Five lessons learned from the vice presidential debate

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden squared off in the only vice presidential debate of the campaign, Thursday Oct 11. They covered a wide range of issues, like nuclear weapons in Iran, tax policy, and abortion. There is a nearly 3-decade age difference between the candidates, and the pressure was on for both sides. Moderator Martha Raddatz is receiving praise for keeping the candidates on topic with pressing questions. There is definitely not as clear of a consensus among who won like there was in the first presidential debate. The media seems split between calling it a draw and giving Vice President Biden the win.

1. Biden's strategy was emotional, while Ryan stuck to the facts.

There was quite a range of emotions from Biden throughout the night, and the debate was lively with high-energy. Most people were probably on the edge of their seats waiting for Biden to make a signature gaffe, but there wasn't anything that stood out. Biden is known to be passionate and aggressive, and he certainly showed that. Ryan is famous for being "a number's guy" and a policy "wonk", so he was expected to counter Biden with a lot of numbers and facts, and he did. Ryan stuck to his facts and didn't tangle with Biden as much as he could have. Ryan's strategy was most likely "Let Biden be Biden" while Ryan played it safe.

2. Biden jumped at the opportunity to mention the 47 percent.

While Barack Obama was criticized for not bringing up Mitt Romney's comments about 47 percent of America being dependent on the government at the first presidential deabte, Biden didn't hesitate to bring it up as soon as the debate talk switched to the economy. Vice presidents traditionally get the role of being the attack dog for the presidential candidate, and this debate was certainly more combative than the presidential debate. Ryan responded aggressively with one of the most memorable zingers, "I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way." Well played, Ryan.

3.  The debate got very personal with discussion about religion.

This is the first election in which both major party tickets are Roman Catholic, and Raddatz used this as an opportunity to ask the candidates how their faith influences their decisions, especially in terms of policy surrounding abortion. Both candidates offered emotional responses. Ryan, who is anti-abortion and considers himself pro-life, talked about seeing his daughter on the ultra sound for the first time. Biden, who personally considers himself pro-life, did not want to impose his personal religious beliefs on others and therefore is taking on policy that is pro-abortion rights, or pro-choice.

Ryan brought up an anecdote about a family who suffered a car crash and was helped financially by Romney. Biden, whose family narrative is publicly well-known, seemed obligated to discuss his own personal story of when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash. It was an unexpectedly somber moment in a lively debate.

4. Candidates did more to fire up bases than win over independents.

In the long run, are vice presidential debates really that important? Probably not, unless something truly extraordinary happens. Since many are calling this debate a draw, both sides will try to use it for momentum. Overall, it seems more likely that the Biden and Ryan did more to fire up their bases in their respective parties, which is always a good thing. They didn't seem to be playing for independent voters as much as Romney and Obama were. When it comes to election day, voters are casting a vote for the top of the ballot, not the running mate.

5. Who knew a politician could look like he or she is having such a good time during a debate?

What is a candidate to do when he disagrees with everything his opponent is saying? For Joe Biden, that means you smile and laugh the whole time. At first his pearly whites were impressive, but after five or six times, it started to come off as irritating and condescending. No surprise that @LaughinJoeBiden  made an appearance on Twitter. Although Biden's dentist is sure to be getting a lot of calls this morning.

Check out a video highlight of his smiles here.

Also, since BC has no shortage of Irish-Catholics, we had to mention this:

While most people were scratching their heads when Biden passionately responded "Malarkey!"to one of Ryan's answers, we hope you realized that it is Irish-American for "nonsense". And when Biden called Ryan's repsonse about Iran "a bunch of stuff," Ryan jumped in with a translation. "It's Irish," he said. After the debate, NBC news anchor called the debate a "big night for Irish-Catholics." And, it was exciting when BC's Tip O'Neill got a few shout outs.

 

Photos by Gillian Freedman/Gavel Media

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