October 12, 2012

Veep Debate Aftermath

Marc Comtois

Last night, for those who followed our live-tweeting of the Vice Presidential debate, Matt Allen tweeted out that Biden was killing Ryan. I countered that, no, in fact these debates are often much more about optics than what is being said (for good or bad). After the debate, Charles Krauthammer observed that those listening to the radio would think Biden won, but those watching TV would give it to Ryan.

I used as my frame of reference the CNN meters that were being handled by independent voters. In short, whenever Biden spoke, things went poorly. Especially among women. And one smart woman, Peggy Noonan (who, though a Republican, has been pretty laudatory--and often admiring--of both President Obama's and Biden's political skills in the past) is but one of the many women who confirmed my suspicion.

I have just realized the problem with the debate: it was the weird distance between style and content, and the degree to which Mr. Biden's style poisoned his content.

In terms of content—the seriousness and strength of one's positions and the ability to argue for them—the debate was probably a draw, with both candidates having strong moments. But in terms of style, Mr. Biden was so childishly manipulative that it will be surprising if independents and undecideds liked what they saw.

National Democrats keep confusing strength with aggression and command with sarcasm. Even the latter didn't work for Mr. Biden. The things he said had the rhythm and smirk of sarcasm without the cutting substance.

Richard Fernandez also picked up on Noonan's "Dem's confuse strength w/aggression" theme:
The Democratic debate strategy was apparently to put on a show in which Biden would visually dominate Ryan. This will have two effects. The first is it will convince the Democrats that they “won” the debate. But it will probably not convince anyone else. On the contrary, Biden seems to have infuriated all the conservatives who were watching the proceedings. The basic effect of the Biden-Ryan debate on the Democrats is to reassure themselves that they are not sissies.

Biden is doing a war chant for the benefit of the base....How will this net out? Biden will have not have succeeded in showing Ryan to be unworthy, a bully, unstatesmanlike, or arrogant — that was the principal pitfall that Ryan sought to avoid. But Biden might have convinced enough conservatives that he is a buffoon. The Democrats must be thoroughly demoralized if they found that spectacle bracing. My guess is that Biden has brought the president no net gain.

Michael Barone was the first I saw to summarize the instant reaction polls:
The instant polls: CNBC had it Ryan 56%-36%, CBS Biden 50%-31%, CNN Ryan 48%-44%, AP Ryan 51%-43%. Not nearly as one-sided as the instant responses to the first presidential debate in Denver. My sense: Biden pumped up partisan Democrats, but failed to win over the voters who are taking a serious look at Romney at a point when he is up in national polls.
I also watched the Frank Luntz group of undecideds and the general consensus was that Biden really turned them off with his antics, but not many minds were persuaded either way. That's about right, this was probably a wash.

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My wife hates politics but she sat through the debate. She was so put off by Biden's performance that it was difficult to pay attention over her rantings. I would imagine that couldn't have gone over too well with the undecideds.

Posted by: Max D at October 12, 2012 12:17 PM

I'm worried that some people may have bought Biden's 20th-century retro-reasoning, of there's no fiscal reason why the government can't keep giving people free stuff forever, from its magic pool of resources.

Posted by: Andrew at October 12, 2012 12:28 PM

Andrew - The best illustration of what you describe is the pension crisis in Providence. Retirees block their ears and eyes and don't want to hear that the math doesn't work, but one cannot cheat reality indefinitely. It does eventually catch up and the tough decisions do have to be made. I lost of count of how many times I explained on here to union commenters that 5-6% compounding COLAs were unsustainable, and even used mathematical illustrations to prove the point. To borrow an old quote, you can't make somebody understand something when they have a vested interest in not understanding it.

I acknowledge as simple mathematical reality that, unlike previous generations, I will be getting many times less out of social security than I put into it. The only question is whether it will be reformed now or later.

Posted by: Dan at October 12, 2012 1:12 PM

Frankly, I don't really place much stock in the so-called professional analysis of this debate.

I'm only guessing here, but I suspect that V.P. Biden's odd affect was not very appealing to the uncommitted/independent (non-baseball fans) who watched more than a few minutes of the debate.

Any impact on the race? Beats me.

Ask me on Nov. 7.

Posted by: brassband at October 12, 2012 1:20 PM

The debate won't change any minds either way.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 12, 2012 6:44 PM

I had this as a close win for Biden. His antics have never turned me off, but I'm from South Jersey and so I'm used to him.

My independent wife didn't watch this debate so tough to guess what she would have thought. It's really about your personal opinion of what presidential is. If it's aggression, Biden won. If it's statesmanship Ryan won by a country mile.

What's very hypocritical is liberals giving Biden a ton of style points but saying last week Romney only won on style. I posted as much on the lefty site Daily Kos...my post was quickly "hidden".

Gotta love the liberal Dems...

...critical debate Tuesday. Romney needs to keep the momentum. Huge!

Posted by: don roach at October 12, 2012 8:30 PM

Even with help from the lib moderator Raddatz (Ryan was interrupted 80 plus times) Biden managed to look like a frenzied court jester. Of course he looked better than Hussein Obama who appeared like the executive order bully that got punched in the mouth and retreated to his corner. Not even the lame stream media can save Hussein and Bozo.

Posted by: ANTHONY at October 12, 2012 9:42 PM

I'm with joe on this one. I don't think that anyone watches a debate and then says, "I changed my mind".

The pudding is almost ready to be served, and therein lies the proof. We shall see.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at October 12, 2012 10:24 PM

Perhaps nobody will switch sides, but lose enough enthusiasm and supporters will stay home on election day.

Posted by: Dan at October 12, 2012 10:30 PM

The VP is not who people vote for.The only election I can recall where the VP nominee made a difference was probably the last one.Palin drew a lot of attention and much of it was negative due to the media and the fact she wasn't a very good choice.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 13, 2012 11:14 AM


What concerns me is that when people ask someone like David Cicilline to explain how government can indefinitely give out more than it takes in, no one really finds his answer of THAT'S OLD NEWS MY REPUBLICAN OPPONENT BELONGS TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY LALALALALALALALALA convincing, at least on the specific fiscal issue. There's a segment of the population, however, that's willing to take Joe Biden's word for it, however, when he defends the same fiscal impossibilities.

Posted by: Andrew at October 13, 2012 12:41 PM

"There's a segment of the population, however, that's willing to take Joe Biden's word for it, however, when he defends the same fiscal impossibilities."

. . . true, and that segment is probably around, oh, what do you figure? forty-seven percent?

Posted by: brassband at October 13, 2012 2:11 PM

I'm a Ron Paul Independent,an older woman and I've been and continue to be on the fence about who to vote for in this Presidential election.

The Vice Presidential debate was important to me as part of my due diligence. I wanted a serious discussion of the issues.

Joe Biden's demeanor unsettled me. He frightened me because he did not seem serious and he is the Vice President.

He upset me because he constantly interrupted and made bizarre faces and gestures. In short,he scared and upset me besides distracting from my ability to focus on what was being said by both candidates.

Posted by: helen at October 13, 2012 8:26 PM

Biden doesn't seem very stable.Maybe he has some disorder of the mind.I'm not trying to be funny here.I could neevr understand why obama picked him after thaat disgusting "clean and articulate"remark.Articulate maybe isn't too bad on its own,but CLEAN?WTF?That's about as racist a remark as it gets.Patronizing-worse than calling the man a racial slur straight out.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 13, 2012 10:31 PM
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