Vice presidential debates don’t usually move the needle much during election seasons but the stakes were higher than usual for last night’s verbal spar between sitting Democrat Joe Biden and his Republican challenger, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Democrats were looking to change the narrative of the election and put a halt to plummeting poll numbers for the Obama campaign after the president’s lackluster performance in last week’s first debate.
Last night, Biden seemed to relish the role of the attacker as he went on the offensive early and often with a mocking laugh and a dismissive, interrupting style that appeared to be aimed at belittling Ryan, and by proxy, his running mate Mitt Romney. For his part, Paul Ryan managed to weather Biden’s interruptions and accusations with a calm demeanor, and slight smirk, that maintained solidarity with Mitt Romney’s message. Overall, viewers gave both candidates high marks for digging into issues and talking to each other.
So who won? Early debate polls have been split and the pundits have been filling airtime with the usual spin in counter rotating directions leaving the few remaining swing voters to decide for themselves.
Which candidate best represented their boss’ ticket? Was Biden’s demeanor rude or some much needed verve for the Democrats? How will it affect the polls until Obama and Romney face each other again next week?
Eugene Kiely, deputy director, FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center FactCheck.org
Jonathan Wilcox, republican strategist; former speechwriter for Governor Pete Wilson
Darry A. Sragow, attorney and longtime democratic strategist