Sarah Palin held her own until the question about the role of the Vice President, then "Lipstuck" kicked in and she went into the rambling, off-message mode that we saw in her interviews with Gibson and Couric. She did not even answer the question on what her Achilles heel might be. I was struck by the fact that she made no eye contact with Biden many times when she was addressing him until she started hitting on Barack Obama, then she looked at Biden as if she were talking to him.
Biden was focused, didn't have any real gaffes, and only near the end edged toward becoming verbose. He was on top of every single issue. According to the CNN focus group graph, he hit most of the high notes with uncommitted groups, and Palin did not seem to hit as many as I thought she would. Her "adorable" moments didn't hook the focus group like I thought they would, and her charge that Obama should not sit down with foreign leaders totally flat-lined, while Biden's counterpoint about diplomacy peaked. I thought he won, because Palin did not drive the ball over the fence like she needed to.
UPDATE: Paul Begala once again has some of the more insightful commentary. He said that Biden did exactly what he had to do tonight: link McCain to George W. Bush. That was much more effective I thought than Palin explicity saying to Biden that his ticket was caught in the past. Bush is the past and Palin could do nothing to wedge Bush and McCain apart, even as an outsider. When Biden talked about Dick Cheney's power being something that Americans should fear, the focus group feekback line spiked steeply. The Democrat's biggest advantage is not being connected in any way to Bush/Cheney.
UPDATE: Palin's correction of Biden on, "Drill, baby, drill," fell flat with CNN's focus group responses as did her claim that Obama/Biden was raising the "white flag of surrender" in Iraq. The red meat lines were not working with these independents.