Election Debates declares Joe Biden the winner of an engaging and compelling Vice Presidential Debate. [Watch the debate]
Biden, like Mitt Romney in last week’s debate, took control of the debate. While his overtly aggressive manner may have thrilled some and alienated others, it was ultimately his superior matter that won the night.
The panel voted 6-1 in giving the debate to the Vice President.
Election Debates’ adjudicator Wayne Jocic found that Biden did “at the first opportunity, what Barack Obama failed throughout the first presidential debate to do: defend Obama’s presidency.” Biden also attacked, “in direct and often blunt terms” according to Andy Hume. He signposted his disdain with the occasional cry of “malarkey!”
On foreign policy (Syria, Iran and Afghanistan) he showed Ryan’s reflexive opposition had little substance, though Tommy Tonner felt that the Congressman edged the Vice President on Libya. On domestic policy he headed straight for the middle class and did not waiver. Where Obama failed to counter a number of Romney charges, Biden didn’t miss too many targets, Ian Lising noting “the Vice President doing his own fact checking” through the debate.
While Ryan struggled on detail, his strength was found in his clear and compelling message about the need for change and the disappointment of the Obama promise. Biden struggled with his overall message, essentially pleading for voters to “trust” them to keep going. He offered more of a character reference than a plan. That was his central weakness.
The manner adopted by both speakers was a clear contrast too, with Biden choosing an aggressive posture and Ryan a calm one. Ray D’Cruz found that “from a pure debating point of view, Biden mixed aggression with humour and emotion, and the combination was quite compelling.”
But as Andy Hume observed, Biden’s manner will have divided the audience. Fenja Berglund agreed: “an occasional clever interjection has long been tacitly accepted in debate, but they must be rare and brilliant. Frequent interruptions are bad form, as is overt smirking at the audience while your opponent is speaking.”
According to Jason Jarvis “Ryan seemed calm, rational and knowledgeable throughout the debate. On balance he held his own and was effective at using humor, such as when he made light of Biden’s occasional verbal gaffes.”
Their very different approaches and the highly subject nature of manner made the speakers difficult to split on manner. They were easier to split on matter – a Joe Biden win for six on the panel with Tommy Tonner backing Paul Ryan by a slender margin.