The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.
Last night’s vice presidential debate, expertly moderated by ABC’s Martha Raddatz (a former Channel 5 colleague), was engaging, high energy, substantively revealing, stylistically contrasting, and reassuring to partisans on both sides. (David Brooks’ piece in today’s NY Times see this as a generational divide.) Vice President Joe Biden had facts, passion, authenticity, and an often irritating, over-the-top tendency to scoff at Congressman Paul Ryan, even when Ryan was speaking. Still, Biden’s energy, focus and emotion provided supporters what Obama had starved them of last week. As CNN’s Alex Castellanos put it, Biden bought Obama a week of support in his base until the next Obama/Romney debate.
For his part, the youthful, wonky Ryan was television cool, calmly repeating the charges, misstatements and detail-free proposals that have characterized the Romney campaign. His handling of foreign policy issues (Syria, Libya and Iran) was coolly put forth and efficiently prepared to be critical but lacking nuance or even the ability to differentiate what Romney/Ryan would do that the Obama administration is not already doing. Ryan wasn’t able to clarify the confusion about the Romney team’s support for a 2014 departure from Afghanistan while criticizing the announcement of the date. Biden scored heavily in stressing the responsibilities now up to the Afghan military.
On the domestic front, Biden did what Obama should have done in last week’s debate and focused with passion on the 47% of the population Romney was videotaped writing off. The Vice President was also effective in assailing Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout and even scored on Ryan’s hypocrisy in attacking Obama on the economy but writing to request stimulus money for constituents. Dan Kennedy, on Huffington Post, shows strength of Biden’s attack on Romney $5 trillion tax plan cost. Biden was not specific about what the next four years of an Obama administration would look like.
Perhaps the most telling point in the evening’s dynamic, sometimes boisterous give-and- take was a moment of silence, when Martha Raddatz, probing the men’s positions on abortion, asked Ryan whether pro-choice women would have any reason to be concerned about a Romney administration’s position on the issue. Several seconds elapsed before Ryan said anything, perhaps trying to reassure but clearly restating that Romney administration would be pro life.
In the end, people vote for the Presidential candidate, and outcomes aren’t typically affected by the vice presidential debate (note Sarah Palin exception). The differences between the two tickets on issues and values are clear. The debated reinforced the bases. Next Tuesday’s Presidential debate looms all the more interesting in its ability to persuade independents, especially in the swing states. I will definitely be tuned in.
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