Tonight was, in every respect, Palin’s debate.

Palin was supposed to put an end the McCain campaign tonight.

Palin was the primary reason that most people watched the debate, whether for love, hatred, or mere curiosity.

Palin was the focus of every major piece of pre-debate analysis.

Palin defined the topics discussed in the debate, pushing the issues at will — as though Gwen Ifill wasn’t even there.

Palin wore the pants on that stage. At her best, she was clear, sharp, and energetic. She seemed to be having fun, and showed an effortless mastery of foreign policy details, from Pakistan to Iran to Afghanistan. She dominated Joe Biden, making him grasp defensively for answers. Biden, at his best, rambled like he was on the floor of the Senate, and he found far too much joy in the sound of his own voice.

Palin’s finest moment was her answer to the effect, “I’m such a Washington outsider… You were for the war before you were against it… People are craving straight talk.”

Palin’s didn’t have a worst moment, but the weakest part of her performance was her repetition of the “we’re a couple of mavericks” line.

Biden’s finest moment was when he repeated something. He said something to the effect of, “I’m going to say that again…” And then he said it again. I don’t remember what it was. But he did say it twice, and that was memorable.

In my 2004 column on the Presidential debate process, I noted of the vice presidential debates:

The really exciting debates are typically the ones between vice presidential candidates, but these are the independent films of the political debate world: interesting but mostly unwatched. In 1994, Vice President Bush destroyed Geraldine Ferraro (who can forget his brilliant response to Ferarro’s constant complaining: “Whine on harvest moon”) but nobody counts this as a factor in Reagan’s victory. Lloyd Benston is usually credited with defeating Dan Quayle in 1988, but Dukakis lost by a landslide. Dan Quayle masterfully tore apart Al Gore in 1992 (and few recall James Stockdale’s refreshing contributions as Ross Perot’s running mate), but Clinton won anyway. The irony is that the vice presidential debates are both more issue driven and more entertaining, because all sides (press included) have less to lose.

This debate certainly fit the bill of being more issue driven and more entertaining than the presidential debate that we had so far. But I concede that the rest of it may not describe this vice presidential debate very well. It may well be well viewed. It may well impact the perception of the candidates. It may well sway votes.

Maybe you thought the debate was less lopsided than I did. Perhaps you fixate on how she chose to rebut Joe Biden rather than answer a couple questions (like the one on bankruptcy). But you can not plausibly use this debate as an argument that Palin isn’t qualified.

Look for a resumption of the Palin media frenzy.