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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  • 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 35.

    After almost four years of a failed administration, the longest American recession in history and several trillions of dollars lost on nothing. History will look back at this debate as a clown like Biden all he could do was interrupt Ryan 82 times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    MM you have it so wrong

    Biden was being obnoxious because he could not debate on the facts and record.

    Because of the age difference he got away with it wthout being stopped by the moderator as she should have.

    Biden may have fired up the base but as CNN and NBC both had Ryan as the winner how did this work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    We are worse off today than we were four years ago. A gallon of gas cost less than $1.80 now it is almost $4 a gallon, medium latte at Starbucks then $1.25 now $2.10, movie ticket $3.00 now $5.50. The only thing that has gone done in price is homes. People we need new leadership. (see 24 & 35)

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Perhaps Biden let himself down on one topic - blaming career civil servants for the misinformation about the Al Qaeda attack on the ambassador to Libya. It would hurt Barack Hussein's image to admit that Al Qaeda is resurgent & ever more threatening to US interests.

    But Biden's plastic smile never fails to tickle the Dem faithfuls' political tastebuds & they adore him, whatever he says.,


Comments 5 of 240



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