US running mates clash in debate
- 12 October 2012
- From the section US & Canada
Vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan clashed in a feisty debate in Kentucky. But who won?
New York Times
As Mr Ryan spoke, Mr Biden sometimes grinned, sometimes smirked and often shook his head with disdain and dismissiveness toward Mr Ryan, whom he seemed to consider very much his junior adversary. To some and particularly his party's liberal base, Mr Biden might have been seen as easily refuting Mr Ryan's assertions with his very body language. Others could view Mr Biden's demeanour as condescending and unworthy of his office. Mr Ryan often came off as confident, but at times appeared flummoxed by Mr Biden's aggressiveness and at moments was rendered speechless by the vice president's tactics.
Joe Biden wiped the floor with Paul Ryan at Wednesday night's debate, but we might have to spend a day debating whether he laughed too much while doing it. On Medicare, on taxes, on abortion, on middle-class opportunity and on foreign policy, Biden made Ryan look like he was trying out for the college debate team, and on substance, he pinned him to his and Mitt Romney's least popular policies.
The next debate Biden should have is with himself. He loves the sound of his own voice and certainly doesn't want to hear any other viewpoints. This wasn't a debate. It ended up being a monologue with Biden dominating the time, and cutting off Ryan every chance he could. This ended up like being trapped in a bar next to a know-it-all drunk. Biden wasn't drinking but he reinforced why he only got 1 % of the vote when he ran for president four years ago.
Stylistically, Biden was hot, maybe too hot. Republicans claim he interrupted Ryan 82 times. And argue that his repeated smirking and shaking of his head came off as condescending. Ryan did a good job of not losing his cool under steady heat and fire. And was in solid command of policy on both foreign and domestic policy. And Biden was a passionate defender of his boss and wasn't shy about taking the offensive to point out where and when he thought Ryan and Romney are wrong. So net effect? An entertaining and informative debate that both sides will likely claim as a win, but won't likely significantly change the overall equation.
The debate was notable for its heated exchanges and frequent interjections - a sharp contrast from the previous week - with conservative commentators accusing Mr Biden of being "disrespectful" by laughing and gesturing throughout. The 69-year-old Mr Biden repeatedly criticised Mr Ryan, a 42-year-old Congressman from Wisconsin, for misrepresenting the Democrats' record over the past four years.
Biden looked as if he could barely stay in his seat for much of the night, interrupting Ryan repeatedly and sometimes making it difficult for the GOP nominee to get out his answers. "He had his Red Bull. He certainly had his caffeine," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said after the debate. It was a performance by the vice president guaranteed to amp up - and buck up - worried Democrats, who had fallen into a paralysis of anxiety after the president's debate.
Romney was universally judged to have bested Obama in Denver, but Biden and Ryan each made their points with force and conviction. With the race tighter than it was two weeks ago, Thursday's debate is not likely to result in a significant shift toward either Obama or Romney but is likely to raise the stakes when the two meet next week for their second forum.
Biden's combative approach in Danville, Kentucky, went some way towards undoing the damage done by Barack Obama's listless performance last week, scoring point after point against Ryan in a 90-minute debate dominated by foreign issues such as Iran, Afghanistan and Syria and domestic issues including tax and the deficit. But his demeanour may have proved divisive as he repeatedly dismissed Ryan, talked over him, interrupted, laughed and at one point sighed, "Oh God".