I thought I’d share some quick thoughts about tonight’s Vice Presidential Debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan at Centre College in Danville, KY.
- After some initial skepticism about the moderator, Martha Raddatz, because of the wedding controversy I thought she did a good job, a much better job than Jim Lehrer did last week. The time was evenly split, the questions were good – in particular the foreign policy questions – and she did well keeping the candidates reigned in.
- I hated the camera angles and I generally don’t like sit-down debates.
- Vice President Biden was gaffe-less and that was surprising. It was a better matched debate than last week. Vice President Biden is a better debater than President Obama.
- While Vice President Biden didn’t commit any gaffe, his laughing and cheesy grin seemed unprofessional and disrespectful. He also interrupted Ryan more times than I could count. I doubt that plays well with undecideds.
- Congressman Ryan looked poised and prepared.
- There was a good exchange on Libya, Iran, Afghanistan and Syria. Congressman Ryan demonstrated he could hold his own. Vice President Biden deflected on Libya to discuss the Middle East at large, but then again what else could he do. I didn’t like Vice President Biden’s use of “Bibi” when referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden said that while they are getting closer to enriching uranium they are much further away from developing a delivery system. Dirty bomb anyone? Give the material to Hezbollah. I wished Ryan brought this up.
- Afghanistan – they both seemed close on the issue. That was the first I heard the Romney camp say they agreed with the timeline and to pull troops out. It seemed the chief difference was not broadcasting the pull out date and making sure the commanders have what they need.
- Syria – we should stay out of it - next.
- Entitlement spending, social security, Medicare, and taxes. Ryan brought more substance. Biden scored on his “well you submitted your requests to send stimulus money to Wisconsin” remark. Ryan’s counter was right on – that was his job as a Congressman – to represent his constituents with their grant requests, but they may be lost on some.
- Biden was disingenuous about who they would actually raise taxes on. He kept referring to millionaires. The threshold is actually $250,000. Biden did correct himself once when he was going to say “we’ll cut taxes for the middle class” to “extend the middle class tax cuts.” The Obama administration has not lowered the tax rate. People need to keep that in mind.
- Vouchers – Biden criticized them, but didn’t make any case for how they would actually reform Social Security and Medicare.
- Abortion – Biden promoted the schizophrenic position – he accepts his church’s teaching privately, but publicly is pro-choice. His private position is meaningless unless it impacts his public life. Ryan got this right that his private beliefs informs his public life. If it doesn’t there is a disconnect.
- Religious liberty – Biden was disingenuous about this. Ryan’s response was classic – “if Catholics agreed with you then why are they suing you?”
This debate was closer than last week’s presidential debate. I doubt it will have as much impact on the polls as President Obama’s loss. It was a pretty even debate. I believe Congressman Ryan showed he could have poise in a high pressure national stage. He was calm, collected, well-polished, and he stayed on message. He gave solid, factual answers. Since he’s the newcomer that gives him the advantage. I don’t think the Romney camp will see much of a bounce from this because they expected Congressman Ryan to do well. Vice President Biden didn’t have a poor debate performance either. He didn’t win so it didn’t stop the bleeding from last week, but he didn’t hurt their ticket either.