The Vice Presidential candidates got their chance to go head to head last night, and it turned out to be a much more fiery affair. Most pundits gave the nod to Joe Biden for his impassioned performance. A CBS snap poll after the debate had Biden winning 50-31 among undecided voters. The VP’s style was in direct contrast with President Obama’s sleepy demeanor in the first debate.
Paul Ryan did succeed on one major point. He passed the eye test on whether or not he could be president. Unlike Sarah Palin four years ago, few would doubt he is ready to take the big job if something were to happen to Mitt Romney. He came off as intelligent, professional, and ready for the job. Ryan had knowledge of all the major issues, including foreign policy, which some saw as a potential weakness for him.
Coming into the debate, Joe Biden’s mission was to stop the bleeding in the media following President Obama’s first debate. He accomplished that goal early into the encounter. Few had any doubts he was ready to be president. The biggest concern going in was that Biden was make another gaffe, but he managed to stay on point last night.
Conservative media and commentators were quick to attack the Vice President for his smiles and laughs during the debate. Some went so far as to say he was rude to Paul Ryan. It is common wisdom that if you are complaining, you know you lost. Ryan was bullied last night by an aggressive Joe Biden. It was clear from the outset that the Vice President was not going to make the same mistake the President did and allow the challenger to be the aggressor.
A telling sign that Biden was the winner came from the fact that everyone in the media was talking about him. Ryan was almost an afterthought, even in the conservative media such as Fox News. Much like President Obama in the first debate, Ryan did not have a memorable performance. Biden more closely followed the Romney model. He was aggressive, interrupted both his opponent and the moderator, and closely watched his opponent.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the debate was when Biden assaulted Ryan’s criticism of the stimulus plan by stating that Ryan sent him a letter asking for stimulus funds. It was a devastating blow to a major Republican talking point, and heavily damaged Ryan’s credibility on the matter with a big national audience. It was a gotcha moment, and a major embarrassment to Congressman Ryan.
While this debate is not likely to move the needle one way or the other, it will end the news cycle that followed the first debate. The media narrative will now likely switch to Biden’s performance, and how President Obama should mimic it. In this day and age, a single political event rarely moves the polls. It is the news coverage that follows for days afterwards that moves the polls.