Your VP Debate Summary: Ryan Did Well, Biden Did Better

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Still haven't looked at The Twitter or any web sites, though I did watch this with friends, so I don't know how this comports with the prevailing view. But for me the points are:

  • Vice presidential debates have never determined election outcomes, and this one won't.
  • I expected both candidates to do well, and they did.
  • But Paul Ryan, who was fine, did not advance his team's prospects beyond what Mitt Romney had done last week. Whereas Joe Biden, who put on the best performance of his long career, supplied the only good news his team has had in six days (since last Friday's jobs report). Even though, yes, he could have smiled less. Obama owes him, BFD-style.

By virtue of his position and his personality, Barack Obama cannot comport himself in the next debates the way Biden did this evening. But Obama sure as hell should be studying the detailed defense Biden offered of the administration's record and plans, his willingness to go right at the other side's policies, and his overall "Game On!" attitude from the first second he began to speak. Seriously, Biden himself and whoever helped prepare him for this evening should be feeling very good about what they did. (As Romney and his team did a week ago.)

I still don't know who our nation's "undecided" voters can be. What more are they waiting to find out? What mattered in this debate was, really, each candidate supplying specific talking points and general morale-support for his side. Obama really needed Biden to do that, and he came through.

There are some more curlicues for tomorrow, including about the goods and bads of the moderator's style, but for now those are the main points to me.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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