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

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  • Comment number 60.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I think Ryan honestly believes that no one will ever have to ever pay the bill for the Bush administration's disasters. He wants US to believe it too -- even though we've heard all about "supply-side" magic and "trickle down" prosperity before (and most of us have been it's victims).

    Ryan's arguments ARE a joke, and they ARE laughably callow.

    So what can a reasonable person do BUT laugh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Some folk after reading health warnings that excessive alcohol is very bad for them,they just quit.

    Reading the health warnings.

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • Comment number 56.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    44. DavidinUSA.

    I sincerly hope you are wrong,but it is worrying.Having traveled through out the US & enjoyed every mile,it did not strike me as fabulously wealthy place.So how can they afford arms spend equal to the next 17/20 country`s combined.The US broke the USSR economically with the USSR militarily overspend,on a poor industrial base.
    China know`s this & is playing a long slow game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    As someone on the mailing lists of both parties,daily getting bombarded with extremely offensive GOPmaterials studded with vile insults aimed atObama,often not-so-subtly playing up racial themes, I find it rather Rich ofGOP to claim Dems now"out of control"for making the Randites look bad. It is disgraceful that bothObamas being told to "play down" their Brains&Forceful selves so as not to alarm!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    #45...PK..What is the modern cosmological big bang theory but an act of creation. Roughly as discussed in Genesis?. All that a god needs to create all we see around us and throughout the Universe is the ability to create a big enough ball of high energy, the rest follows if the cosmologists are correct..For the record I'm quite agnostic but do not share your religous contempt, maybe liberals tho

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Oh dear. This augurs v badly, for those wishing for the return of a President with the intellectual + emotional skills to guide his country gracefully further down its inevitable slide to implosion.

    Biden, a once decent commuter by train to Congress, dissed his opponent gracelessly. Fool, Joe, fool, generations will dis you. Have you given the election to those we (world) absolutely do not need?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    ref #42
    Ryan had plenty of time to respond to Biden's statements, and he was not effective.

    Hard to answer when the other person continualy interupts which I might point out the moderator refuses to stop. yes the moderator can sir Mr. vice President please allow Mr. Ryan to answer without interupting

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    A+++JoeB!It is a perfectly legitimate debate tactic to express emotions & reactions during such a fraught, impt exposition of 2 competing political visions.RReagan did same thing,remember?Ryan's statements Misleading&deceptive.Mormon Church takes advantage of US tax law exempting religions.So MR's "charity"has a self-serving side to it.That PRESIDENT told to act meek&to not intimidate was insult!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Dems found a lot of "facts" in all Biden's blustering. Calling something "malarky" is a fact. "No, you didn't!" is a fact. And if they believe it, it's a "truth", else it's a "lie".

    Biden had plenty of opinion but he couldn't even answer one of the most important questions of the debate -- How else besides raising taxes on the rich will they address the debt?

    All those "facts" but no answers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    As an independent who voted for Obama in 08, I found Biden's manner not just offensive but entirely unsuited to a person next in line to the presidency. Admittedly Ryan has and definitely showed far less experience, but Biden's performance nullified the Democrat advantage. Made it easier for me to vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The Republicans have made the national debt their major issue, and yet Ryan is speechless when asked how he plans to close the gap when there is no decrease in defense spending and an across the board 20% tax cut. The math does not add up - unless he plans to close alot of middle class tax deductions and decimate and gut programs like Medicare. Any fool can see that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    41: No loss there. You have Fox news to keep you "informed" anyway. Comments in a discussion are OBVIOUSLY going to include more than one view. I am also from US (sigh) and I hate the GOP. If there was no diversity the only good thing is the world would be cleaner and safer; humans would be extinct. You'd prefer that? The irony. Then again... that's a thought.
    Hint: look up 'opinion' and 'view'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    My point was not about religion being a sign of stupidity. I don't think that for a minute. The point I was trying to make is that, in my experience, a great number of US voters they are so influenced by their innate values that they are not really interested in the facts - much as creationists close their mind to scientific fact.

    that get in the way of their beliefs

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    After several years in the US, I am slowly concluding that the country is in a perhaps irreversible decline. Hundreds of homeless on DC's streets; US cities de facto remain racially segregated; prosperity slipping away; the state propping up entire industries & millions of home loans; & Arab insurgents humilate a superpower. Can Biden/Ryan solve these issues? Seems unlikely.

    Fin de siecle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    35:Wrong. You need to look up different phases of the economy cycle - it's not just recession or otherwise. And Congress is responsible for the budget, not the POTUS. Think of the USPS offices closing; Congress is to blame (going on leave, ignoring the issue). Wars are costly no matter who is in office and so Bush's wars are STILL costly. And the GOP think Syria should also be attacked? Hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    MagicKirin, I watched the debate. YOU see and hear only what you expect to see and hear. I expected that Ryan would wipe the floor with Biden. He didn't.

    Ryan had plenty of time to respond to Biden's statements, and he was not effective. The moderator did an excellent job asking them both hard questions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I really wanted to believe BBC could be impartial, but judging from the comments I have seen on many presidential articles, I will be signing off from BBC indefinitely. As an American, I am amazed by the ignorance and prejudice shown to Republicans and any who disagree with Europeans; I am sick of being insulted for having a different opinion. @PK belief in religion is not a sign of stupidity.


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