By Jessica Huseman
The vice presidential debate last night was a real mixed bag: Joe Biden’s well thought out answers were largely drown out by his bombastic behavior, while Paul Ryan’s vague answers were stirred only by occasional flashes of energy. In the end, Ryan walked out looking unprepared to be president should that time come, while Biden walked out looking like someone we might not want for president regardless.
While Biden’s antics (which included laughing out loud so much that a @LaughinJoeBiden Twitter feed appeared, and such incredulous smiling at Ryan’s answers it seemed as though he didn’t realize that there was a split screen) produced gushing love from Democrats (see this Democratic Underground feed flowing with affection), and Republicans made a big stink about how rude he was, it’s altogether unclear what effect this had on independents. Though, a CBS poll immediately following the debate showed uncommitted voters pegging Biden as the winner 50 percent to Ryan’s 31 percent.
But, regardless of independents, Biden’s performance did what it needed to do last night: Re-energize the Democratic base after an abysmal performance by President Obama in last week’s presidential debate. He brought up Romney’s “47 percent” video in the first few minutes of the debate, something that Obama didn’t do at all last week. His feisty mannerisms were a perfect contrast to Obama’s frankly boring behavior, and he brought the fight right to Ryan. Regardless of whether or not it was rude or poor behavior, it was what the Democrats needed.
Ryan, on the other hand, didn’t pump anyone up at all. That being said, he didn’t do any damage either. Republicans likely feel exactly the same about the Romney/Ryan ticket today as the did before the debate. Whether that means they’ll continue to ride the high from the Obama-Romney debate is up for grabs, but Ryan said what he need to say – even with the frequent interruptions by Joe Biden – and didn’t make any major mistakes or gaffes.
All of this may not matter at all, however, because vice presidential debates typically don’t do much to affect polls. Aside from a few notable one-liners produced by vice presidential debates, such as Democrat Lloyd Bentsen telling Republican Dan Quayle “You’re no Jack Kennedy” in 1988, the fact remains that these folks are the understudy. People vote for presidents – not vice presidents. The thought of “Oh, that guy might die and this man will have to take over if he does,” typically just isn’t a thought most voters think.
Basically, this debate was a set up for the next presidential debate: Obama will have to maintain Biden’s energy, and Romney will have to cover some ground to continue to keep the Republican Party hyped up.