Much of the next-day coverage of Thursday’s vice presidential debate is calling the match a draw. Vice President Biden had some good points, Rep. Ryan held his own, so it’s all even.
But we can’t help but notice that the right-wing’s biggest talking point today, centers around not what Biden said, but how he said it, and how he reacted. His gesticulations, interruptions, and smiles have people on the right slinging some pretty harsh insults at the vice president.
This morning on Fox News, Mike Huckabee said Biden acted like “an obnoxious drunk,” Karl Rove called him “grimacing weird Joe,” and today Rush Limbaugh went so far as to say Biden “was no different than an SEIU official beating up a black conservative at a town hall meeting.”
The heavy focus on style, rather than substance, is a sign that Republicans don’t want to be talking about the facts. Biden called Ryan out on an awful lot of “malarkey” and while they can spin some of it their way, certain moments – like when Biden mentioned Ryan’s two written requests for stimulus money – won’t look good no matter how you talk about them.
The other key sign that Biden won comes from the CBS flash poll, in which 50% of uncommitted voters thought Biden won, while only 31% thought Ryan had won, with the remainder claiming a tie. What matters most here is the sample audience of uncommitted voters. In those first few moments, before pundits could cloud anyone’s judgment, of the people who hadn’t already picked a side before the debate, more picked Biden.
The big question: what impact will this have on the race at large. Can a fiery performance from Biden help swing the polls Pres. Obama’s way? We’ll be watching.