My instant post-debate analysis is that by normal standards, Biden wiped the floor.
But let's be real—sane people watch debates differently from the crowd Palin's appealing to. Palin did come on strong to begin with. Sounded like she was holding her own. Was fairly aggressive. But as time went on she sounded more and more out of her depth. Endlessly repeating talking points, talking circles and blowing smoke. She was better than those Couric interviews, but how couldn't she be? Did she win by not totally screwing up? Maybe.
Biden really came alive during the second half of the debate. He really played the night well. Never did he seem condescending, sexist, or overbearing. So test passed there. He attacked McCain and his record and judgement strongly and only once attacked Palin directly. He was firm in his beliefs and positions and
Overall, perhaps it's a draw in terms of moving votes. I find it difficult to judge objectively. But psh come to shove, I'd had to give it to Biden on points.
Update: Oh, how could I have forgotten? The winks. Palin actually winked at us. At least twice. Utterly creepy. May this campaign ruin her career forever.