October 2, 2008

Todays Front Pages Analysis

Spirited but cordial: One heckuva debate?

By Kate Kennedy, Friday October 3, 2008
FROM THE COLLECTION
News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 12, 1984 (Newseum collection)

News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 12, 1984 (Newseum collection)

Lloyd Bentsen jabbed Dan Quayle with "You are no Jack Kennedy." George H.W. Bush lectured Geraldine Ferraro on foreign policy, and she struck back. But Thursday night’s debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin was devoid of a zinger like in 1988 or the hand-to-hand combat of 1984.

"Spirited" and "pointed" described the debate, but "cordial" and "courteous" also appeared in headlines. "Spirit of St. Louis?" The Plain Dealer of Cleveland asked. "Polite."

That’s a bit of a yawn for the front page.

"Biden-Palin debate lacks expected fire," the Times-Picayune of New Orleans said.

The only 2008 vice presidential debate was held in St. Louis, where the Post-Dispatch said, "Candidates accomplish their missions." The San Antonio Express-News offered a debate scorecard, the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald declared: "There’s no loser in expectations game."

Many headlines focused on Palin, who, when asked earlier by Katie Couric what newspapers and magazines she read regularly, said: "I’ve read most of them." Phrases such as "held her own" and "stands her ground" were common. Said The Journal News in Westchester, N.Y., "Palin tops low expectations." The Daily News of New York declared: "No Baked Alaska." In a front-page commentary, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel instructed, "Republicans can wipe sweat from brows."

Palin’s folksy style rubbed off on headline writers. "‘Heck’ of a show," The Oregonian of Portland said. "Debate? ‘Darn right,’" noted the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. The Hartford (Conn.) Courant broke out quotes – "Best Digs," "The Folksy Touch" and "Maverick, Shmaverick."

From Biden’s home state, Delaware, The News Journal of Wilmington noted the focus on the middle-class vote. Said The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, "Candidates aim for middle-class touch in debate."

In Detroit, the debate was secondary news after the John McCain campaign pulled its forces from Michigan. "Decision alters strategy in race for White House," The Detroit News said. Barack Obama campaigned in the state on Thursday, and the Free Press had an "exclusive" interview with the Democrat on "What keeps Obama awake at night." Last night, it wasn’t the debate.

Kate Kennedy is front-pages editor at the Newseum.

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