Debate Club

The Biden-Ryan Debate Was a Draw, But Ryan Won on Style Points


The vice presidential debate was a draw, but Joe Biden let his anger get the best of him. Paul Ryan, despite his polite and earnest calmness, offered up some factually inaccurate arguments. This isn't to say that he didn't make some good points, but the vice president made a few more.

Biden came across as a cranky grandfather schooling his grandson over differences of opinion. He shouldn't have been easy on Ryan; the president's poor debate performance last week merited a feisty exchange, but he went overboard. Ryan showed a lot more grace. Undecided voters will appreciate his demeanor because, regardless of whether or not what he said was true, voters evaluate debate performance on presentation, not policy arguments.

Biden excelled when he spoke about military's demobilization in Afghanistan, and protecting Medicare, Social Security, and the middle class. But his tax talk came across as awkward. The president will have to do a much better job presenting his tax plan in an easy to understand way—not getting bogged down in a math lecture. Obama should focus on the fact that Romney's tax plan benefits just 120,000 wealthy families. Historically, Americans consistently distrust the rich. The president could activate this sentiment with the right narrative.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Ryan demonstrated strong foreign policy preparation, but he didn't explain why Romney's approach would be a better approach. His response to questions on how Obama handled the embassy attack in Libya was compelling. The administration hasn't communicated clearly what happened there, and this opens them up for attacks—attacks which will continue to plague the president through the remainder of the campaign.

Overall, vice presidential debates have little impact on the fortunes of the presidential candidates; they're sales presentations and political theater. The next two debates are much more important. If the president takes too much cold medicine again, he'll go one more step toward not having four more years to find all the secret compartments in the Oval Office desk.

Jamie Chandler

About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College

Obama, Barack
Romney, Mitt
2012 presidential election
Biden, Joe
Ryan, Paul

Other Arguments

291 Pts
Mitt Romney Won the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden Debate

Ryan – Mitt Romney Won the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden Debate

Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst

101 Pts
Paul Ryan Won by Staying Cool and Composed

Ryan – Paul Ryan Won by Staying Cool and Composed

Stephanie Slade Project Director at The Winston Group

-1 Pts
Joe Biden Exposed Paul Ryan's 'Malarkey' for What It Is
-34 Pts
Biden Communicated Obama's Message Better Than Obama

Biden – Biden Communicated Obama's Message Better Than Obama

Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research

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