At the school bus stop this morning my neighbor gave the best summation of the debate I’ve heard so far. Referring to VP Joe Biden’s rude-a-thon, he said: “At church dinners, I’ve sat a table away from that guy a hundred times. He’s the guy everyone wants to get away from.” Precisely so. The Republicans knew they had comedy gold and quickly put out this:

The sheer jerkiness of the man certainly comes through. But there is an issue going beyond Biden’s abject rudeness (which according to snap polls and focus groups last night went over like a lead balloon with actual voters).

David Brooks, a good barometer of moderate thinking, put it this way: “This is not just an issue of manners. It is: How are we going to practice the kind of politics that will help us avert the so-called fiscal cliff? How are we going to balance the crosscutting challenges, like increasing growth while reducing long-term debt? A lot of people will look at Biden’s performance and see a style of politics that makes complex trade-offs impossible. The people who think this way swing general elections.”

Moreover, the obvious contempt with which both halves of the Democratic ticket hold their opponents (Obama couldn’t even look Mitt Romney in the eye) reinforces the impression that Obama can’t get along with political opponents. The president’s complete inability to work with Congress (as Bob Woodward detailed in “The Price of Politics”) and his hyper-partisanship have characterized his four years in office. This is not only a repudiation of his post-partisan appeal, but a formula for gridlock and ongoing acrimony. This is what many voters despise about politics.

The contrast between Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan could not be greater, and the independent voters who despise partisan bickering now have a vivid portrayal of two very different approaches to governing.

That lefty bloggers and pundits ate up Biden’s antics is a telling commentary on how vitriolic the left in general has become. They really think average voters think this is great stuff? The constant accusations of “liar” directed at Romney, the vicious attacks on his business record and insinuations that he actually killed a woman haven’t much hurt Romney. But they paint a portrait of an unhinged liberal universe, shockingly unaware of how unattractive and ineffective is this brand of politics. Republicans once were the “angry white men,” but now the Democrats are the angry, rude men and women. What might be fine for the scream-fests at conservatives on MSNBC’s evening programming (where conservatives are the targets but rarely engaged directly) is neither appropriate nor useful when practiced by the president and vice president.

The crowd that inveighed against incivility, blaming the right for the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-Ariz.), now personifies incivility. When you consider your opponents evil liars, you can justify just about any bad behavior on your own side.

When angry leftists have contact with the real world (i.e., people not of the left), it goes poorly, as this interview with Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt showed:

Maybe this stuff goes over with under 30-year-old lefties. But if this is the crowd Obama is playing to 3 1/2 weeks before the election, he is in deep trouble.