Veep Debate Aftermath
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.