2012 US Election, Andy Hume, View by election

Hume: Biden wins Vice Presidential Debate

Winner: Joe Biden

Scores: Biden 82 | Ryan 76

Judge: Andy Hume


An immensely enjoyable debate which I scored as a clear win for Vice President Joe Biden, with some reservations.

Biden had two major advantages in terms of his matter. First, his rebuttals were significantly stronger. Time and again he opened his responses to Paul Ryan by refuting the arguments and facts that the Republican Congressman had presented in direct and often blunt terms. Ryan’s rebuttals, by contrast, were generally much weaker and less to the point. Second, his answers on foreign policy were far more persuasive, and his repeated challenges to his opponent to explain what a Romney-Ryan ticket would do differently in Syria and Afghanistan met with little in the way of a substantive response. Ryan launched some effective attacks on healthcare and, initially at least, on the wastefulness of the Obama stimulus plan, and provided plentiful evidence for his attack on the incumbents’ economic record, but as the debate went on Ryan seemed to be on the defensive more and more. On content I felt overall that Biden was the more persuasive.

On manner we saw a very clear clash of styles, as had been expected. Ryan’s speaking style was clear and easy to listen to, and will have made a good impression on most viewers, but his answers sometimes came across as stagey and over-rehearsed, and his approach somewhat bloodless and lacking in emotion. Biden’s manner will have divided the audience. When answering questions, his style was very engaging, coming across as more passionate and down-to-earth than the Republican and using both humour and folksy language to great effect (“can I translate?”). However, during Ryan’s speech time, Biden alternately spent much of the time grinning and laughing histrionically at his rival’s answers – perhaps an overcompensation for Obama’s disinterested demeanour on the split-screen last week – and then, later in the debate, interrupting Ryan far too often when he was trying to speak. Biden supporters will have loved the open display of disdain for his opponent, but neutral viewers may well have found it rude and off-putting.

In early exchanges I thought that Ryan more than held his own, but as the debate progressed I felt that the pendulum swung back towards Biden and stayed there. Despite his presentational flaws, a convincing win for the Democratic candidate.


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