Vice Presidential Debate Analysis — As It Happened in Real Time

I live-blogged the vice-presidential debate in real time over at National Review Online.  Here are the posts, in order.  Does my analysis hold up?

Post 1: Joe Biden’s MSNBC Strategy — 9:23 p.m.

His mocking and constant claims of deception are straight out of the MSNBC playbook. The problem is that he’s not exactly proving his case other than repeating again and again that Ryan is wrong. Does anyone really think that Iran is backing away or deterred in any way from developing a bomb? They’re proceeding full speed ahead in spite of the “worst sanctions in the history of sanctions.”

Post 2: “Let it Go Bankrupt” — 9:30 p.m.

Of course the Obama administration did let GM go bankrupt, and then picked winners and losers in the bankruptcy. Winner: the union. Loser: the taxpayer.

Post 3: Debating 101 Says . . . — 9:38 p.m.

Mockery of your opponent pleases your base but is typically off-putting to those on the fence. Biden’s making Al Gore circa 2000 look respectful and dignified. Again and again he’s acting exactly the way that voters say they don’t want politicians to act. But we’ll see . . . what voters say they want and what they respond to are often two different things.

Post 4:  At This Point, It’s Tough to Analyze This Debate — 9:58 p.m.

You either like the vice president interrupting, hectoring, and mocking, or you don’t. The back and forth is so furious that it’s difficult to even follow the points being made. I’m waiting for Jon Stewart to walk in and deliver the full Crossfire speech.

Post 5:  Ryan’s Life Answer . . .  – 10:22 p.m.

Made me want to stand up and cheer. If the moderator wanted a personal comment, she got one. That is exactly how you talk about life, by talking about the moral, religious — and yes — even the scientific case for the life of an unborn child. I disagree with the rape/incest exception, but if that becomes the law of the land (and I pray that we can make that kind of progress), then millions of lives will be saved.

Oh, and asking the vice president why the Catholic Church keeps suing the administration if the administration is protecting their fundamental liberties — pure gold.

Final Post:  First Post-Debate Impression: Biden Behaving Badly — 11:26 p.m.

This will be a tough debate for the partisans to evaluate objectively in large part because Biden’s derision grates so thoroughly on conservative nerves even as it invigorates liberals. “Blue collar” Joe Biden’s sneer reminded me of the form of argument by mockery that one so often encounters not in the streets of towns like Scranton but in the halls of academia.

My best prediction is that independents won’t like Biden much, and that the pop-culture takeaway from the debate won’t have much at all to do with substance and will have everything to do with Joe Biden’s facial expressions. The YouTube mashups are already up and spreading like wildfire. Again and again people tell pollsters they don’t like disrespectful politics. It’s hard to believe they’ll like Biden. If I had to predict, I’d say the debate helps cheer Obama’s base but ends up making the ticket less likable, thus continuing to squander a key favorability advantage.

As for boring things like, you know, substance, Paul Ryan made his conservative case clearly and effectively (when he could talk) — most effectively when concisely laying out all of the Obama administration’s broken promises, but Biden also raised all the anti-Romney talking points that MSNBC begged Obama to raise. The political and philosophical contrast was quite clear. Additionally, the debate elevated foreign policy in public consciousness, and given the appalling Libyan scandal, that’s not good for the administration.

Bottom line: Even more than usual perceptions of style will trump substance. And Joe Biden behaved badly.


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