Friday, October 12, 2012
Unlike last week's debate, the Vice Presidential debate between VP Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan had an entirely different vibe to it. On substance, the polls are split with CNN's poll showing Ryan won 48% to 44% and a CBS poll showing that Biden won 50% to 31%. The import of this is that Republicans walked away from the debate thinking that Ryan did well, and Democrats walked away thinking that Biden did well. This likely means that the debate was a "draw," meaning that it's not going to shift the Presidential race one way or the other. However, as far as style and optics are concerned, there's little doubt from anybody watching that Joe Biden dominated Ryan during the 90 minute debate, often times cutting the Congressman off in mid-sentence and smiling during Ryan's responses as if to say "can you believe this guy?" Biden's energetic demeanor undoubtedly energized the recently dispirited Democratic base while simultaneously drawing the ire of the Republican party.
On issue after issue, Biden, barely coming up for air at times, beat Ryan over the head on the issues of Afghanistan, Iran, Medicare, Social Security and, of course, the economy. Biden dispelled the notion that Obama does not speak to Israeli prime minister Netanyahu (a claim catching some traction in conservative circles lately), pressed Ryan to state clearly whether the Romney-Ryan ticket is advocating that the U.S. engage Iran in war, attacked Ryan on using U.S. troops vs. Afghan troops to secure Afghanistan in the future, tied Ryan to his vote to place 2 wars, medicare part D and the Bush tax cuts "on the credit card" which directly contributed to the national debt, exposed Ryan's hypocrisy on Obama's stimulus by pointing out that Ryan had written a letter specifically asking for stimulus funds, explained the difference between Obama's $716 Billion cut on medicare and Ryan's $716 Billion cut on medicare (cuts to providers vs. cuts to beneficiaries), and Biden got animated about the 47% comment by Mitt Romney as well as Ryan's own similar comment that 30% of Americans are "takers." Perhaps Biden's most powerful argument of the evening came when he asked Americans to imagine where we would be if we had listened to the Republicans and entrusted Social Security over to the private market which crashed back in '08. Not even Ryan could refute this point. However, Biden came off as a bit too energetic in his approach sometimes when he spoke over Ryan and the moderator, Martha Raddatz. For those on the Left, this likely came off as a good debate tactic, while those on the Right likely saw it as rude and disrespectful.
Ryan, on the other hand, did well in laying out the Romney plan on foreign policy and domestic policy on all the aforementioned issues, but he looked a bit nervous and unsure of himself at times. He took long pauses before answering some questions (particularly when asked whether abortion should remain legal) and he constantly kept taking a drink of water in between answers like a bad poker player with a nervous tell. Ryan's most effective performance came towards the end of the debate when he ran down a litany of broken promises made by Obama. Ryan had two particularly low points, however. The first was when Martha Raddatz asked him for specifics on the Romney plan to lower taxes for the rich and simultaneously lower the national deficit. Ryan simply had no answer. The second was when Ryan was asked whether the Romney-Ryan ticket would outlaw abortion. You could almost see the wheels spinning as he consciously dialed back his own personal position (all abortions should be outlawed) and supplemented it with the Romney position (all abortions should be outlawed except in the case of rape, incest or where the life of the mother is in jeopardy). Biden wasted no time in distinguishing the Obama-Biden ticket on this issue, stating that although he is a Catholic just like Ryan, he will not impose his own religious views on the entire country.
Both Vice Presidential candidates achieved the goals set forth by their respective camps. For Ryan, it was simply to not do anything that might upset the momentum that Romney earned during the last debate. For Biden, it was two-fold: (i) bring the panicked Left back away from the ledge, and (ii) throw everything and the kitchen sink against the Romney-Ryan ticket so that President Obama can strategically observe which attacks he should use and, more importantly, which attacks he should not use during next week's Presidential debate against Mitt Romney.
Give us your impressions of the Vice Presidential debate.