Political Animal


October 11, 2012 11:29 PM Post-Spin Veep Debate Assessment

By Ed Kilgore

Before too many readers lay into me for failing to immediately score this as a big Biden win, I’ll remind you I didn’t think Romney did all that well in the first presidential debate. Assessments of the Veep debate almost totally depend on what you thought the two candidates needed to accomplish.

If the biggest impact of the presidential debate (and you can make that case) was to discourage Democrats, Biden clearly provided a major tonic for the troops. He was combative, confident, never let Ryan win an uncontested point, and did not forget to make simple assertions of fidelity to progressive values. The very things some pundits criticized him for—talking over Ryan, laughing and grimacing when his opponent was doing his number, etc.—were exactly what many Democrats wanted to see and hear.

Ryan’s accomplishment was not screwing up, not sounding “radical” (except for the abortion issue) and sounding superficially knowledgeable about foreign policy. He also, as I figured he would do, dragged the brief discussion of taxes and budget far enough into the weeds to become relatively inscrutable to low-information voters.

A CBS instapoll had Biden winning by a 50-31 margin. This impression will probably be reinforced or perhaps strengthened by the spin, which is mostly “Biden wins!” from Dems and “tie” from GOPers, though some conservatives will naturally think Ryan hit it out of the park and/or that Biden channeled Gore 2000 with his mannerisms.

On the big controversies between the two parties, Biden clearly did a better job than Obama did last week, while Ryan probably didn’t change many minds, other than those who missed his convention speech and expected him to howl at the moon.

It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the debate will move any numbers. It mostly depends on whether you think the “Romney surge” was abating anyway, and if not, whether it was feeding on simple momentum and/or Democratic “discouragement.” But the public opinion reactions, if any, will barely settle in before the next presidential debate next Tuesday. So it will probably be a while before we can calm down and see where the “fundamentals” and event-driven perceptions of the candidates—plus GOTV!—will position the contest during the final, final stretch.

I’ll definitely have more refined thoughts in the morning, but keep talking in the comments thread if you want; fresh impressions are sometimes most accurate.


Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • melior on October 11, 2012 11:45 PM:

    Each time Ryan simpered about how much he personally benefited from government assistance earlier in his life to help him when he was in need, the corpse of Ayn Rand shed another dusty tear.

  • sjw on October 11, 2012 11:46 PM:

    From Nate Silver's 538 blog yesterday: "Mr. Romney may have increased his chances of becoming president by 15 or 20 percent based on one night in Denver."

    Sorry to piss on everybody's parade (even mine) in celebration of Biden's fine debate performance, but is there now a near-consensus that Obama didn't get it done and that Biden has shown how it's done?

  • Ryan W. Bush on October 11, 2012 11:47 PM:

    So ...

    Biden was bold and assertive and Ryan didn't screw up.

    Wow, is Ryan our new Dubya? He can win or tie a debate by not screwing up?

    Biden didn't screw up either, and he is known for making gaffes. Does he too get prize money for that?

    *scratches head*

  • Sparko on October 11, 2012 11:51 PM:

    Biden dismantled Romney/Ryan. This was a freaking beat-down. Already the spin on the Wurlitzer is in high gear. Last week, everyone seemed real interested in winning and losing. This week, Biden was too mean and smiled too much. And sjw--what Silver takes is a daily temperature. I would like to stop the media from going into all-out damage control for Ryan. It was a brutally bad performance. I don't think he mentioned the top of the ticket more than once. . .

  • jjm on October 11, 2012 11:53 PM:

    Biden flat out won. Ryan couldn't offer anything of the slightest substance: just attitude and snark.

  • John B. on October 11, 2012 11:55 PM:

    I see Kevin Drum is wringing his hands over what he thinks was a stumbling argument by Biden over taxes. He concludes "neither Biden nor Obama seems to have a well-rehearsed 60-second schtick to explain it. Maybe it's impossible. Maybe there's just no way to score a clean win in an argument that revolves around numbers and tax jargon."

    It's true neither Obama nor Biden has come up with a clear, Clintonesque line or two that gets to the heart of the matter, that these birds are lying and their refusal to be specific shows gross disrespect for the voters.

    But surely there is a way to say it for the Tee-Vee viewer. Yes? Someone... help the Dems out. Put it in a short paragraph or two.

  • Ron Byers on October 12, 2012 12:00 AM:

    On reflection, I will repeat, Romney sent a boy to do a man's job and the man Obama sent kicked ass.

    There is no other way to view tonight. Ryan repeated talking points and Biden told us what was going on. The man watched as Ronnie and Tip cut the social security deal. He knows how to get her done. Ryan not so much. Biden's comments on womens reproductive rights was right on, totally mainstream. While acknowledging his own Catholic faith he honored his American roots. Religions in America just don't get to impose their beliefs on others.

  • sjw on October 12, 2012 12:01 AM:

    "what Silver takes is a daily temperature"

    The "temperature" has been rising for a week now. Do you all see the trend line? It's sort of like global warming ...

    Along with the hope-against-hope that fact-checking would reverse Romney's rise, there was the expectation that the rise would stop and the situation would stabilize for Obama by early in the week -- all of this going along with the "it wasn't that bad" meme about Obama's performance. Look, I'm wanting to be hopeful, too. And normally I'm a "glass half full" kind of person. But my sky is still rather cloudy right now, though Biden definitely brightened the prospect.

  • Sparko on October 12, 2012 12:02 AM:

    John B: there is a reason I never read Drum any more. He always has a way to compromise away a winning hand. He sees a glass half full as validating the arguments of both the thirsty and the sated. I swear to God the man will talk himself out of heaven some day by countering his own life story with some pretty brutal self-critique. He is one of the people who convinced Obama that polite was a good strategy. . .

  • exlibra on October 12, 2012 12:06 AM:

    [...] some conservatives will naturally think Ryan hit it out of the park and/or that Biden channeled Gore 2000 with his mannerisms.

    Unfortunately for those "some conservatives", the dynamics between the two participants weren't at all the same. Biden has shown Ryan the forbearance a father might have towards a wayward and willfully obtuse child, but also the responsibility a father has to correct such behaviour. Even in their respective Washington careers, Biden's position as a Senator (one of 100) had been higher than that of Ryan's (one of too many hundreds for me to even remember). A display of such attitude would not have been possible when both men were about the same age and each had at least comparable (if not similar) political experience.

    My take out impression was: "Ryan is a nice kid and might amount to something, some day... if he works hard at it". And it was Biden who left me with that impression.

  • Hue and Cry on October 12, 2012 12:09 AM:

    Ryan quite often looked sheepish, with a contrasting disengenuous smile, and every time, Joe Biden had a fluid response ready to go.
    Biden flashed a knowing smile, and the viewer knew it was a matter of time before Ryan would be diminished and marginalized.

  • Joe Friday on October 12, 2012 12:23 AM:


    "Along with the hope-against-hope that fact-checking would reverse Romney's rise"

    What "rise" ?

    The polls in the battleground states have not moved outside the MOE.

  • SecularAnimist on October 12, 2012 12:40 AM:

    Sparko wrote: "I would like to stop the media from going into all-out damage control for Ryan"

    How are you going to stop "the media" from doing what they are paid to do?

    "The media" in the USA is owned by a half dozen giant corporations, all of which would benefit from the huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich and for corporations that Romney and Ryan have proposed, and from long-standing Republican policies of deregulating their industry so that they can gobble up more and more of America's few remaining newspapers, radio and TV stations.

    "The media" is not some disinterested party in this election. They are part of the Romney/Ryan propaganda. Some are just more blatant about it than others.

  • Sparko on October 12, 2012 12:41 AM:

    Joe: sjw is just "concerned." And "deeply troubled." In fact, Obama has already shrugged off the "I'm now willing to hold my nose for a Lying Mormon Republican" GOP intra-party slight shift. Any older Republican on Medicare is having night sweats tonight and will not vote themselves into that death panel voucher program. Pretty huge night of contrasts.

  • guachi on October 12, 2012 12:53 AM:

    Given the meteoric rise of Romney in the "Now-Cast" on 538, I actually expect Romney to be above 50% tomorrow.

    I watched the Presidential debate and didn't think it was as bad as the spin hyped it up to be, but it was, in the polls, an own goal of epic proportions. But I think with this strong debate by Biden and, hopefully, a forceful defense of his first term next Tuesday by Obama that Obama might take it back to a 2-3 point lead. But my hope of a 5-6 point victory seems like a long shot come election day. Possible... just requires no more unforced errors.

  • max on October 12, 2012 7:10 AM:

    Given the meteoric rise of Romney in the "Now-Cast" on 538, I actually expect Romney to be above 50% tomorrow.

    I doubt it. I've watched Silver's model very closely - there's no reason for it to jump that way.

    So it will probably be a while before we can calm down and see where the “fundamentals” and event-driven perceptions of the candidates

    I think we passed out of the window where any fundamentals at all are registering. Too many noise, no time to settle. We passed into the window with a good lead, and I expect we'll exit it with one.

    ['Main problem is D's panicking.']

  • SimonPaul on October 12, 2012 7:19 AM:

    "Chill, I got this malarkey.


  • max on October 12, 2012 7:48 AM:

    I forgot - how rude of me. Thanks for the liveblog, Ed!

    ['Now if only I knew why I was getting a George Allen ad.']

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on October 12, 2012 8:34 AM:

    To follow up on SecularAnimist response to Sparko :

    Secular has it exactly right. The media in this country is completely consolidated and populated with CEOs like Jack Welch. They are in the business of making money , which is why we have a horse race which they need to sell pharmaceuticals and corn flakes.
    If you have any doubts look at this info-graphic that explains it in terms anyone can comprehend.
    The Big Six:

  • del on October 12, 2012 8:45 AM:

    I see that the media still going on style and not including substance. There was not any specifics in Ryan's replies even when the moderator asked for specifics. There was the brief statement from the moderator when she stated as Ryan was once again giving talking points "So no specifics" and that's the way it went all night. I don't know how we let them get away with just talking points and say they have a viable platform for the country and they are presenting it coherently. I'm with Biden, their talking points are laughable.

  • RollaMO on October 12, 2012 9:13 AM:

    Funniest live tweet from Bill Maher -- "Somebody call 911, there's an old man beating up a child on my television.."

  • del on October 12, 2012 9:24 AM:

    The conservatives are giving Ryan a big thumbs up on his attack on security in Lybia. They are totally ignoring the factual statement from Biden that Ryan and his party cut the security budget for embassies in the last two budget cycles to a tune of almost a half billion dollars. In the last budget cycle to the tune of 331 million dollars.

    You know, it's time we stopped thinking of our country in business terms, it's not a business. Look what the last president who had business experience especially in bankrupting companies did for our country. The last thing we need is another person who is a business man experienced in bankrupting companies to lead our country. Cutting spending has real life consequences, as they are now discovering around the globe. Austerity is not the answer as you put more people out of work, on the streets, and not contributing to the good of the whole. These acts are to the detriment of the society and leaves society vulnerable, and leaves the mess for our children's children to clean up. That is the can we are truly kicking down the road.

  • bdop4 on October 12, 2012 12:53 PM:

    "Ryan’s accomplishment was not screwing up, not sounding “radical” (except for the abortion issue) and sounding superficially knowledgeable about foreign policy."

    Really, Ed?

    After Ryan's mash-up on Afghanistan and eagerly expressing his willingness to go to war against Iran to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon? Are those the positions of a "superficially knowledgeable" person on foreign affairs?

    They scare the living crap out of me and should scare anyone who witnessed the debacle of the Iraq war. A Romney presidency guarantees another Middle East war.