If you go by strict rules of debate, Joe Biden’s formal style and handling of the issues would probably get him more points. If you question who gained the most personally from the debate, Sarah Palin had a huge victory. If you want to know who touched the audience the most, and perhaps shifted votes in their favor, I would say Palin gets the gold.
I know some post debate poles give Biden the edge as the winner – as they gave Palin the edge as the most likeable. However, that still leaves the question of voting preference. We commonly assume the “winner” of the debate gain votes, but that is not necessarily the case.
By most measures, including polling, Jimmy Carter bested Ronald Reagan in their debate. He was smoother, more articulate and had a stronger command of factual information. The only thing Reagan won was the hearts and minds of a lot of people who decided to give him their vote.
I can agree that Biden was the academic victor, but I think Palin got the net gain in the all important vote count. One sign of that is the likeability victory. People tend to vote for the candidate they like the most.