials, one group not being stimulated by Sarah Palin, women. They were very flat in terms of her. When I'm looking over the next 72 hours, how did women respond to this debate? They better be looking at Obama and McCain.

COOPER: Let's do that right now. Let's go back to our focus group, Wolf, which Soledad has.

BLITZER: Anderson, Soledad O'Brien has been reporting from Columbus, Ohio, on the campus of Ohio State University.

You have got 32 undecided voters, some of whom we saw earlier, Soledad, they've made up their minds. But I want to hear more of what they thought about what happened today.

O'BRIEN: Yes, they're roughly divided into independents, Democrats and registered Republicans. But they all said that they were persuadable. So even though they might be leaning one way or the other, they came in into the door thinking that they might change their minds.

One of the things we wanted to see was what really resonated with men and women and how do they differ and in some ways, how were they the same. Take a look at how and watch the squiggles when Joe Biden talks about a timeline for troops and watch when Sarah Palin follows.


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing. You have to have a timeline to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis. We're spending $10 billion a month while the Iraqis have an $80 billion surplus. Barack says it's time for them to spend their own money, have the 400,000 military we trained for them begin to take their own responsibility and gradually over 16 months withdrawal.

John McCain, this is a fundamental difference between us, we will end this war. For John McCain there is no end in sight to end this war.



GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq. That is not what our troops need to hear today, that's for sure and it's not what our nation needs to be able to count on. You guys opposed the surge. The surge worked. Barack Obama still can't admit the surge worked.


O'BRIEN: Interesting to see, if you watch those squiggles, the yellow line was the women; women always higher than men we noticed that throughout the entire debate. But on those two things you saw, for Joe Biden as soon as he started talking about timeline and troops, numbers way up.

When she's talked about a white flag and any kind of criticism always rates lowly with dial testers. However, where Governor Palin did get high marks we say in energy and domestic policy, she talked about that, the dials would go back up.

I want to quickly check in with the folks whom we started the evening with, Corina Cox and Phil Wegmeir (ph).

Corina, let's start with you. You told us what you wanted to hear, how do you feel about the debate?

CORINA COX, REGISTERED DEMOCRAT: I feel good about the debate. I feel that Sarah Palin did satisfy my mind somewhat on the energy crisis. I think that she would be better serving on an energy crisis than Biden or Obama would be.

O'BRIEN: Interesting to hear from a registered Democrat. Let's go to our registered Republican. What did you think of this debate?

PHIL WEGMEIR, REGISTERED REPUBLICAN: I thought she hung in there. Most everything was for Joe Biden, he was, I guess, the favorite going into the debate. She hung there in. I felt Biden probably won the debate when you look at just facts and dealing with foreign affairs and trying to address what are we going to do, how we're going do it versus more general ideas.

O'BRIEN: We still have lots of undecideds, Wolf. I'm going to come right up here to the top there. Give me your name and tell me why you're more undecided than ever. We have only have about 15 seconds.

VALERIE GIBSON, UNDECIDED: I'm Valerie Gibson. I'm more undecided than ever because I came in slightly towards John McCain although I have great respect for Obama, and Sarah Palin for me, was not as substantial on the issues.

She could have helped John McCain a lot more than she did. His strengths are foreign policy and I don't think she was as strong as she could have. Now, I'm really more undecided than ever.

O'BRIEN: Our undecided panel, some have made, a number actually, probably about a third have decided and will not be joining us again because they've now made their decision after the vice-presidential debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We love hearing from so-called real people out there as well as our panel here at the CNN elections. Soledad thank them all for us for hanging in there and for giving us their honest opinions. We love monitoring those little squiggly lines as they were going forward during that 90-minute debate.

Soledad is out in Columbus, Ohio.

I want to walk over to Alex Wellen because he's checking the web to see what's going on; getting lots of reaction from all sorts of folk. Alex, give us a sense of what we're seeing on the web.

WELLEN: There's place we've been talking about a lot of different things -- there's a place called the forum where you can create a political badge. We've been getting so much reaction.

Let me get just this out of the way.

Here is one, for example.

"Self-proclaimed weasel;" a supporter of Obama, Iraq, economy, energy, those are the most important issues to this political junkie. He had said or she or presumably he, Sarah may not be sticking to the facts but she expresses herself in a way that the average voter loves." That is an Obama supporter, interesting.

Here we have someone who is a Republican, self-proclaimed, Cisco 17, economy again, number one issue for that person, Iraq, social issues. They do this themselves. We have no way of vetting them. But this is how they say they would have voted. And it's a political junkie and they say, "It looks and appears someone has done their homework, Senator Joe Biden is giving important and pertinent facts with his responses."

So we're getting lots of reaction online, people creating their badges. You can do that of course at

BLITZER: Alex thanks very much; lots of useful information at

We're going to continue our coverage. Get much more reaction. The campaigns weighing in. They obviously think they know who won this debate.

We'll come back with much more of our coverage right after this.


COOPER: Welcome back to this post debate version of "AC360." About 20 minutes from now we'll replay the entire debate. We just heard from -- as Wolf has said -- so-called real people. Let's now talk to some definitely unreal people; the best political team on television.

Ed Rollins, you're a real person.

ROLLINS: But this table is more real than that table over there. One thing that's for sure.

COOPER: Does this have life beyond tonight? It's fascinating for junkies to talk about.

ROLLINS: Tomorrow is the story of the house, what happens if they get the bailout. Weekend stories are what happens to the economy. Next week is where are we?

COOPER: Do you agree with David Gergen that John McCain can only shift the tide by coming up with plan?

ROLLINS: John McCain has been very inconsistent in his policies to date. He's for it, he's against it, he's against earmarks, he didn't stand up last night and say strip this bill down, make it a true bill. He has got to come up with an economic plan.

The problem is his team is not a very astute team. He depended on Phil Gramm a long time and Phil Gramm is not in the inner circle anymore.

BERNSTEIN: There's a bigger problem as well and that is that we've had three presidents who'd come into office as a result of death or resignation of the President of the United States. And the thought that Palin would succeed John McCain in this situation is very much a part of the whole equation. It's a not just about the Republican base, it's about an election and about electing a ticket.

Usually, we think, whoever the vice-presidential nominee is makes no difference. I think that it makes every bit of difference in terms of that small number of undecided voters. And we're seeing that in some of the polls. Tonight did not get the Republicans over that hump.

COOPER: I thought it was interesting when both were asked about how their administration would differ from the top of their ticket administration if, God forbid, something happened to the president. Joe Biden said I would continue the policies of Barack Obama. Sarah Palin seemed to indicate differences between herself and John McCain. Why -- what was that about?

BEGALA: Not to keep banging the same drums, but earlier in the Katie Couric interview which you aired the last piece of I guess that I saw tonight. Katie asked Governor Palin who's your favorite vice president. At first, she said Geraldine Ferraro was a good candidate.

And Katie came back to no, who served as vice president? She said George H.W. Bush because she said he went on to become president.

COOPER: Do you think she's looking at 2012?

BEGALA: Sometimes candidates say things because they mean it; occasionally. I always tried to keep them from doing that. Once in a while they speak the truth.

I thought it was very a telling moment. I think she means it. Former President Bush was the vice president. She said he learned the ropes under Ronald Reagan.

COOPER: You think she has an eye for 2012.

BEGALA: I know she does.

ROLLINS: I will tell, whether this ticket wins or not -- obviously if they win she's the vice president -- she is a candidate for 2012. A serious candidate...

COOPER: No doubt about it, really?

ROLLINS: ... based on this debate tonight.

COOPER: Based on tonight. You think prior to this, she didn't have a chance of it and now she does? BERNSTEIN: That means eight more years of cultural warfare or four.

SANCHEZ: Anderson, no, it's very true. And just going back to that point about common sense, people had the same type of criticism about Ronald Reagan. There is a sense of this that she has a very real common sense means I understand gas prices are high, that we need to reform Washington.

It means pragmatic solutions at getting something done. It's a populist term.

BEGALA: Here's the problem with that. Tonight in the debate, she said, I'm a Joe six-pack kind of person. That's not a change from the current President George W. 12-pack. This is not the time to run saying I'm just the guy you wanted to have a beer with. We've had that for the last eight years.

ROLLINS: He doesn't ask us to drink anymore.

BEGALA: Thank goodness for that. This whole appeal when he had appeal was I'm just the every man.

COOPER: Are you saying that that doesn't sell the way it used to?

BEGALA: I think that dog don't hunt no more.

I think people want thoughtful reflective leadership and I think it's one of the reasons why Barack Obama despite having very little experience is doing very well. I think thoughtful and intelligent might just be in this year.

SANCHEZ: People are mad and frustrated with Washington. They don't want part of that establishment. I think if you looked at Biden, he was so iconic Washington. And it was really -- that's what was so strange about them together. They're talking about change, he was so much a politician and she was that new fresh voice.

COOPER: We're going to take a break again.


COOPER: Our coverage continues, a lot more ahead. Stay tuned "360" continues.


BLITZER: Between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden and the reaction coming in. The campaigns are reacting, not surprisingly, both campaigns are issuing strong statements of support of their respective candidates.

But folks around the country are reacting as well. A lot of that reaction you can see at We're going to go out to the campus at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dana Bash has been getting reaction from what seems to be a little bit more enthusiastic revive the McCain-Palin campaign.

What are they saying to you?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you just used two of the words that we heard many, many times here tonight from the McCain-Palin. No question, there is a big, sigh of relief inside the campaign about the fact that they do feel, as you can imagine, like she did what she had to do, she did more than she had to do.

We talked before this debate about the fact that expectations were very low. She clearly exceeded those.

But one thing that I learned that was interesting, we talked a lot about the advice that she was getting and the advice that she was even getting from columnists about let Sarah be Sarah, and that she was being stuffed too much with information. It felt like she was king of getting brainwashed.

What I learned here tonight is that they realized that. What they did at the cabin inside, actually near John McCain's ranch for the past three days was they really got her to relax. They got her to do something that she hadn't been able to do inside hotel rooms with Blackberries going, with a lot of staff really, trying to get so much information into her head.

Basically what they did is they just got her to have her family around her and tried to explain to her ways to get this information across in ways that she hadn't been able to do before. That was very, very interesting -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Dana thanks very much. Dana's out at the campus at Washington University in St. Louis.

Anderson, there's no doubt that some folks inside the McCain campaign would like to unleash her right now, let her do more news conferences, interviews with folks like us, for example. But there are some others who are still resisting. I suspect that after her performance tonight at this debate, maybe we'll see a little bit more of her in some of those unscripted moments.

COOPER: We'll see. She's yet to give a news conference so that would certainly be a first.

Also, earlier in the night we talked about Sarah Palin, we showed her at a rally. We should point out Joe Biden is on his way to Wilmington, Delaware.

I think tomorrow he speaks at his son is going off to Iraq. I think he is speaking at an event for that.

Let's check in with John King who's at the magic map. John, let's take a look at where this race goes from here. Where the key battle ground states are now.

KING: Let's start by looking at our electoral map which again you need 270 to win. We have Obama right now ahead or state-leaning in his direction with 250 electoral votes; John McCain at 189. What that tells you, Anderson, is that if you look at these gold states, the yellow states, those are toss-up states.

Barack Obama has so many more options from getting from this number 250 to this number 270. For example, he can get there simply by winning the state of Florida then he is the next president of the United States. So John McCain's plan is to fundamentally change this map and to change it fast.

So I'm going to go back to 2004 to help explain that. One of the states -- this is where they were debating tonight right here in St. Louis. This is a critical state. It has picked the winner in every presidential election since 1900 except for one.

John McCain is in a dead heat right there in the state of Missouri; the economy, like everywhere, issue number one. He has to make this state red.

I want to pull back out to the national map. We learned today John McCain is pulling out of this state of Michigan; it's a Democratic state. It is the most Democratic state if you look at Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania as the big three industrial states. This is the most Democratic. But this to many Republicans was a source of what we talked about earlier, the discouragement in the Republican Party, how could John McCain pull out of a key battleground, economic state with five weeks still to go to the election.

Barack Obama picks up these votes uncontested then that race is a huge challenge for John McCain in here. He's got to win in Ohio; right now, again, a dead heat. Some polls show Barack Obama ahead. The key economic areas right here.

You are looking at where John Kerry won in the blue last time. This is a state John McCain needs to put away and put away fast, Anderson, because he needs to compete to try to take Pennsylvania away and he has to come back out here -- let's go back to our electoral map. He has to do it out here, Colorado; nine electoral votes - he has to keep those from Barack Obama.

Nevada, trending Obama's way, five electoral votes; John McCain needs to fight that. But before he can worry about that, he needs to come in here in the industrial heartland. He needs to try to pick up Wisconsin. Even Michael Dukakis won the state of Wisconsin. Tough challenge for John McCain.

The first big challenges though, get Missouri, get Ohio, keep Florida red and then fight it out in Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado and Nevada. The map is tilting to Obama's favor. If John McCain is to make the race more competitive, he needs to tilt it back fast.

COOPER: Interesting. John King.

Let's check in with Candy Crowley who's out at the auditorium where the debate took place. Candy you have been following Obama obviously; you're following these races very closely. Where do these candidates go from here?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they go back to the battleground states; at least the ones they haven't pulled out of. This has not changed the race here tonight but it has steadied the McCain ticket in a way that will allow McCain, perhaps, to be able to focus back on what's important. The economy and where they are going to go and where they see those 270 electoral votes coming from.

Palin obviously newly energized, we saw her in that post-debate convention that she went to, the party that had been arranged for her. So obviously, that's a ticket that at least saw some steadying after a really rocky two weeks.

Mostly because of the economy but, look, the Obama campaign thinks Joe Biden blew her away tonight. They are certain that people looked at her and saw someone who was unsteady and not ready to be president of the United States. They're very excited about the way Biden performed.

Noting our polls showing that people say that Biden did better than expected he would do. So it is full steam ahead in Camp Obama. They know that the next test obviously is the next presidential debate next week and that is something that they will begin gearing up for fairly soon -- Anderson.

COOPER: Candy, obviously they're happy the way they have seen polls going the last two weeks or so. Are they over confident? There's a danger I suppose in being too confident. A lot can happen between now and Election Day. How aggressive are they continuing to be?

CROWLEY: Well, listen. They see more states in play that went to George Bush last time around. That they think they have a real chance of getting, so are they confident? Yes. You will not get anyone in that campaign to say that they're overly confident. They understand how this race has gone.

But listen, if you're going to have the kind of lead in the poll that he has now which is pretty healthy in national polls and the battleground states look even better for him in so many places, this is the time you want to have the polls start going your way. They understand there's not much time left and these poll numbers are beginning to solidify. So they're feeling pretty good.

COOPER: Moving forward, do either of these men become very deeply involved in the house negotiations? Obviously, they have both been making calls already or do they try to step back at this point.

TOOBIN: I think they should stay a million miles away. The House is so unpopular and Congress is so toxic that being a statesman and staying above the fray I think is the way to win.

BORGER: You know McCain tried it; it didn't work so well for him. GERGEN: McCain made a pledge that he was going to get this done. If it's sunk tomorrow by the Republicans again, that is bad news for John McCain. I think it is in his profound interest to get this package passed. I don't think it helps him too much but if it goes down, it's a profound negative for him.

KING: If McCain is to change the fundamental dynamic of the race though, I think David's right. He is invested in passing this plan. But then by the next debate, Tuesday night, he needs to take it a step further.

And David mentioned this earlier and come up with a plan that says here's what I would do as president. And here's how it's different from this guy's plan and I actually like Paul's take on this working because he worked for last Democrat to win the White House. And that Democrat ran by not being a traditional liberal and I think McCain can make the case that Obama and Biden are more traditional liberals in their approach. The only way to make that case is say my plan is better.

And from traveling in the country, people want reasonable regulation. Not over regulation but they want reasonable regulation because they think Washington and Wall Street have just been running amok with nobody watching them. And I would like Paul's take on how -- if McCain comes without a compelling plan, then he can put pressure on the traditional liberal argument. But he doesn't have one at the moment to make that case.

COOPER: We've only got about 20 seconds. Very quickly.

BEGALA: Clinton broke with traditional liberals because he is a Democrat. McCain has to break with traditional conservatives and he hasn't done that yet. It's just been the same conservative playbook and I think that's what Joe Biden did such a great good job of hammering tonight.

COOPER: We're going to have to leave it there. That's AC360. Our post-debate analysis. We're going to show you now a repeat of the debate in case you missed any of it. You'll watch that on CNN at the top of the hour, 12:00 midnight. Our coverage continues here live on CNN. We'll be right back.