Stepping into the national spotlight together for their lone debate, Alaskan Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her Democratic counterpart, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, carried the expectations and hopes of their respective campaigns heavily on their shoulders. With more than 35 years in the Senate, two runs for the White House of his own and considered to be one of the Democratic Partys elder statesmen on matters of foreign policy and national security, Bidens experience complimented the comparatively meager resume of Democratic presidential nominee, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. In contrast, Palins selection as McCains running mate had energized the Republican Party and the Conservative base to a degree unanticipated by either the Democrats or McCain himself. Fresh, genuine and eager, her Conservative bona fides, committed pro life beliefs and family of five children - including a son in the Army as well as a newborn with Downs Syndrome - reassured those on the Right that McCain not only understood them, but respected and would include them in his administration. Having initially been heralded as the quintessential ying to their principals yang, the two had since fallen from the lofty summits of their popularity at their national conventions. The debate, before what would be an audience estimated north of 70 million viewers, offered them a moment rife with the possibility for redemption as well as damnation. Though both candidates admittedly brought their own political package with them, with the Republican ticket having been pummeled in the polls after two weeks of continuously tumultuous economic news and growing concerns that Palin was becoming a liability to McCain after a patently disastrous interview with Katie Couric, while expectations for her performance were low, the pressure and stakes for the hockey mom-cum-vice presidential nominee were exceedingly high. Displaying an unbridled perkiness, Governor Palin set the tone for her strategy for the evening, replying to Bidens assertion she had not answered a previous question with, 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 And with that, Palin indeed spoke directly to soccer moms and Joe Sixpacks across the heartland in her trademark folksy, down-to-earth style punctuated alternately with smiling winks and You betchas. In contrast, while the pressure on Delaware Senator Joe Biden was low, expectations were significantly higher. Displaying a mastery of both debating skill and policy expertise, the seasoned Democrat did not disappoint. While many were concerned that the gaffe-prone Senator would inadvertently step into the Debate Hall of Infamy or appear to bully his comparatively inexperienced opponent, Biden remained focused while aggressively engaging Palins repeated references to McCains image as a reformer and maverick without attacking the Alaskan Governor herself. Softening the sharpness of his attacks while demonstrating his own homespun style, Biden often prefaced his condemnations of McCain with comments like, I love him like a brother, but . And God love him, but . In the process, the Democratic elder statesman demonstrated a deft political hand grounded in his Irish working class upbringing. As the evening progressed, Palin and Biden exchanged attacks on each others running mates with Palin assailing Obama as dangerous and Biden repeatedly mocking McCains maverick status by portraying him as a loyal supporter and faithful soldier of President Bush. Acknowledging the success of the Democrats efforts to connect McCain with the unpopular Bush, Palin chose to distance the Republican ticket from the White House, at one point stating, There have been huge blunders throughout this administration Biden, nonetheless, persisted, insisting, The issue is, how different is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't heard anything yet. Palin responded in Reaganesque fashion, needling her opponent for focusing on the past at the expense of discussing the future. Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You prefaced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. Playing up her outsider bona fides, Palin teased Biden: "It's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider. Someone not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the war. Nonetheless, the tenor of the evening was remarkably cordial particularly in comparison to the previous weeks presidential forum with Palin saying of Biden, I do respect your years in the US Senate, but I think Americans are craving something new and different In the end, the rationale for both candidates selection by their running mates came through in their performance. Biden, though fumbling in his reference to Hezbollah in Lebanon and foolishly insisting that Senator Obama "did not say he'd sit down with Ahmedinejad" dispite being onstage with him when it occurred, clearly was the voice of experience; speaking forcefully on issues he was intimately familiar with having served in the Senate for the better part of four decades. Palin was energetic and engaging; aggressively attacking the Democratic ticket in her homespun heartland style even while smiling and winking at the audience. Though her repeated down home colloquialisms wore thin on many observers, they reinforced a sense of authenticity and the belief that she is if nothing else genuine. This, in and of itself, is a powerful attraction for voters used to the contrived and carefully manicured candidates that have come to dominate the political scene. While pundits generally towed their respective political partys line in their opinions of who won the evening, multiple polls give the nod to Biden; with Rassmussen giving him a 45% to 37% victory and Zogby placing the spread at nine with a favorable 50% to 41% decision in the Delaware Democrats favor. Though loosing the debate in the eyes of voters, Palin nonetheless scored a victory for her credibility as 85% of viewers indicated she had done better than they had expected. In exceeding the expectations of conventional wisdom and dispelling the image of her being nothing more than the political equivalent of a trophy wife, she successfully returned the focus of the campaign back to McCain; where it rightfully belongs. In the process, Palin left no doubt that should the Republican ticket ultimately lose, it will not be for a lack of commitment, heart or effort on her part. Now a mere 28 days till the election, many question the impact of Thursday evenings meeting between the two vice presidential hopefuls on the greater campaign. With the Real Clear Politics average of the major polls currently giving the Democratic ticket a 6 point advantage, the McCain campaign desperately needs a game-changer if it hopes to remain in the electoral hunt. At best, Palins performance gained redemption for her and reenergized a Conservative base that had been questioning the wisdom of her inclusion on the Republican ticket. Nonetheless, it failed to cut into the growing momentum that currently propels the Obama-Biden ticket in the polls. That being the case, the pressure now falls on McCain himself to convince voters it is he and not Obama that is best suited to lead the nation in these increasingly tumultuous and trying times. The music from the bandwagon grows louder and more alluring, faithful readers. Who can resist its magnetic attraction? Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the throngs fall happily in line behind the Illinois Pied Piper.