There will be more time to get into the substance of the debate, but it’s clear that the story will be about Vice President Joe Biden’s demeanor. In last week’s debate, liberals were disappointed that President Obama didn’t go after Mitt Romney more forcefully. Tonight, Biden gave them what they wanted. He was aggressive, he attacked Paul Ryan and Romney, and brought up Romney’s comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay taxes. He clearly fed the liberal blood lust and likely provided a boost to the morale of the Democratic base that has been starting to panic after Romney’s dominant debate performance and gains in polls.
That said, Biden’s aggressiveness could also be seen by independents as rude and condescending. He not only attacked Ryan, he laughed in Ryan’s face whenever he spoke, and Biden interrupted him constantly. By the RNC’s count, 82 times. This was an effort to belittle Ryan, to make him seen young an inexperienced, to get him off his game. But Ryan largely held his own on foreign policy and was obviously comfortable talking about economic and budget issues. Throughout the debate, he stayed cool and calm. Perhaps he should have pushed back against Biden’s interruptions more forcefully.
As Gallup noted, vice presidential debates don’t typically move polls. Ultimately, it will come down to the last two presidential debates, the ad war and the turnout game.