Who won the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night? Again, looking at both argumentation and optics, I must agree that what we saw was incredibly close to a tie. Polls that show Ryan winning the night by 4% points surprised me on CNN; the arguments foisted by Biden seemed stronger, the rebuttals more sure, and the overtalking–considered a strength when Governor Romney walked over President Obama last week–was fodder among Republicans to show the Veep being ill-mannered. It still won Biden points, by my count.
In terms of style, however, the draw was more clear-cut. Biden, although goofy and churlish at times, was personable, inventive, and engaged. Ryan also performed admirably, although in an entirely different style–cool, calm, collected and near the end (and especially on foreign policy) able to push back just as hard.
Columnist David Brooks delves deeper into what these two very distinctive styles might mean, and how they symbolize two different types of viewers:
Biden gave America the full opera Thursday night, and I suspect there will be as many reactions as there are partisan flavors. Democrats will obviously be cheered by his aggressive, impassioned and offensive performance….
Ryan hails from a different era, not the era of the 1950s diner, but the era of the workout gym. By Ryan’s time, the national media culture was pervasive. The tone was cool, not hot. The meritocracy had kicked in and ambitious young people had learned to adopt a low friction manner. Ryan emerges from this culture in the same way Barack Obama does.
This is a generation armed with self-awareness. In this generation, you roll your eyes at anyone who is quite so flamboyantly demonstrative as the vice president.
Bottom line: Both earn A-‘s for each of their overall performances. This was an evening of apparent substance. But in reviewing the evening scores, I would give Biden gets a slight edge, albeit ever-so-minimal, with a 51/49 score because, in part, he held up under pressure, delivered pummeling blows, and didn’t self-destruct, giving the Democrats hope that they can recover the last debate’s disaster by the President. He also won the media cycle war for both is strengths as well as for his apparent stylistic weaknesses.
This isn’t a loss for Ryan; he had a lot to prove and measured up well. He even landed a great zinger. But he wasn’t able to best the Veep and as a result, will have to settle for a respectable performance that served his base well, but without making a major boost for the top of his ticket.
I would, however, give Martha Raddatz a solid A in what I deem the best interrogation performance by a moderator. She asked smart questions (except for the last one about the ‘tone’ of the campaign, an obvious no-brainer!) and even knew how to push with follow-ups, kept the pressure on each side fairly and with rigor, and demonstrated that reporters, not anchors, warrant the hot seat. Conservatives who complain are merely playing the partisan/fan game or reviling the refs and will rue this line when they have a better performance but don’t get credit. Substantial debates moderated fairly are in everyone’s interest, except the loser.
Other takes? Mark Halperin gives Ryan the edge.