Political Animal


October 11, 2012 10:39 PM React Before Spin

By Ed Kilgore

Well, can’t see anyone calling this a big win. Ryan will, as I predicted, get props for “holding his own” re foreign policy. He was also fluid and stuck to the Romney plan of making the ticket seem reasonable.

Biden was up and down, but scored pretty well on Afghanistan, on defense spending, on abortion, and perhaps on Medicare. Kind of mixed on overall budget and economy; depends on what you know about the facts.

There were relatively few missed opportunities for Biden. He got all the obvious hit lines in, with the exception (that could be important) of refuting Ryan’s claim of a commitment to bipartisanship.

With the possible exception of the abortion issue, Ryan managed to avoid impression of sounding as extremist as he actually is, and that was a biggie.

If the strategic importance of this debate was to end the endless discussion of Obama’s “rout” by Romney, it happened. Now we’ll see what the spinmeisters and pundits say.

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.


  • Sparko on October 11, 2012 10:44 PM:

    No Ed--this is a huge win. He completely dismantled Ryan. MSNBC is soft-peddling, but anyone who watched the debate saw Ryan handed his ass. Repeatedly. OMG this was masterful by Biden.

  • Varecia on October 11, 2012 10:51 PM:

    Ryan seemed to literally shrink in stature and demeanor as the debate wore on. And he looked like a cartoon character in his closing remarks with that goofy expression.

  • Puffin on October 11, 2012 10:54 PM:

    The TV commentators are busy dissecting the appropriateness of Biden's mannerisms. They get paid to do this?

  • T2 on October 11, 2012 10:54 PM:

    I didn't see any, ANY, Ryan positive on foreign policy. "Held his own"? Please list one example. Please.
    I thought Ryan DID sound extreme on abortion....listen to his comments again. Then go dig up all his past extremist comments....he's a shape-shifter.
    If winning a debate depends on laying out specific positions, Ryan lost. If speaking from a position of conviction and truth, Biden wins. If smiling is a bad thing, Biden lost. If a big nose is a bad thing, Ryan lost,bigtime.

  • Joy on October 11, 2012 10:55 PM:

    "Now we’ll see what the spinmeisters and pundits say." No we won't. This debate was for the US. Joe did what he needed to do - rally the base. He was on fire. It doesn't matter what "professional pundits" say because they aren't tied to anything outside the beltway. It doesn't matter if they think he smirked too much. We loved it and that was the plan. The pundits may drive the media, but only if people are buying. We aren't buying their nonsense this time. He OWNED Ryan.

  • Charles on October 11, 2012 10:57 PM:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it somewhat uncomfortable and insincere when a pol talks directly to the camera, rather than the people gathered, to make his closing/opening argument? When Ryan looked straight at the camera for his closing statement, I can't help but think how awkward and inauthentic that must seem to the debate audience. It seems like such a calculated, insensitive gesture.

    FWIW, the first politician who bothered me by doing this was Al Gore in 1988.

  • Barbara on October 11, 2012 10:57 PM:

    I watched intermittently, but Ryan sounded small and kind of forced -- even nebbish -- he also, if I heard correctly, was advocating sending more soldiers to Afghanistan and just, basically, seemed to bog down in small points. I also can't believe that they thought the car accident anecdote would be effective against a guy who actually lost half his family in a car accident. I wouldn't say Biden wiped the floor with him, but Biden came across as being genuine -- as opposed to merely earnest. I thought it was great when he said that Republicans had never liked SS or Medicare and there was no reason to start trusting them now. Don't know how average voters think anymore, but I don't see how Ryan did much more than shore up the base.

  • Anonymous on October 11, 2012 10:58 PM:

    And he looked like a cartoon character in his closing remarks with that goofy expression.

    That's the exact same impression I had. He turned to the camera and started a made for FOX news consumption monologue that looked really really strange in this setting.

    Biden was always heartfelt and personable throughout even as he was eviscerating Ryan's BS. A job very well done. Everything Obama was not during the last debate.

    Joe Biden

  • TCinLA on October 11, 2012 11:01 PM:

    Biden turned Ryan into a mop and "swabbed the deck" with him. Ryan came across as the little dickwad with an overinflated opinion of himself that he is. Biden had facts and figures and wouldn't let Ryan dance away from his record.

    The only thing that would have made it better would have been a good solid punch in Eddie Munster's nose, but doing so rhetorically is a good alternative.

  • T2 on October 11, 2012 11:02 PM:

    An epiphany....if the president was to leave office... Would you feel better about Joe Biden being president or Paul Ryan? I vote for Joe.

  • Ron Byers on October 11, 2012 11:04 PM:

    I don't give a damn what the spinners say. Biden kicked ass big time all across the board. Romney sent a boy to do a man's job and the boy got his booty kicked.

  • Josef K on October 11, 2012 11:05 PM:

    Wisconsin now has to spend the next two generations apologizing to America for inflicting Paul Ryan upon it, whereas it had to spend just one atoning for Joe McCarthy. And Tommy Thompson? Meh, can't see him going much further right now.

    Full disclosure: I'm from the Dairy State. Even Walker hasn't made me feel this bad.

  • John B. on October 11, 2012 11:06 PM:

    As critical as I was of Obama's performance I feel obligated to say Biden WAY surprised me with his authentic and convincing arguments. He came across as a njice guy, a real person, and someone who genuinely cares about people.

    Ryan looked, sounded, and talked like a county fair swindler trying to sell snake oil for what ails ya'.

  • EdgewaterJoe on October 11, 2012 11:07 PM:

    You're kidding, right? You can't see this as a big win? That was epic. Biden mopped the floor with a nervous, equivocating, evasive boy who had no business being on that stage -- and Biden, by defending Obama, just became the favorite in 2016.

    That's a BFD if you ask me.

  • ceilidth on October 11, 2012 11:08 PM:

    I think Biden nailed it. Sure, Ryan didn't trip and fall, but he got refuted and Biden also presented the administration's position well. Had Obama done half as well, he'd still be leading in all the polls.

  • Diane Rodriguez on October 11, 2012 11:10 PM:

    Jeebus. Those MSNBC pundits need to give it a rest. Biden was the clear winner. He had so many important moments, including the reminder about the Supreme Court which is critical to this country. Romney's smirking last week was interpreted as "happy and comfortable". Biden's smile was somehow negative? Yikes - now we need a smile meter. When Ryan turned to Biden and said "I know you are under duress" in an attempt to diminish Joe, he looked like a small back bencher.

    God, Ryan is an ugly little prick, inside and out.

  • Hue and Cry/reminiscing about my mother on October 11, 2012 11:12 PM:

    Biden was masterful. And I loved the smile.
    Ryan reminded me of my brother when my young mother would tell him to go upstairs and brush his teeth.
    And my brother would say, Oh, your breath smells like coffee."
    Biden so dominated and Ryan continued to look like someone's younger brother.
    And all that abortion talk hurts the "no exception" view of the ideological R/money$$.

    I think consensus is a BIG WIN for Obama--Biden 50%, Ryan 31% per poll....

  • JM917 on October 11, 2012 11:13 PM:

    On abortion, I have an personal question for Congressman Ryan, with respect to the quite touching personal story you told tonight. If you are so adamant that life begins at the moment of conception and that nothing--NOTHING--could ever justify aborting a foetus, when why did you and your wife have that ultrasound done? Was it just to get a cute prenatal picture of your daughter? And what would you have done had that ultrasound revealed a serious abnormality?

    I'm truly glad to hear that "Bean" turned out to be OK. But I'm also sorry to see that you're trying to make a glib political point. Every year, countless women and couples face the kind of horrible, wrenching dilemma that a "bad" ultrasound suddenly presents. What do you have to say to them, and how would the "pro-life" policies that you and Mitt Romney advocate affect the kind of decisions they would have to take?

  • Bo on October 11, 2012 11:14 PM:

    The clean-up crew in the hall in Kentucky will be picking up little pieces of Doogie Hauser all night. Smokin' Joe deconstructed and field-dressed him very effectively this evening (I hope that Obama was taking notes).
    Four years ago, Biden took down Failin' Bailin' Palin more genteely. That was good strategy. Tonight he took down Doogie Hauser directly and relentlessly. That was good strategy.
    I wouldn't be surprised to see Lyin' Ryan react in the same way that Queen Esther of the Tundra did four years ago. He has got to feel as threatened, diminished, defeated and demoralized as she did in 2008. I won't be surprised at all if he "goes rogue" on the campaign trail some time in the next three weeks. If he expects to have any future in politics, he going to have to separate himself from the image of being Romney's waterboy sooner or later.

  • JackD on October 11, 2012 11:16 PM:

    It wasn't a debate; it was an argument in a bar. It always annoys me to have to acknowledge that a participant gets points for interrupting and talking over the opponent and people calling it a debate. Whatever it was, Joe done good.

  • Flashy on October 11, 2012 11:17 PM:

    Yep, I agree--Biden owned him tonight. But I'm going to think of myself as an independent voter--what points stick with me? There are two: 1) Ryan repeatedly asked to explain how the hell he and Romney would pay for their tax cuts but not raise the deficit....and he just can't do it. This is the used car salesman who won't let you look under the hood; 2) Ryan asked whether women should be concerned about the right to choose under a Romney-Ryan administration...and the pause that went on for about a day and a half. That speaks volumes...

  • MichaelF on October 11, 2012 11:17 PM:

    Obviously I'm not neutral, am happy with Biden's performance, the one thing I wish he would have brought up, if he could have, is the birther nonsense -- would love to have watched Ryan try to squirm through that. The birther stuff could be a good weapon -- it shows how unhinged Repubs are...

  • Brian R. on October 11, 2012 11:19 PM:

    I thought Biden absolutely destroyed Ryan. I mean, that was brutal.

  • critic on October 11, 2012 11:20 PM:

    "Now we’ll see what the spinmeisters and pundits say."

    Um, isn't that you, Ed Kilgore?

  • Hue and Cry on October 11, 2012 11:21 PM:

    Oh, Bo--Calling Ryan "Doogie Hauser" is perfect--makes me laugh.
    I look forward to the presidential debate.
    I also agree Ryan,,the imagist's waterboy, might go rogue. And, again, that is hilarious!!

  • Joe Friday on October 11, 2012 11:27 PM:

    Surprise, surprise, NBC's David Gregory said it was "a tie".

  • Lee on October 11, 2012 11:30 PM:

    what debate were you watching?

  • bdop4 on October 11, 2012 11:30 PM:

    Agree with all the posters. Biden was masterful. Spoke directly, bluntly, clearly, with facts, and wasn't afraid to throw it in the face of Romney/Ryan. THAT'S doing it the "Chicago Way." The facial reactions were critical. Without saying anything, a viewer knew that Biden thought that what Ryan was saying was "Malarkey" (or substitute your own version of bullshit).

    Are the rightwingers going to squeal? You betcha. I can hear it already. And the louder they squeal, the better I like it, because a pig only squeals when it's been STUCK.

  • Hue and Cry/Game Face on October 11, 2012 11:32 PM:

    Take a break and watch the finale of the Pittsburgh/Tennessee game in the 4th quarter's declining minutes.

  • greenfairy on October 11, 2012 11:32 PM:

    "Now we’ll see what the spinmeisters and pundits say."

    Um, isn't that you, Ed Kilgore?

    Exactly. Come on, Joe won.

  • meady on October 11, 2012 11:33 PM:

    I saw it much the same way you did Ed. I do think Bidden won hands down, but Ryan did show up. Ryan actually did better than I was expecting, but so did Joe. The moment that stuck out to me was one of the final questions of the debate when they asked the candidates what to tell the veteran who was disillusioned with the negative stuff going on in the campaign and Ryan proceeded to provide an example for the vet. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Great job Joe

  • exlibra on October 11, 2012 11:33 PM:

    Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the saints! Ed Kilgore, have you been watching a different debate than the one I saw, or has your watching company distracted you too much to watch and process what you saw?

    My husband was 52 when our son was born, and he'd had 3 children before (with his first wife). What I saw tonight was *exactly* the same as the interplay as that which I watched when our son was under 10. Both were smart, but only one of them had "seen it all before". Biden's attitude (as that of my husband's) had been "very clever but, if I explain it to you -- for the 5th time -- will you *try* to comprehend it? You're smart enough to, if you try really hard".

    Ryan was like a puppy who'd peed on the most expensive carpet, the way Biden forced his nose down to the mess. Biden was *splendid*, in shrinking Ryan down til all that was left was Ryan's Pinocchio-long nose.

    I *still* think that we got the best possible man for the job in '08. And I *still* think one of Obama's flashes of genius was to pick Hillary Clinton as his Sec of State, and Joe Biden as his VP. Neither of them would have been much as a President (IMO) but, in the positions Obama tasked them with, they are both superb.

  • Anonymous on October 11, 2012 11:36 PM:

    Did Ryan ask permission, ala Palin, to call the VP, "Joe" instead of "Vice President" or "Mr. Biden"? Because Ryan did call him "Joe" in his closing argument. A bit disrespectful, don't you think?

  • exlibra on October 11, 2012 11:37 PM:

    Charles on October 11, 2012 10:57 PM:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it somewhat uncomfortable and insincere when a pol talks directly to the camera, rather than the people gathered, to make his closing/opening argument?

    I took it to mean (Biden did it, too, several times) that they were addressing more than the few hundred people lucky enough to have snabbled a ticket to the debate; they were addressing the entire country. And looking everyone in the eye. I had no quarrel with it.

  • Hue and Cry/Game Face on October 11, 2012 11:49 PM:

    Martha Radditz handled the gimme-more Ryan quite well, and statesman Joe Biden "bided" his time and made big time points. Loved it. I never took my eyes off it. Switched from Current TV to MSNBC depending on how they annoyed me.
    Oh Oh--Tennessee Titans are about to score with a 23-23 tie--32 seconds to play.... and win

  • yellowdog on October 12, 2012 12:28 AM:

    Major point: When asked the 'character' question, Ryan said 'Honesty.'
    I nearly upchucked. I mean, Really. That takes some gall. Ryan? Honest? I don't think so. Ryan studied at the Palin School of Personal Integrity. (Or Ryan really believes his own press...which is more worrisome.)

    Overall - Ryan gave the right-wing plenty to like, and he effectively cast himself as the savior of small business, but he was typically loose with the facts and he stepped in a big pile on the abortion question. (Romney and Ryan are going to have to get on the same page on this issue.) Ryan also exudes a callow, insincere Eddie Haskell vibe that does not wear off over time.

    Joe was Joe. He was solid and forceful and seemed like a great guy to have a beer with. If you were inclined to see him as a buffoon going in, as most conservatives do, you might still think that--but you might not. There is some substance there, some depth, some heart, that Ryan just does not have. Yeah, Biden puts his foot in his mouth on a regular basis, but he is true-blue and his directness made the glib, evasive Eddie Haskell quality of his opponent that much more noticeable.

    Kudos to Martha Raddatz for an excellent job as moderator. She was prepared. She pushed the candidates toward more substantive answers. She did not let them off the hook too easily, but she was not obnoxious about it. She wasted none of the 90 minutes and kept away from scuffles about time-keeping. She was terrific.

  • John on October 12, 2012 12:52 AM:

    I thought Ryan was pretty weak on foreign affairs. He said he didn't like what the president was doing but he didn't provide any alternative. He seemed to be arguing we should stay longer in Afghanistan. How weird.

    Joe Biden was great. I loved it when several times he made clear assertions such as about getting out of Afghanistan.

    Ryan looked small and lost. Biden cleaned up.

  • Gingerpye on October 12, 2012 1:39 AM:

    Why anybody thinks Paul Ryan is handsome is beyond me. He is the weaseliest little POS I've ever seen. I loved his discomfort with the abortion question. The most jaw-dropping moment was when he said "honesty" would be the character trait he'd bring to the job. These people have no self-awareness.

  • Cha on October 12, 2012 2:23 AM:

    Paul Ryan brought bullshit to the debate and VP Biden called it "Marlarkey"! Rofl

    Paul Ryan's Lies are surpassed only by mittLies and he freaking says he'll bring "honesty" to job! Ryan's Lyin' A-gain.

  • Bill on October 12, 2012 6:06 AM:

    "Kind of mixed on overall budget and economy; depends on what you know about the facts."

    What the hell kind of an observation is that? You mean facts like arithmetic?

    "I'm not going to address this, because frankly I'm just another lazy pundit."