Winners and losers in the vice presidential debate

October 11, 2012

The one and only vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan is over -- and what a debate it was.

The VP debate in two minutes: Highlights from Thursday night's debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan in Danville, Kentucky.

Biden and Ryan repeatedly savaged one another over everything from Iran to the economy and back -- interrupting, smirking and laughing out loud as the other man tried to make his points.

We live-tweeted every minute -- nay, every second -- of the proceedings but also took a few notes about the highs and the lows of the night. Our winners and losers are below. One person you won't find in our winners and losers is Ryan. The debate was SO dominated by Biden -- for good and for bad -- that Ryan was largely a bystander.  If you liked aggressive Biden, that makes Ryan a loser. If you don't aggressive Biden, that makes Ryan a winner.

Have some of your own? The comments section awaits.

WINNERS

* Joe Biden's last 15 minutes:  Biden was measured, passionate and heartfelt when talking about abortion and why he thought he and President Obama deserved a second term. He made his points forcefully but without any or the sarcasm or the nasty edges that characterized his performance for the bulk of the debate. (More on that below.) The question for Biden (and Democrats): Were people still watching? And why didn't he flash a little more of that trademark empathy earlier?

* Martha Raddatz: Moderating a rhetorical fistfight is no easy task.  Raddatz did well to try to give both candidates equal time, keep them on the question asked and insert her own expertise -- particularly on foreign policy -- when it was necessary and appropriate.  A job well done under remarkably adverse circumstances.

* Political junkies/party bases: If you live and breathe politics, this was a debate for the ages. From the jump, Biden and Ryan were at each others' throats -- mixing it up in a way that neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney was willing to do last week. Biden's willingness to scoff at, laugh at and generally express his disregard for Ryan (and Republican policies in general) are just what the Democratic base needed/wanted after Obama's uninspiring performance last week.  Ryan's unwillingness to back away from his proposals will make Republicans smile.  

* "My friend": Biden used that term roughly 1,000 times to refer to Ryan. The best part?  It was abundantly clear from the start that Biden not only doesn't consider Ryan a friend but also that he actively dislikes the Wisconsin Congressman.

* Chamillionaire: Raddatz mentioned that the DC-born rapper while telling the audience to turn their phones off pre-debate. Sure, her comment only made it on C-SPAN but that's got to be more than Chamillionaire could have expected out of tonight, right?

LOSERS

* Joe Biden's first 75 minutes: As we noted above, Biden's aggressive performance is a sure winner for him (and the president) within the Democratic base. But, it felt to us like he went a little bit overboard and, at times, bordered on bullying Ryan.  Biden's derisive smiles and laughs while Ryan tried to answer questions weren't great optics for the vice president and his repeated interruptions won't make those who think politics should be more civil happy. Biden's agenda was clear during the debate: he was set on erasing the passive performance of Obama last week. That he did, but in so doing it felt like he went a bit overboard. 

* Undecided voters: If you came into this debate hoping to find a civil discussion of the differences between the two candidates, you, um, didn't get what you wanted. The bulk of the debate was Biden and Ryan slamming one another for not telling the truth, being misinformed or simply being clueless.  The bickering that dominated the middle section of the debate -- ok, the whole debate -- is just the sort of stuff independents/undecideds don't like. It's easy to imagine they simply turned off the debate -- if they were watching it at all.

* Non verbal communication: For as much as these candidates prep for the debates, we are consistently amazed that they don't get that how you look when you aren't talking is almost as important as what you say when you are. Biden's smile and Ryan's smirk were both unappealing.  For the next presidential debate, can the two candidates simply perfect the "I am looking at you with the flattest expression ever" face? Actually, on second thought, don't. It would rob the Fix of some of the joy that comes with watching these things.

* Big Bird: Not ONE mention of the 8-foot tall yellow bird? Color us disappointed.  We can only imagine how Elmo, the Count and Oscar the Grouch feel about all of this.

* A-Rod: Does the guy do ANYTHING other than strike out in big moments?

More on the debate:

 Sharp words as Ryan, Biden face off

Full transcript of the VP debate

Biden, Ryan get schooled by Raddatz

 

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · October 11, 2012