By Teresa Welsh |
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.
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.
About Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research