Here are the major points of the debate that I think really stood out and affected the outcome:
- To be blunt, tonight was a true mirror of the body language we show in last week's Presidential debate. Both VP candidates were very, "lively" in tonight's debate, having no problem interrupting each and getting into heated exchanges. In contrast, last week's debate was overly polite.
- On a similar note, Joe Biden was MUCH more animated than President Obama was last week. Though in this case, while Obama wasn't animated enough in his debate, Joe Biden was a bit over the top to put it mildly.
- In the end, Paul Ryan had the better posture during the debate. While he was animated, he kept it to a safe level whereas Joe Biden clearly went a little overboard, especially with that toothy grin of his.
- Both candidates were quite passion in their positions on social, economic, and foreign policy issues.
- Regardless of how "truthful" their statements of the various issues were, both Biden and Ryan stood their ground strongly. For Biden, this was definitely the case during the discussion on Medicare and Afghanistan. For Ryan, his most passionate arguments were during the discussions about the Federal Budget and Medicare.
- I know what you're thinking, "debates aren't supposed to be entertaining", but just because it's not the norm doesn't mean it shouldn't happen from time to time. Debates are traditionally boring events that are normally only watched by political wonks and die-hards. The debate tonight was something altogether different.
- I can testify personally that when I watched this debate, I honestly didn't want to leave the room because I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen next. I wasn't the only one. I watched the debate with several of my friends (who come to the table with a pretty varied set of politics, something I personally like), and we all agreed the debate was far more entertaining and lively than we ever imagined it would be.
- There was a good deal of talk about how this debate was going to turn out. Many thought the gaffe-prone Vice President would be easy prey for Paul Ryan. This belief was further reinforced by the fact the Joe Biden hasn't participated in a debate or major one-on-one interview for some time whereas Paul Ryan has committed himself to dozens of television interviews over the last few months.
- Likewise, there were many on the Left who were talking about how the much more seasoned politician that is Joe Biden would be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat and stop the young Paul Ryan dead in his tracks. To be honest, even from commentators on MSNBC, this belief sounded much more like wishful thinking than an actual prediction.
- As it turns out, both predictions were a bit off. While Biden was overly animated, he didn't perform any major gaffe that I could make out and stood his ground far better than I ever imagined he would. Further, Paul Ryan also held his ground and made a lot of good points.
As Steve Schmidt put it on MSNBC after the debate, and I am paraphrasing since I can't find an printed version of his statements, this debate was something of a victory for both sides. Joe Biden stood his ground on his party's platform despite attacks from Ryan. At the same time, Ryan make some rather powerful blows on the Obama/Biden administration on the recent events in Benghazi and their somewhat sluggish reactions to other events in the Middle the last three years. His attacks on the Administration's economic policies also struck hard. Biden may have stood his ground, but that doesn't mean he won the exchange.
Ultimately, I would say Ryan handled himself better overall during the debate and while he got a bit lost during the discussion about Afghanistan (for which Biden actually did make a few good points), he overall came out just ahead of Biden. But ultimately, the performance of both candidates was strong enough that both sides of the political spectrum will claim for victory and will no doubt argue til the end of time over who really won.
For me, this was honestly one of the best debates I have ever watched and it was a rare treat in American politics. My congrats to both candidates for a good show and a good debate. I also want to give a shout-out to the moderator of the debate, Martha Raddatz. She did a hell of a job keeping the two candidates from taking control of the debate as the two Presidential contenders did last week. Some will likely criticize her for one of her final questions in which she asked how the two VP candidates' Catholic faith guided their political positions but her overall job was excellent. Her foreign policy know-how was key in provoking a rather sobering debate on the war in Afghanistan and our rising tensions with Iran.
Overall, a great debate with a good moderator. I political wonk like myself can hardly ask for much more during a Presidential race these days and my kudos that all three participants in the debate!
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