Vice presidential debate: Joe Biden has reasons to smile


Joe Biden and Paul Ryan squared off in Kentucky on Thursday night, clashing on a range of issues, including Iran sanctions, abortion, healthcare and rescuing the middle class. We assembled a group of opinionators from the left, right and center to comment on the VP candidates’ positions in real time.

Unlike the first presidential debate, in which there was a clear winner, Thursday’s outcome wasn’t as clear, although it looks like Biden will get the edge. Here’s our panel’s instant analysis.

Jon Healey: Unlike last week’s smackdown by Mitt Romney, Thursday’s debate had no clear victor. Biden came across as more human, more compassionate and more invested in the issues, but he didn’t have good answers for a number of Ryan’s critiques. Ryan scored with his dismantling of the administration on the Libyan consulate fiasco and his points about the need for a new approach to the economy. But he came across as overly muscular on foreign policy -- essentially arguing that the United States can assert its will on the rest of the world -- and effectively told female voters that a Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan administration would let states dismantle Roe vs. Wade, if its Supreme Court nominees didn’t do so first. Meanwhile, each man gave the fact-checkers lots to work with, blithely tossing out opinions and estimates as cold hard facts.


Jonah Goldberg: I think on substance it was a draw. On style, Biden lost with his ridiculous laughing and interruptions. But Biden understood, better than Ryan, that being an attack dog is his job. Biden succeeded in not fueling the narrative after President Obama’s loss last week and shoring up dejected liberals.

DEBATE LOG: Vice Presidential Debate

Patt Morrison: Biden batted cleanup after Obama left too many men on base. Biden won, I thought, because for all his reputation for goofiness, he brought gravitas and “chops” to the stage, although his inappropriate grinning and interruptions didn’t help him. But Ryan’s moments of condescension didn’t help the Republican. Ryan came across as full of conviction -- more so than Romney -- but wonky and slightly callow at times. Now, will this be the one VP debate that changes perceptions of the top of the ticket?

Harold Meyerson: I give the edge to Biden if only because middle-class advocacy comes off as credible because of his existential middle classness.

DoyleMcManus: Bottom line: Biden (47%!) halted the Democrats’ panic. Ryan held his own but got tangled in detail.

Tom Hayden: No question Biden won this debate on issues and experience, which may check Romney’s momentum. But it depends on the next debates.

Stay tuned: We’ll be live tweeting the second presidential debate on Tuesday, Oct. 16.


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