By Robert Schlesinger |
Unlike last week, when observers decisively named Gov. Mitt Romney winner of his debate against President Barack Obama, a clear consensus has not emerged as to which vice presidential candidate came out on top of Thursday's encounter.
Those who went in supporting the Obama ticket largely emerged convinced Vice President Joe Biden had won the night. Meanwhile, people who started out as fans of the Romney ticket appeared to feel it was Rep. Paul Ryan who arose victorious. In a poll conducted immediately afterward by CNN, debate watchers decided Ryan had bested Biden by just 4 points—a far cry from Romney's 42-point defeat of Obama.
But landslide debate wins are a rarity, and last night's results mirror how most national elections actually play out—with partisan Democrats voting one way, partisan Republicans the other, and the race ultimately being decided by a small sliver of independents in the middle.
But there is one very real way in which the vice presidential showdown was a win for Ryan. He came into the night the youngest and least-known member of either ticket. Casual observers were introduced to a competent, mature policy wonk with a strong command of the issues and, perhaps most importantly, a demonstrated ability to remain composed despite the disrespectful bluster of his opponent.
The vice presidential showdown was not the blowout win for Romney-Ryan that the first presidential meeting was. But neither was it a step in the wrong direction for the pair. Last night the American people got a glimpse of Paul Ryan's talent for keeping focused on what matters under pressure. They can be that much more comfortable placing him a heartbeat from the presidency as a result.
About Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College