The 2012 Vice-Presidential debate, much like the Gore/Bush debate of 2000, will forever be defined by what was done and not what was said. In 2000, it was Gore sighing ad infinitum which distracted from the Bush message. In 2012, it was 82 interruptions by Vice-President Joe Biden, while he condescendingly smiled and laughed over and over, distracting from the message – right or wrong – which Paul Ryan was trying to convey. If it were me, I’d have felt like punching him in the mouth. I bet Ryan felt the same way.
That’s what I remember most. That’s what people in general will remember most.
Thus, there was no clear winner or loser, though republicans and democrats will each opine that their guy won. To his credit, the blustery Biden came to the arena armed with statistics and numbers, ready for a fight which he took to Ryan, much better than his boss did with Romney. And Ryan, to his credit, stood the test well on domestic and foreign matters, responding with well-informed points of view, unruffled by the overt rudeness of his opponent.
Political pundit, Charles Krauthammer put it well. He said, (out of context) “If the debate was only read on paper, it would have been a draw. If people could only hear, but not see the debate, it would sound like Biden won. But, to the TV visual audience, Ryan won.”
Biden blustered and complained he was not getting enough time, though the measure of time later showed he actually spoke slightly more than Ryan. But Biden’s comical laughing, the put-downs, the finger pointing, the bully-like attitude turned off many viewers, from both sides.
The issues? No home runs there. No new points of view. No revelations. It was blasts of statistics and partisan-as-usual. The exception was one exchange when Biden was hammering Ryan’s running mate with the infamous 47% gaffe. Ryan’s comeback brought spontaneous laughter from the audience. “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Joe had to eat that one.
What difference will it all make? Not much. We’re all going to the polls to vote for or against a president, not a vice-president. That’s the way it is. Even the hapless Dan Quayle couldn’t bring down G.H.W. Bush in 1988.