VP Debate Entertaining, Unlikely To Change Much

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

With my travel this week I wasn’t able to watch the Vice Presidential debate.  Instead, I listened to it on the radio.  In today’s instant technology digital age it was a “retro” way to observe political discourse.  I did, however, have my twitter stream handy to keep me connected to the 21st century instant feedback machine.  I wasn’t burdened, however, with having to observe whether one of the candidates had shaved or not to determine my opinion of the performance.

The debate had a rare expectation to it in that the pressure was on an incumbent Vice President to perform well.  In most past presidential debates, the incumbent Vice President generally is viewed to have won the debate.  With the performance of President Obama in his first debate and his corresponding fall in the polls afterwards, Biden needed to inspire his base to stop the bleeding.  By most accounts, his performance seemed to be what the doctors within Democratic circles ordered.

Biden’s first response to a question on the economy seemed to be a laundry list of things President Obama didn’t say during last week’s debate.  It was almost as if it were designed to ward off another explosion from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews than to address the specific question at hand.  Regardless, Democratic spin masters after the performance largely patted themselves on their backs for having heard the constructs that they are convinced this election is about.

More troubling long term for Biden and his ticket however is the response to his first answer, regarding the Administration’s continuing bungling of the response to the September 11th assignation of America’s Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens along with 3 others.  Biden clearly stated “we were not told they (the embassy) wanted more security.”  Various news accounts have contradicted this statement, noting that multiple cables from Libya had been received requesting additional security.  Instead, the State Department told the embassy to quit requesting security.

Biden’s separate statement that their triumphs in the Middle East have occurred “largely without incident” was evocative of President Obama’s “bumps in the road” statement.  If Biden gave a statement that will outlive the news cycle of the debate, it seems lie within the evolving description of how the administration chose to respond to the Bengazi attacks.

The demeanor of Biden will also be remembered, but the reaction is clearly judged through a partisan lens.  To Democrats he was “tough” and taking the message back to Republicans in a forceful manner.  To Republicans, he was interrupting, rude, dismissive, and condescending.  If any independents were swayed based on Biden’s posture, we may have to wait and see if he receives the “Saturday Night Live” effect.

Ryan, on the other hand, most mostly calculated and reserved.  Overall, he answered the questions generally according to script.  He handled foreign policy by demonstrating a working knowledge of the field.  As with most debates, the strength of his performance will also be viewed through the partisan lens with which it was seen.

The net result of this debate is that it was likely a placeholder for the political class to focus their own energy for a week while those at the top of the ticket prepare for the final push.  Biden likely provided field triage for Democrats who were still bleeding support from the first Presidential debate.  In reality, few undecided voters will likely be swayed by what they saw (or heard) Thursday night.  Virtually all studies show that people do not decide support based on the Vice President.

There are two more Presidential debates.  Next Tuesday the 16th will be President Obama’s turn to show a stronger Democratic message.  Based on the expectations game along, the President is likely to win that debate.  The real show is on October 22nd.  That will be the final time the candidates share the same stage, and will essentially make the closing argument to the nation.

The Vice Presidential debate was nice entertainment.  The Presidential Debate on the 22nd will likely be the consequential debate, if there is to be another one.


  1. Harry says:

    Biden told some untruths on taxes and foreign policy that will come back to haunt him and Obama around Halloween.

  2. Three Jack says:

    As a friend posted on FB, you were drunk by 9:30 if you were playing a shot game with the phrase, ‘my friend’ as trigger. The debate was 90 minutes of a teenage grandson being relentlessly berated by his crotchety old grandfather. scoffingly screaming – ‘You know nothing ‘my friend’, let me explain…blah, blah, veins popping out of the forehead blah.’ I think Biden may have actually had a semi-stroke about half way through when he lost track of his thought and started making inhuman facial contortions while attempting to get back on track.

    One pundit (I think Krauthammer) summed it up thusly; if you read a debate transcript, Ryan wins. If you listened to the radio, Biden wins because you wouldn’t see his condescending expressions as Ryan spoke. If you watched on TV, it was a tie. Either way as Charlie stated, this was just a warmup show for the real headliners over the next 2 weeks.

    • bullFrog says:

      I think Krauthammer had the outcomes were even reading the transcript, and a Ryan win if you watched on TV because of the expressions.

      Do you suppose Biden behaved that way in rehearsals? I suspect not – no coach would let that go uncorrected – unless he can’t control it.

  3. gcp says:

    Agree Biden was very obnoxious and the inept moderator failed to admonish him for his interruptions. Still don’t know the Democrat plan for SS and Medicare. Both candidates failed to justify continued involvement in Afghanistan which was very disappointing. Biden wants to stay until at least end of 2014 and Ryan did not say how long he would stay.

  4. wicker says:

    Meh. Romney is going to win. I have had that opinion for at least 18 months. The question is whether Romney’s winning will be a good thing or a bad thing, especially if you are a conservative. I don’t think that Romney will govern that differently than Obama. Instead, I see conservatives liking Romney more, insisting that Romney is better, and liking Obama policies proposed and implemented by Romney a lot better than they did when they were proposed and implemented by his predecessor just because the “D” got replaced with an “R”. For example, Romney may not go to Cairo and make a speech apologizing for colonialism and imperialism, but our basic approach to the Middle East will remain the same. Romney may not refer to the public sector as “a higher calling” and he won’t do more bailouts and stimulus plans (largely because, er, they aren’t needed … the crisis meltdown that Obama inherited is over, the banks and the auto companies are doing fine, and yes the unemployment rate is inching down while the stock market is climbing again) but if you think that Romney is going to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank or take us on a third round of tax cuts (following the Reagan and Bush ones) prepare to be sorely disappointed.

    And social conservatives? Wow. They are going to be totally ignored. Romney So are people who want a real solution to illegal immigration (securing the border + deportations). Don’t expect Massachusetts Mitt to be a huge 2nd amendment guy either. And Romney recently denounced the Boy Scouts for using freedom of association available to all private organizations in determining who can and who can’t be one of their scout leaders.

    So, Romney will be “saving the country” by doing pretty much the same thing that Obama did. Which is basically the same for George W. Bush … other than his tax cuts (we went from surplus to a huge deficit!) Bush continued a lot of Clinton policies … NAFTA, China in the WTO, the Patriot Act was basically what Clinton proposed after the Oklahoma City bombing, Medicare Part B, No Child Left Behind included a lot of stuff that Clinton proposed for education, etc. And Romney based on his comments (other than those made during the primary of course) will actually be to the left of Clinton on illegal immigration.

    Romney won’t be much different than Obama. He will just be better liked by Republicans – and more disliked by Democrats – for partisan reasons. So, enjoy 4-8 years of your guy GOPers, but don’t think that he is going to change very much. The packaging will be different, but the contents of the box will be 85% the same (if not more).

  5. bgsmallz says:

    Biden literally channeled Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman ’89.

    “And now, folks, it’s time for “Who do you trust!” Hubba, hubba, hubba! Money, money, money! Who do you trust? Me? I’m giving away free money. And where is the Batman? HE’S AT HOME WASHING HIS TIGHTS!”

    Up until the part about Batman, I would’ve sworn that was an actual quote from Biden last night.

  6. dirL says:

    Wicker, you are right on the money. As a real conservative, a Romney victory is the absolute end of the conservative movement. Romney is a liberal, big spending, big government RINO ! Unlike Obama he doesn’t hate America but that is about the only difference. All you true conservatives, tea partiers and real libertarians, the right choice in this election is to vote Libertarian. You should vote your real values and not let the Repukes scare you into voting for Romney to thwart Obama. The sliver of any chance the conservative movement has is a Obama reelection and 4 more years of incompetence that may push the public to go in the opposite direction.

  7. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The VP Debate basically reminded Americans, particularly the independent voters that will decide the election in key swing states, what a buffoon Biden is and made Paul Ryan look like a future President.

  8. Noway says:

    The debate made Biden look like the first class douche that he is. To political junkies like us it’s obvious that the Repubs have won the first two debates. But as much as I’d like to agree with Wicker this far out, I’m still concerned that those who vote for a living to get into the Maker’s pockets will vote and put Obama over the top. If we want Romney to win, we gotta convince everyone we know to vote for him. ‘Get out the base’ is more important now than ever. To paraphrase Carville, “It’s the turnout, stupid!”

  9. Harry says:

    Yeah, Wicker….I’m supporting Romney as the far less catastrophic choice we face, but the day after the election I’ll probably turn into a fierce critic of his.

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