Instant headline: Nobody Screwed Up. Her style controlled the first half, his substance took the second half.

That means that there won’t be any lasting effect from what happened tonight. If anything, Palin won by not losing, since the bar was so low for her, but aside from a couple of days of stopping McCain’s slippage, there won’t be much impact on election day from what these two said in the debate. The GOP base may have been reassured by Palin’s performance, but it probably wasn’t enough to convert any independents — and the same goes for Biden.

Larry Sabato just told me on WLS that there are 9 states that are still in play: Ohio, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Nevada. Some of those are a surprise, like Missouri, which seemed pretty red on most electoral maps not long ago.

It’s one thing for Palin to be folksy with sayings like, “Say it ain’t so, Joe” and “You betcha,” but do we have to put up with her following the Bush lead on how to pronounce “nuclear”? There is no vowel between the “c” and “l” in that word, so how do you get “nuke-u-lar”?

The fluffed-up controversy over Gwen Ifill’s book had no bearing on her performance tonight — she was unbiased, but terrible. She didn’t follow up enough, and let the candidates get away with too much. That’s partly the fault of the format, but she could have kept saying, “You didn’t answer my question!” Ifill also wasted time with silly questions like the one she copied from Jim Lehrer, asking the candidates which campaign promise they’d have to break. They were never going to answer that, and the voters are too savvy to believe them anyway.

Now that she’s memorized the debate-camp talking points, will Palin do a press conference anytime soon? Now that he’s seen Palin’s plain-speak in person, can Biden make himself a little more folksy, rather than staying stuck in Senate-speak? Don’t hold your breath on either count.

It was a nice psych-out move when Palin greeted Biden at center stage and asked, “Can I call you Joe?” He seemed a little thrown by the familiarity. It was also clear during the debate that he’d been instructed to always refer to her as Governor Palin, although he did slip and invoke her first name at one point before reverting to the formal.

Did anyone win Palin Bingo?

Has anyone ever seen Joe Biden at Home Depot?

In Time magazine, a former McCain advisor suggested the candidates get as much airtime as possible by talking until Ifill cut them off. But with these two, less would have been more. Given too much time, Biden goes off on tangents where even a GPS can’t bring him back, and Palin keeps circling around the same points like a car stuck in a traffic circle. Just because the format set a maximum time for responses, there was no minimum, and they should both have been reminded that concise is nice.

Sarah Palin said that John McCain knows how to win wars. Hmmm. Not to slight his heroism in the Hanoi Hilton, but which war did he win?

The only spontaneous moment in the whole debate was Biden choking up towards the end when talking about his son. I think he even surprised himself by bringing it up. Palin’s folksified “Say it ain’t so, Joe” wasn’t even close.