Biden, the aggressor … His performance was therapeutic for base Democrats, but Ryan held his own. … It was Scranton Joe vs. Think Tank Ryan, heart vs. head … Both Biden and Ryan accomplished their goals … But Biden struggled on Libya … Ryan struggled on stimulus, abortion … The ball moves to Obama. His challenge – searching for Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold. … Biden-Ryan didn’t come to blows but Berman-Sherman almost did …and things get nasty in Arizona.
With more than 40 million Tweets sent during vice presidential debate, TODAY takes a look at how viewers – and celebrities – are responding to Joe Biden's body language across the Twitterverse.
DANVILLE, Ky. -- If there was something both sides agreed on last night, it was this: Joe Biden was aggressive at last night’s vice-presidential debate. Now, Republicans thought he was too aggressive (with his interruptions, laughs, and facial expressions), and Democrats thought he was just right. After last week’s presidential debate, Biden threw the kitchen sink at both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney -- on issues that President Obama didn't touch in Denver. He brought up Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment. “It [Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout] shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47% of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives.”
He brought up Osama bin Laden, resurrecting Romney’s 2007 line that he “wouldn’t move heaven and earth to get bin Laden." And Biden tried to score points on the issue of abortion. “I guess he accepts Gov. Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that there was … rape and forcible rape.” More than anything, Biden's performance was therapeutic for base Democrats after Obama's dud in Denver.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
DANVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 11: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the vice presidential debate at Centre College October 11, 2012 in Danville, Kentucky. This is the second of four debates during the presidential election season and the only debate between the vice presidential candidates before the closely-contested election November 6. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
*** Scranton Joe vs. Think Tank Ryan: So who won? If you judge a debate on who took the fight to his opponent, who best defended his top of the ticket, and who best attacked the other side, you’d have to say it was Biden. (Indeed, by our count, Biden said “Romney” 26 times, while Ryan said “Obama” or “the president” 14 times.) If you judge a debate purely on style points, Biden might get penalized. And if you judge a debate by who best plays it safe -- especially on issue terrain that’s not your comfort zone -- then Paul Ryan scored well.
That’s probably why the two insta-polls after the debate seemed to indicate a split decision. CBS’s poll of “undecideds” gave it to Biden. CNN’s poll of ALL voters went to Ryan. Both men had two different strategies: Biden was there to energize his side after last week and draw a clear contrast with his opposition, especially on issues like abortion and foreign policy. Ryan, meanwhile, was there to look competent, pass the presidential threshold test and do no harm as we head into next week’s second presidential debate.
They both accomplished their goals but did it with two very different styles: It was Scranton Joe vs. Think Tank Ryan. Heart vs. head. And as political commentator Matthew Dowd, who worked for the Bush campaign but for Democrats before that put it on Twitter: “Heart wins.”
*** Fine lines: Biden needed to walk a fine line between gravitas and condescension. At times, he accomplished that; at times, he didn't. He did, however, appear more knowledgeable with one GIANT exception – Libya. When he said, stunningly, that the administration was unaware of security requests, it may have been the most significant news of the night (more on that below). Ryan needed to look presidential, and you could say he accomplished that, but he also sometimes seemed overmatched by the more aggressive Biden on foreign policy and even on SOME fiscal issues, like the stimulus. Ryan struggled to explain his letter requesting stimulus money despite criticizing the program. In all, Biden did what he needed to do – re-energize the base after the president's lackluster performance a week ago and stop the handwringing and fretting. He did that. Now, the ball moves back to the president, with a different style than Biden that has more appeal to independents and undecideds. Ryan’s job was not to blow the lead for Romney, become an unexpected problem. And he did that. Now it’s up to Romney to see if he can win two debates in a row, something he needs to do if he’s going to not just draw EVEN with the presidential in the battlegrounds, but surpass him.
*** Ryan struggled on abortion: Where Ryan struggled the most, interestingly, was on abortion. And don’t be surprised if we see Obama pick up the same attack. When moderator Martha Raddatz asked if a Romney-Ryan ticket should worry those who want abortion to remain legal, Ryan replied, “We don't think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.” Biden pounced, “The next president will get one or two Supreme Court nominees. That's how close Roe v. Wade is. Just ask yourself, with Robert Bork being the chief adviser on the court for -- for Mr. Romney, who do you think he's likely to appoint?”
Larry Downing / Reuters
See images from throughout his career in Washington, D.C.
*** Where Biden struggled was on Libya and the Benghazi attack: “We weren't told they wanted more security,” Biden said. “And by the way at the time, we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew, that was the assessment." But as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has pointed out, the State Department DID know that requests for more security resources had been made -- and were turned down. In fact, a State Department official acknowledged that while testifying on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Considering the timing of this debate, yesterday’s Capitol Hill hearing and the Tuesday full tick-tock of what REALLY happened in Benghazi, it’s shocking Biden didn’t have a better answer than what he said. His strategy for the debate was, give the minimum answer and move to Iraq and Afghanistan. Not sure that can work for the president.
*** Looking ahead to next week – in search of Goldilocks: The pressure is still on Obama in next week's town hall-style debate in New York. But make no mistake: Biden -- by turning his volume to 11 last night -- takes some of that pressure off the president. If you've followed Obama over the past six years, you know it's not his style to be overly aggressive. Well, Biden last night both gave Obama a roadmap for how to attack Romney-Ryan (on abortion, tax fairness, foreign policy), and he gave him room to do it in the way he feels most comfortable. The question is: Can he deliver? And can Romney deliver another solid performance? Obama is looking for a Goldilocks' performance. Obama in Denver was too cold, Biden in Danville might have been too hot, and Obama, the sequel, has to figure out how to be just the right combination of assertive without being condescending. On to Hofstra!
*** Berman vs. Sherman (literally, folks!): A lot of boxing metaphors are thrown around before and after debates. No one expects there to be a REAL fight. Of last night’s Biden-Ryan showdown, at least you can say they respected one another – enough not to come to blows, anyway. The same CAN”T be said of a debate last night between two DEMOCRATIC congressman. The L.A. Times: “The bitter race for a San Fernando Valley congressional district took a bizarre turn Thursday when Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) got into a near-altercation during a forum at Pierce College. Video of the event in Woodland Hills shows the candidates exchanging words and Sherman at one point putting his arm around Berman, saying: ‘Do you want to get into this?’ A uniformed officer then came onto the stage and appeared to ask that they move away from each other.” Sherman, by the way, who initiated the touching has apologized.
*** Raising Arizona: And speaking of nasty, don't miss what's happening down in the open Arizona Senate race. Rep. Jeff Flake (R) went up with an ad featuring Richard Carmona’s (D) former boss, who says Carmona angrily pounded on her door in the middle of the night, and it was Carmona. “Carmona’s not who he seems,” she says looking directly to camera. “He has issues with anger, with ethics, and with women. … Richard Carmona should never, ever be in the U.S. Senate.” Carmona responded with an ad of his own, showing pictures of his family, a former female co-worker from his SWAT team, him talking to children, and the famous picture of him rappelling from a helicopter to save a man. “When I see a career politician like Jeff Flake attacking Rich Carmona, who has spent his life helping others, it’s despicable,” the co-worker says. “Congressman Flake should be ashamed.”
*** On the trail: Fresh off of his debate performance, Ryan heads to Ohio where he’ll hit a rally with Romney in Lancaster at 5:40 pm ET… Before that, Romney campaigns in Richmond, VA at 12:10 pm ET… Meanwhile, Joe and Jill Biden stump in La Crosse, WI at 2:00 pm ET.
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