Here’s how some of the more prominent bloggers saw the debate going last night:
I have to say that Biden did to Ryan what Cheney did to Edwards in style and demeanor and authoritah. Ryan was hampered by an insurmountable problem on the impossible mathematics of the Romney budget. I think his inability to answer that question – how do you pay for it? – has to be the driving question now. The only way to afford it is to cut middle class deductions and middle class entitlements much more than Obama-Biden would. I’d love radical tax reform – but I’m not crazy enough to believe you can actually tackle the debt by cutting taxes and increasing defense spending and leaving Medicare basically alone (no ACA-style cost-controls) and only removing deductions for the very rich. It doesn’t add up. They know it. And when challenged – even by Fox News – he cannot provide the details.
From both a substantive and stylistic perspective, Biden completely dominated the debate. He was far more passionate, authoritative, and aggressive than Ryan. It is a pure reversal of the first presidential debate but on steroids: Biden was actually more assertive and even more lively than Romney was, while Ryan was at times as listless and passive as Obama was.
Biden made the whole Democratic argument — on policy and values and he hit Romney really everywhere Democrats wanted him to. He left nothing unsaid. You can agree with those points or not. But this was exceedingly important for recovering the damage from last week’s debate when many Obama supporters simply felt that Obama wasn’t willing or able or something to make the case Democrats around the country are hyped up to make. Why didn’t you say this? Why’d you let him get away with that? Biden said it all. And for Democrats around the country that was extremely important.
Joe Biden won–certainly on the substance, although he lost a bit on the body language. His frustrated smiles, head shakes etc. etc. will become a Republican talking point and influence the post-game evaluations, even if they were sort of justified. Biden was in command throughout, a more forceful and passionate presence than Ryan. But Ryan did well, too–unflappable even when Biden nailed him on his requests for stimulus funding. And Ryan had some nice moments, arguing uphill against Biden’s onslaught.
That was no mean feat. Biden was so combative that at times he appeared thuggish. He badgered, bulldozered, hectored and harassed. At some moments, the debate appeared to owe more to WWE than CNN. This was probably Biden overcompensating for his boss’s lacklustre performance last week.Occasionally he overdid it. Where some had questioned whether Obama had taken a sleeping pill, Biden looked like he was on steroids. For much of the evening, this worked. But his digs could be gratuitous, and his exasperation overly theatrical. “You’re Jack Kennedy now?” he said after Ryan once mentioned the former president. At times the age difference, along with the smirking, eye rolling and forceful interventions, made him look like an angry father taking his impudent son to the woodshed.
Biden did a lot of things Obama should have done last week, including using Romney’s 47% comments to give a clear illustration of just what the GOP ticket stood for. Even better, Biden cornered Ryan into making an argument for sending more troops into Afghanistan. It exposed the GOP’s foreign policy as essentially unchanged from the failure of the Bush years.
And my conclusion on the debate:
At the end of it, it was a very, very resounding victory for the Democrats tonight. Biden used effective aggression all night long forcing Ryan to defend the indefensible. Over and over again Biden refused to accept Ryan’s math or absurd policy proposals, and pummeled him on issues that matter to regular Americans. It was a direct appeal to the middle classes who will decide this election, and he gave them a clear choice – a government that works in their interest or a government that works in the interests of millionaires. It looked like a man vs a boy in many spots with Ryan unsure of how to hit back effectively. Biden did not let Ryan get away with anything, countering the incessant stream of nonsense with facts and logic. Ryan, to his credit, did not fold and did his best to hold ground against the clearly angered Biden, but he simply could not argue his way out of the ridiculous claims and faulty policies he and Romney have been campaigning on for the past year.
We’ll see how this plays out in the polls and whether the performance has helped regain lost ground after the President’s performance last week, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the Obama campaign team is breathing a lot easier.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.