When your choice of presidential candidate flops in his first of three debates, you put all your hopes into the Veep candidate to bring it home during his turn at the debate box. Naturally, Vice President Joe Biden’s command of foreign policy, authoritative awareness of the facts and reluctance to let a misstatement or inaccuracy go unchallenged made him the clear and unequivocal winner in last night’s debate.
So he may have had one or two or a dozen eye rolls, extraneous gestures, gruff, smirks and chuckles all debate long. He may have left the impression of having bullied his opponent and steamrolled the female moderator, ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz, at various points.
When Obama was too “polite” and not aggressive enough last week, he was called to task and cast off as the debate loser. Now that Bull Dog Joe Biden does what he does best, you see, hear and read post-debate prognosticators, commentators, Republican strategist, and some in the media criticize what most Democrats believe was a knock out punch.
But alas, ideologues on each side who are already convicted and certain on who they will vote for in a few weeks will always see the situation from their own political lens.
So Biden did do the job he set out to do: excite the Democratic base, defend the President’s policies and record, and rebut assertions the other side thought to be factually untrue. He did the job of backing Ryan into a corner. But alas, there will certainly be some post-mortem backtracking on Biden’s claim that White House administration knew nothing about extra security request in Benghazi and his assertion that Catholic and other religious institutions would not have to fund birth control under Obama administration policies and Obamacare. Neither statement is necessarily true.
That may be overshadowed by the fact that Ryan flailed a bit when trying to explain his math on this budget plans and how his proposed cuts would not hurt the middle class to the benefit of the wealthy.
Ryan also struggled while attempting to avoid admitting that one of the tax loop holes that would be closed under his plan would impact millions of middle class families who rely on the mortgage deduction in taxes. Raddatz pressed him to explain how increasing military spending or curtailing military sequester cuts would advance his efforts to eliminate the US budget deficit.
And even though Raddatz pressed Biden much on the Libyan embassy security failure at the top of the debate, to conservatives and Republicans watching, she was not fair and let Biden interrupt and bulldoze Ryan too much. A quasi-bombshell dropped hours before revealing that Obama was a guest at her second wedding. They disliked how she pressured him for details and specifics on his plans. As if. Many in the Republican party itself have been demanding such specifics from the Ryan/Romney team too all these months.
He flailed. It was one of Ryan’s weakest moments perhaps. He should have come more prepared knowing it would have been brought up.
Ryan also didn’t seem to be able to enunciate a concrete plan on what he would do differently in Iran other than what the Obama administration is already doing and rattled a strategy that seemed to be scrubbed from a Cold War era playbook. Here the Ryan/Romney ticket inexperience on Foreign Policy may have shown.
They each fired and landed a couple good zingers. Biden called out Ryan for voting against the stimulus but then writing Biden for funds for businesses in Wisconsin after the stimulus passed.
Ryan shared an anecdote of Romney’s unspoken philanthropy after Biden brought up Romney’s 47% remark. Ryan suggested it was a misstatement.
“And with respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Ryan zinged!
Earlier at the top of the debate, Biden was able to take the wind out of the sail of Ryan’s assault on the Obama administration’s decision on security in Libya. It has been an issue of hearings this week called by Congressman Darrel Issa’s Oversight committee.
“Number one, the — this lecture on embassy security — the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece.” Zing!
And unlike Biden who looked into the camera often, Ryan focused often on his notes and rattled off talking points and numbers calmly and methodical-like. Still, he stayed calm, focused and didn’t make too many gaffes even while struggling through the public policy portion about his social security plan.
Overall, if you were a Democrat and had aspirations of Grandpa Joe righting what went wrong last week, your expectations may have blinded you to the possible impact of Biden’s snarky facial expressions and super bull dog approach.
Remember the Al Gore sigh of 2000? It was distracting. Just like the Obama/Ryan debates last week, style often times trumps substance.
So what looks like a wicked Biden beat down of Ryan to some, could come off as maltreatment to the debater and opponent to those who maybe haven’t been paying attention to politics up until these final weeks.
Ultimately, moderator Raddatz question on abortion in the end forced each candidate to dig down and somberly discuss their own religious convictions. It brought out an issue that just recently percolated again to the center when Mitt Romney was caught sort of flip flopping on his position on the issue.
It was definitely a “gimme” and a perfect gift to the Democrats as nothing would scare them to the polls more than the prospect of a Romney/Ryan ticket taking away women’s federal right to get an abortion. Biden’s performance was just the right anecdote to Obama’s lackluster performance the week before. Volley. The enthusiasm/voter energizer ball is back in the Democrats corner.
The fact that Republicans seemed more upset over the moderator and Biden’s expressions should be proof enough that Biden won this debate.
But the polls after however showed a split and not an undisputed win from Biden.
How could this be?
Lesson: Never underestimate the impact and effect of demeanor during a debate.