The debate requires two different analyses. The first is based on substance, and the second on style. On substance Vice-President Joe Biden seemed to operate under the premise that louder was better. Much of the night he was shouting his answers. Mr. Biden justified the Obama line that the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya was caused by a YouTube video. Mr. Biden did this by throwing the U.S. intelligence community under the bus and saying that the administration received, in effect, bad intelligence. But when the experts stated that the attack was nothing less than a terrorist attack on the embassy, Mr. Biden failed to explain why the President continued saying the attack was caused by a video.
Paul Ryan, on the other hand, was more measured in his tone and more methodical in his answers, but he had his moments too. He was not specific on how the Romney tax plan could lower tax rates and eliminate deductions and not reduce revenue. Joe Biden called him out on that, and Mr. Ryan still failed to get sufficiently specific. Yes, it can be done; but how it is done is the devil in the details. And those details may not be popular with some people. To his credit Mr. Ryan did make clear that a Romney administration would look out for the poor and middle income people.
On style Paul Ryan was the clear winner. I don’t know what Mr. Biden was thinking. His laughing, smirking, and facial and body expressions were distracting, disrespectful, and rude. He should be embarrassed by his behavior. Clearly, Mr. Biden looked arrogant and acted in a very condescending way. He looked like the typical politician who thinks that he knows best and how dare anyone to question him.
So who is the winner? I give the edge to Paul Ryan. Two media polls following the debate also gave the win to Mr. Ryan. One poll gave the win to Mr. Biden. In general, Paul Ryan professionally put forth the Romney case with logic and reason. Mr. Biden relied on shouting and disrespectful body language to make his points.
But the candidates did what they thought they needed to do. Mr. Biden appealed to hard core democrats who were disenchanted by the President’s performance in the first debate. Mr. Ryan was reassuring republicans, going after independent voters, and trying to attract shaky democrats. His message was aimed at a much larger audience.
If I were an insider in the Romney campaign I would be very pleased with Paul Ryan’s performance. He succeeded in his message that America needs a change. If I were an Obama insider, I would be pleased that Mr. Biden succeeded in dishing out the meat and potatoes of the Obama campaign to democrats, but I would not be happy with the Vice-President’s bizarre antics.
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