Thursday evening’s Joe Biden-Paul Ryan vice presidential was evenly matched, compelling, and even a bit substantive.
For those who were unable to watch, one of the night’s most memorable moments came when Congressman Ryan sparred with Vice President Biden over fiscal policy.
The one-minute back-and-forth exchange pretty much summarized most of the night. Congressman Ryan demonstrated his knack for pulling out facts on the spot while simultaneously following the campaign script, whereas Vice President Biden remained aggressive, repeatedly attempting to knock the younger candidate off his game and delivering a great one-liner: “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?” It was a quip reminiscent of the famous debate between Dan Quale and Lloyd Bentsen, and both Biden and Ryan seemed to quickly catch on with a brief, humorous pause.
Ultimately, Paul Ryan held his own. Biden, at times, appeared almost 2000 Al Gore-esque, perhaps attempting to incite the young Congressman with continuous smirking and interruption. For the most part Ryan kept his cool but, especially when compared to the disaster of the first presidential debate, the night belonged to the Democrats. Vice President Biden could afford to play hardball, and the savvy former-Senator did everything he could to knock Ryan off his game. Biden was the more aggressive candidate and set the debate tempo.
Both candidates defended their respective platforms well, but both encountered some tough situations. Congressman Ryan’s “Mitt Romney’s a car guy” quip, defending Romney’s position on the auto bailout, and reference to calling his daughter “Bean” after seeing her on an ultrasound came off as somewhat contrived. Of course, both candidates had to play politics as Biden diverted blame over the death of Libyan ambassador Christopher Stevens while Ryan remained nebulous on which programs would be cut under a Romney administration.
The final takeaway of the night was that there is still some domestic support for more aggressive foreign policy rhetoric. Congressman Ryan continued to reference “devastating defense cuts” and even talked about funding for Ohio-made tanks, despite the fact that Army has become more tepid on defending tank production. The Romney campaign’s defense position is not entirely out of line with that of the Obama administration but, especially with recent crises in the Middle East, the issue of foreign policy provided Ryan an opportunity to go on the offensive.
According to a CNN survey of those who watched the debate, Congressman Ryan edged out Vice President Biden 48 percent to 44 percent. The Vice President may have come off as too rude or aggressive, but he did his job to keep the Congressman from stealing the show. With a losing precedent set by young Republican candidates Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin, Ryan faced an uphill battle and needed to appear presidential. Biden, on the other hand, needed to turn the tide and energize the base following Governor Romney’s shellacking of the President in Denver. Both candidates did a fine job and shared some laughs along the way. Thankfully, this year’s election will probably not be decided by a running-mate gaffe.