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

By James Fallows

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/your-vp-debate-summary-ryan-did-well-biden-did-better/263529/