Biden wins VP debate - but did he go too far in bullying Ryan?
Some observers found Joe Biden too disrespectful but at least there was 'real substance', says NYT
JOE BIDEN dominated the vice-presidential candidates' debate at Centre College, Kentucky last night with an aggressive performance that contrasted sharply with his boss Barack Obama's lacklustre showing against Mitt Romney last week.
Several times, Biden laughed in the face of his Republican rival Paul Ryan and called for an end to his and Romney's "malarkey" over policy. But although Biden called Ryan "friend" countless times, he was criticised by many commentators for his disrespectful attitude to the Republican.
In a discussion of Republican tax plans, Biden shouted his opponent down, saying Ryan and Romney could not reduce income tax by 20 per cent across the board without hurting middle-class families. "It has never been done before," said Biden, twice. Ryan replied that "Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth." To which Biden responded: "Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy?"
At another point, Ryan challenged Biden over Obama's failure to resolve the Syrian crisis. But the Republican was unable to answer Biden's question of what the Republicans would have done differently.
Biden also succeeded in reminding viewers about Mitt Romney's '47 per cent' gaffe. Ryan attempted to brush it off by comparing it to the numerous gaffes for which Biden himself is famous. "Sometimes the words don't come out of mouth the right way," he joked. But Biden shot back: "I always say what I mean - and so does Mitt Romney."
A CBS News poll of undecided voters who watched the debate gave it to Biden by a huge margin of 50-31 per cent. A CNN poll found that Ryan was the winner by 48 per cent to 44, but CNN's sample was marginally biased towards Republican voters.
The BBC's Mark Mardell reflected the thoughts of many commentators when he said Biden had "won on points, perhaps", but his demeanour might have been off-putting to some undecided voters.
"He was stronger, more aggressive, more certain of his position - but chuckled, laughed, smiled, grinned at his opponent, in a way that was certainly condescending and that some will have found irritating."
CNN's Gloria Borger agreed. "He was condescending at times to Paul Ryan. I think I could have done with a lot less eye-rolling and chuckling on the part of Joe Biden."
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace thought Biden laughed too much, calling the vice president's manner "unprecedented" for a televised debate. "I don't believe I've ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight," he said. "It was openly contemptuous and disrespectful."
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza said that Ryan was neither a winner nor a loser of the evening. "The debate was SO dominated by Biden - for good and for bad - that Ryan was largely a bystander," he said. "If you liked aggressive Biden, that makes Ryan a loser. If you don't like aggressive Biden, that makes Ryan a winner."
The Los Angeles Times said that, because the running mates' debate was "essentially a sideshow" compared to the presidential debates, "the winner - on points - was the Obama campaign. Biden stopped the downhill slide, at least in terms of internal morale. And he may have given his boss a lesson or two on how to go on the attack".
But for The New York Times, the real winner was political debate itself. "Thursday night's vice-presidential debate was one of the best and meatiest political conversations in many years, showing that real differences on public policy can be discussed with fervour, anger, laughter and real substance.
"In contrast to the dismal meeting last week between President Obama and Mitt Romney, this debate gave voters a chance to evaluate the positions of the two tickets, in part because Representative Paul Ryan's non-answers were accurate reflections of his campaign.
"Both candidates demonstrated real engagement on issues that matter. It was a real change for voters starved for substance."