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Further Reflections on Last Night’s Vice-Presidential Debate

by | Oct 12, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-life Paul Ryan and Pro-abortion Joe Biden

Abortion and ObamaCare were important components of last night’s vice-presidential debate between pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden and pro-life Rep. Paul Ryan. We talked about these topics in a separate post in order to give them the attention they deserve.

Suffice it to say here (1) that the moderator, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, tried to frame the abortion question in a manner least helpful to an informed discussion; and (2) that Ryan deftly and genuinely explained his pro-life convictions at the same time he made clear that ObamaCare was an all-out attack on religious freedom—a charge that Biden, in full bluster, inaccurately denied. (See also “USCCB responds to inaccurate statement of fact on HHS Mandate made during vice presidential debate.”)

I had a chance to listen to the first half of the debate on the radio and watch the second half on television. In a sense it reminded me of the Kennedy/Nixon debate where those who watched the two square off on the tube felt Kennedy was the clear winner.

On the radio, the two gave as well as they got, pretty close to a draw. While no one could miss that Biden was determined not to allow normal etiquette, manners, or respect for the forum to get in the way of interrupting Ryan, you had to watch the debate on television to fully appreciate how unbecoming Biden behaved. Biden not only lost the CNN instant poll (see below), my strong suspicion is he turned off anyone who genuinely had not made up their mind yet.

Everybody acknowledged the Biden was amped (Democrats said this worked to their advantage). One account put it this way: “Biden looked as if he could barely stay in his seat for much of the night, interrupting Ryan repeatedly and sometimes making it difficult for the GOP nominee to get out his answers.” I suspect many viewers couldn’t figure out if they were more angry or embarrassed by Biden’s condescending, snide, dismissive behavior accurately characterized as “a flurry of eye rolls, interjections and accusations.” 

There were a couple of instant polls that had either Biden or Ryan a clear winner, which makes no sense. CNN’s poll, strangely enough, was likely much more accurate. Their quickie poll found Ryan the winner 48% to 44%.

In addition, according to CNN, “Seven in ten said Biden was seen as spending more time attacking his opponent, and that may be a contributing factor in Ryan’s 53%-43% advantage on being more likable. Ryan also had a slight advantage on being more in touch with the problems of average Americans.”

The CNN poll also found that “28% said the debate made them more likely to vote for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 21% said the faceoff made them more likely to vote to re-elect President Barack Obama.” Going forward, that is very significant.

It’s only fair that Democrats congratulated Biden on what they say was an outstanding performance, just as Republicans did of Ryan. But while there was some commentary on the substance of what the Vice President said, far and away his admirers raved most about his “style” or his “tone.”

They meant, of course, that while President Obama seemed at times to be close to nodding off in Denver last week, Biden was hyper-energetic. It was said a million times that he “had accomplished” his mission—attack Ryan and Romney and by doing so (so the argument goes) re-energized Democrats dispirited by the President’s halting performance.

Talk about setting the bar low: shout, interrupt, snidely dismiss your opponent, chastise the moderator for being insufficiently slavish a couple of times, and suddenly the troops will be ready to charge the barricades.

We keep being told Biden’s job was to “rally the base,” but if in so doing he came across as one unappealing human being, what was the cost in potential support among Independents?

The manner in which Biden conducted himself last night was utterly predictable; that’s who Biden is. Ask anyone who he doesn’t like who has had the misfortune of coming before him for confirmation when he was a member of the Senate.

He is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde. By reputation, he is an extremely decent human being off camera. But when the lights go on, the partisan Democrat takes over and it is not a pretty sight (see last night).

My daughter texted me during the debate, “Wow, this moderator [Raddatz] is hostile” toward Ryan. That is putting it mildly. My guess is it’ll be worse in the final two presidential debates.

In the meanwhile, hats off to Mr. Ryan for defending his pro-life principles and for highlighting in personal terms what it means. If you haven’t already, please read “Ryan and Biden lay out vastly different positions on abortion.”

Categories: Politics