The Washington Post

Biden talks the base off the ledge

Last Wednesday night right about now, my Twitter feed was a constant stream of understandable Democratic panic about President Obama’s dismal debate performance in Denver. Not tonight. How do I know Democrats and liberals have stepped off the ledge? The constant stream of condemnation over the last of four tweets I sent minutes after the debate ended.

In short, this debate was a draw. Both men did what they needed to do for their campaigns. Biden’s job more urgent. He succeeded #VPDebate

The previous three tweets had declared moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News the winner (something most folks agreed with); said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did well because he didn’t melt into the seat and was forceful in his views; and said Vice President Biden did well and did what Obama didn’t do last week: attack. But it was the word “draw” that set people off.

Folks asked whether I watched the same debate they did. They asked if I’d been smoking weed or drinking. And they questioned my motivations for calling the debate a draw. The two common statements were that Biden “mopped the floor” with Ryan or “kicked his a--.”

But my view that the debate was a draw between Biden and Ryan is borne out by the early snap polls. According to CNN, 48 percent of debate watchers said Ryan won; 44 percent said Biden. According to a CBS News poll of uncommitted voters, 50 percent thought Biden won; 31 percent said Ryan.

The vice president gave his despairing base what it wanted: a spirited defense of the Obama administration’s record and pushback on Ryan’s attacks and prevarications. Biden’s laughing initially was off-putting. But by the end of the event, the laughing and exasperated expressions were best read as “Can you believe this guy?”

Ryan had a tough job to do. He had to maintain the considerable momentum his ticket earned from Mitt Romney’s debate performance last week. He also had to ensure there was no daylight between himself and Romney. Ryan succeeded pretty much on the latter. I’m not sure he succeeded on the former.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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