By Rachel Brody |
Charles Krauthammer said if you read a transcript of last night's vice-presidential debate, it was dead even. If you listened on the radio, Vice-President Joe Biden won. If you watched on TV and could see the smirks and sighs of the vice-president, Republican challenger Paul Ryan won.
But there was a winner last night in Danville, Ky., and that winner was Mitt Romney.
Biden had been sent out to bury Ryan in a huge pile of "malarkey." The goal was to demonstrate Romney—whose calling card is management of big enterprises—failed in his first big decision by naming Ryan to the ticket. Biden poked and prodded. He sighed loudly and smiled mischievously. He sulked about the time—even though he spoke for about two minutes longer than Ryan overall—and he interrupted Ryan 82 times, according to one calculation.
But he did not rattle the congressman from Wisconsin. He did not force a mistake. He did not prove Romney had demonstrated poor judgment with his appointment of Ryan.
Ryan accomplished his goal of doing no harm, getting in a few zingers and buttressing the Republican arguments for limited government, reduced spending and entitlement reform. But Biden accomplished his as well. He argued forcefully for the Democratic way. He fired up the base. He made the case for President Barack Obama's policies far better than the president himself.
Romney got a historic boost out of his first debate with President Obama. Biden did nothing to chisel away any of that support. Ryan did his job—he held serve.
What happened in Danville will largely stay in Danville. It's lasting effects will be to erase Al Gore from the record book as "most exasperated debater ever" and to set up what should be two enormous clashes between the presidential candidates next week and the week after.
Both candidates should remember that, after these two debates, the country is wonked out. Romney's tax cuts would "cost" $5 trillion. No, they wouldn't. Obama has handled Iran as well as possible. No, he hasn't. What remains is for the candidates to show not what decisions they would make but how they would make them. What values would they hold dear? What kind of future for America do they envision?
It's as close as it can be right now. All polls seem to be within the margin of error. There are, however, still voters to be convinced, particularly in battleground states. The candidate who best connects with them from this point on is the one who will be celebrating after November 6.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College