US running mates clash in debate

Joe Biden at the vice-presidential debate in Danville, KY 12 October 2012 Joe Biden got the chuckles over Paul Ryan's debate performance

If Joe Biden's reaction was anything to go by, Paul Ryan should give up his day job and become a standup comedian.

Joe chuckled and chortled, silently shook his head with mirth, and laughed out loud.

President Obama sometimes says he fails because he can't fake emotions. Maybe Mr Biden can't either, but he had a good try, hamming up his disbelief.

Through his music hall amusement, Mr Biden was trying to signal incredulity. His none too subtle message: Paul Ryan's arguments are a joke, and he is laughably callow.

Some found this condescension unattractive and off-putting.

On the back foot

They say generals always fight the last war. Mr Biden's performance was certainly intended to make up for his boss's lacklustre, unresponsive and passive performance last week.

He was strong and aggressive, repeatedly interrupting. The Republicans are portraying that as "out of control".

That may suggest they know Mr Ryan was on the back foot. The reaction to this debate will be far more partisan than the verdicts on last week's presidential clash because there was no runaway victor.

Mr Biden probably cheered supporters and annoyed opponents. Mr Ryan will have done the same, but his calmer performance may have been more attractive to the undecided.

The vice-president's tactic was effective, even if some found it too strong to stomach. It neutered Mr Ryan's own pretty strong performance and repeatedly put him on the defensive, having to explain his position.

Sometimes he did so clearly, but at other times, particularly on what a Romney administration would do in Afghanistan and Syria, he didn't have an answer.

That is not his fault: the Romney campaign has a clear line of attack against Mr Obama's foreign policy, but as yet they have not worked out convincing policies for the future.

A poll of two

This debate was most certainly not a game changer. Afterwards, I spoke to a couple of guys tending a late-night bar (naturally I was there purely in the interest of research). Both had been swept along with the magical mood of 2008 and had voted for Mr Obama.

Both were uncertain how they would vote this year. And neither of them had seen the debate, because nerve-racking playoff baseball and a tight football game were on the TV at the same time.

One sounded as though he would probably vote for Mr Obama in the end, despite his disappointment. He didn't like Mr Romney.

The other said abortion was the biggest issue for his "pro-life" wife, but he wouldn't be swayed by just one issue. My guess is that he won't vote.

My sample of two has a 100% margin of error. But it did reinforce my belief that this election will come down to whether Democrats can turn out people who won't vote for Mr Romney, but who are no longer convinced by Mr Obama.

That means that next week's debate really matters, and Mr Obama has to pull off a performance that is at least as strong as his vice-president - with a lot less laughter.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

Is Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy about to bring back Blairism?

Those on the left think new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy could be about to take the party back to the days of Tony Blair, says the BBC's Mark Mardell.

Read full article

More on This Story

US Presidential Election 2012


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I will proudly 'cling to my Bible, my pick-up truck, my guns and my Constitution. There was pre-hype of the Catholic vs Catholic debate. It is a mortal sin to vote for a pro-abortion candidate. Biden is a fool. He has proven that many times over. His insane performance mirroring the Joker just confirms it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The passion with Joe was clear. That's a deadly combination when supported by facts & figure- to convince people.
    Ryan is an apprentice while Mitt is a great salesman. Habituated to fool customers or mow down opponents using hierarchy & power in corporate world but yet to convince himself with his own "plans" and facts. That becomes clearer when he tries to talk 'sense' on TV to get his job done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    My takeaway from the first two debates is that Romney/Ryan are still running purely on Obama's record, even if they distort the facts to do so. They provide a shifting narrative of how they would have responded to the challenges Obama faced. They promise "We can do better" but are unwilling or unable to say exactly how. It is a classic choice between the devil you known and the devil you don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Lenn I agree, and Raddatz's look to me like she want to get in there start tearing Ryan to pieces up herself. I bet the republicans candidates will stay well away from her for the rest of the election.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    mscracker, marieinaustin,

    If this is not on the agenda, perhaps it should be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Joe Biden interrupts Paul Ryan. The Republicans call it out of control.

    Mitt Romney interrupts Obama. The Republicans call it patriotic.

    Something here does not add up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Biden laughed with incredulity. Ryan offered vacuous attacks on Obama, with no viable alternatives. Sadly, he also littered his comments with lies and exaggerations. Biden's was not a good televisual performance, but at least his 'facts' were more accurate. On foreign policy, Ryan is aggressive whereas Biden is reasonable. I don't have a vote in the USA but know where it would go if I had one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    When Obama gets re-elected he needs to go after all those people who still foolishly cling to their bibles, guns, pickup trucks, & their woefully out-dated sense of constitutional rights. Those people need to be taught to embrace a new world order under Obama's leadership where those who espouse radical ideas & beliefs can no longer hide behind the feable treatise of so-called inalienable rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The republicans and press can't have it both ways: Joe Biden was simply playing by the "rules" as redefined by Romney. Jim Lehrer also shares responsibility for the tone of the remaining debates: he didn't man-up immediately when things got out of hand. Biden won hands down by pointing out Ryan's lies, distortions and lack of concrete plans, and Raddatz's performance as moderator was perfect!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I loved Biden!

    The only reason to vote for Ryan/Romney is if you want to see Roe V. Wade overturned, The Affordable Care Act dismantled, Medicare and Social Security privatized, a new war waged, gay Americans codified as 2nd-class citizens, and the lives of the wealthy enriched even further.

    That is it.

    Biden took it to young Mr. Ryan last night. It's about time somebody did


  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    while I seldom read Mr Mardell's pieces I checked today to confirm that he remains consistently biased and was pleased to see he remains true to his cause. By any standard, even the low one employed by the left and BBC, Biden came across as a clown, his inane, boorish and childish behavior. While he may have appealed to his democrat base (the 47%) he clearly lost independents! KEEP IT UP JOE!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    As a less emotional, independent voter, I found Biden's smirking and laughing a little troubling not less because of the gravity of the questions that were being posed at the time- A lapse in security that has cost lives is no laughing matter, whichever side you are on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Surely based on your sampling, it is the Republicans who must convince the disappointed/undecided rather than the de.facto of Obama?!?

  • Comment number 6.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Everyone will spin this, but I'd rather spend time with Joe Biden than Paul Ryan. Evasion and 'Party Line' rhetoric are not good debate tactics. On Abortion, Biden took the right line: "I won't force my belief on others". Ryan's: " I believe it so everyone must comply". doesn't cut it. The rest was just rehashed fluff. I'm voting for Gary Johnson because he is the best candidate running.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Good analysis, Mark.

    Biden is providing to Obama what Prescott gave to Blair - an authentic working class voice, whose slight thuggishness is softened by a smile-driven cheerfulness and readiness to crack a joke.

    Irritating? of course. But the Dem core consituency laps up this kind of tosh - in fact, the Dem faithful love Biden, & his Jack-the-lad grin may yet save Obama's presidency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    To most American's the facts really don't really matter all that much. Forget all the "malarky" about the the 47% who don't pay taxes. This is a country where according to a June 2012 Gallup poll - 46% of American's still cling to belief in Biblical Creationism!

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I liked Biden's energy, even the laughing; the Romney ticket has been allowed to get away with far too much distortion of facts, like citing 6 'studies' (including a blog post, an Op-Ed and a report from the Chamber of Commerce) that support the Romney budget, and hypocrisy (e.g. Ryan slamming the stimulus while requesting funds for his district). It's time someone calls them on their rhetoric!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    'The Republicans are portraying that as "out of control".'
    What about Governor Romney how would you describe is interrupting of the debate? How would you describe his alleged lies?


Page 12 of 12



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.