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Vice Presidential Debate Analysis

By George Landrith

Post Debate Analysis:  Biden was smug, arrogant, condescending, over-bearing and over-aggressive. I’ve never seen a debate where one person was so disrespectful and even contemptuous of his counterpart. He surpassed Al Gore’s famous boorish debate behavior. He is in danger of undercutting himself. That may play well for his base who were depressed after Obama’s almost comatose debate last week. But independents and women will find the rudeness and condescending smirking and laughing annoying. Even at the end when Ryan was thanking the moderator, the audience and Joe Biden for a good debate, Biden was smirking and mugging. That will come back to hurt him. And it shows the true political character of Joe Biden — a pretentious, smirking, condescending lightweight.

On substance, Biden was weak. He often misrepresented the facts, cited false facts, made mindlessly silly arguments and engaged in rank demagoguery. However, the uniformed my be fooled by Biden’s assertive delivery. Most people can’t speak utter nonsense while seeming sincere and confident. That is one of Biden’s political skills — few can match his ability to repeat falsehoods as if they are true or act indignant when others don’t accept the falsehoods you’re offering. Those who know the facts aren’t fooled. But if you just tuned into the debate without knowing the context, you might think Biden made some good points.

Ryan, in contrast, came across well-prepared, knowledgeable, focused, respectful, and confident. He was a bit too respectful because he allowed both moderator and Biden to interrupt him and cut him off at will. However, Ryan came out on top because he proved he was up to the job of being Vice President, articulated a plan to make America more prosperous and safer, and proved that he isn’t dangerous or crazy which has been a primary talking point for the Obama team. Additionally, Ryan was clearly the more likable. He had the best laugh line of the evening. Responding to Biden’s frequent reference to Romney’s poorly articulated 47% comment, Ryan reminded Biden that of all people on the planet, Biden should be able to understand that sometimes you say something inartfully. Even Biden had to laugh given his well deserved reputation for being the master of gaffes.

This debate will certainly not shift the momentum back to Obama. All Ryan had to do is tie Biden to win. Ryan did better than that. A CNN post-debate poll scored it a Ryan win over Biden by a margin of 48 – 44. Ryan was more likable 53 – 43. Ryan expressed himself more clearly 50 – 41. As more and more people see Biden’s lack of substance and his unprofessional smirking and childish antics, Ryan’s margin of victory will likely increase. Regardless, the polls will continue to show a Romney-Ryan lead and their lead will likely inch up a bit higher as Biden needed to score a big win to reverse Romney’s momentum. Biden failed to score even a narrow win.

Romney and Ryan will continue to roll. The next debate is important, but Romney will not need to win it in a blow out as he did in the first debate. Romney will need to show that he is a credible alternative to Obama on national security and foreign policy matters. If he does that, and he likely will, Obama will be in trouble heading to election day with an extraordinarily weak economy, the Middle East in flames and a White House involved in an ugly scandal and cover-up simmering and about to explode.

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10:30  Ryan’s conclusion typified his performance — calmly energetic, in control, respectful, knowledgeable and sincere. He pressed Obama on his failed policies and made it clear that there is a choice for Americans who believe we can do better. That was the sort of performance that will convince independent voters he can be trusted with leadership and that he is not the dangerous nut that Obama and Biden claim.

10:29  Biden’s “look at my record” response was weak. He has a poor record. He has been a joke most of his career starting with plagiarism on multiple occasions, and constantly saying jaw-droppingly stupid and embarrassing things. Not just slips of the tongue or poorly worded statements — but statements that show ignorance, racial prejudice, and race-baiting. On foreign policy, Biden has been consistenly wrong for more than 30 years. He opposed aid to those fighting communist regimes in Central America in the 1980s. He opposed Reagan on the nuclear freeze and accomonation of the Soviets. He was against Reagan’s plan to defeat Soviet communism. He was agsinst Reagan’s missile defense. On Iraq, he opposed the first Iraq war. He opposed the surge in Iraq which turned to tide to victory. And he wanted to split Iraq into three separate nations. Biden is, as Charles Krauthammer said, the Herbert Hoover of American foreign policy. Biden knows a lot about foreign policy and it is all wrong. So this is not the man who should be saying “look at my record.” There had to be a better way to close.

10:25  Ryan’s answer on the tone of the campaign was powerful and clear and concise. He is ending very very strong. He is making the case that Obama lied about keeping your doctor, about health care costs going down, about cutting the deficit on half in his first term, etc. Obama does speeches and nothing else. Ouch! Very powerful! Obama broke his pledge to bring people together. Biden’s recitation of all the horribles of horribles if the budget is balanced was sophomoric.

10:20  Biden’s claim that Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees were “opened minded” and came with “no agenda” was completely incredible. Both passed every single litmus test demanded by the extreme Left. For Biden to pretend otherwise was not a winning argument.

10:15  Ryan’s answer on why he is pro-life was powerful and well reasoned. Ryan cited Biden’s support of, or refusal to question, China’s forced one child policy. Ouch! Biden’s answer on this question was weak and his claim that the Obama administration isn’t stepping all over freedom of conscience and freedom of religion was absurd. Fact checkers will blow this response out of the water. I expect Catholic bishops and other religious groups to remind the public of the Obama Administration’s anti-relgion stances.

10:10  Biden’s attempt to cast all disagreement with Obama’s foreign policy as the equivalent of wanting to declare war or commit American troops to fight abroad is childish and stupid. Biden acted acted as if there are only two options — (1) you either support Obama’s foreign policy, or (2) you want to declare war and send American troops in to fight. This is a stupid and false choice. You don’t have to be very sophisticated to know that you can disagree with Obama and at the same not be calling for war. Biden lost big on this insanity. Ryan’s answer on Syria was clear and concise and made sense. He is calm, cool and collected and in command of the facts. He isn’t overstating or oversimplifying the situation in Syria or providing false choices.

10:06  Biden talking down to the moderator and acting like she was stupid or dishonest to ask about military agreement. She had to assure him that she has heard plenty of military disagreement. Biden looked stupid and ill-informed, and rude on top of it.

10:05  Biden is not telling the truth about the military’s view of the surge and the draw down. There was a lot of disagreement. Biden is acting like the Pentagon agreed completely with Obama. But that is simply untrue. The president is the commander-in-chief and so what he wants to do wins out. But that doesn’t mean the military agreed. They follow orders.

9:55  Biden is giving his partisans something to cheer about because he is highly active. But for the rest of the world, Biden is hyperactive. He is over caffeinated. Biden’s claim that Ryan voted for two wars and put it on a credit card, but that he did not and that he actually voted against that is completely false. That is a bald faced lie. Biden voted for both wars. Biden can give a completely false answer better than almost anyone. The moderator is doing a poor job. She cuts off Ryan with great frequency and asks rapid fire follow-ups. That is poor form, but at least if she did it to both candidates, she’d still be even-handed. But she doesn’t do that to Biden. She get’s an F for being fair and balanced. But despite that and Biden’s antics, Ryan is maintaining his composure and providing good responses.

9:50  Ryan did a good job explaining the GOP tax plan and their goals for growth. Ryan asked Biden if knew the unemployment rate in his home town of Scranton, Pa. Biden unconvincingly said he did, but he didn’t offer an answer. Ryan supplied the detail — it’s gone up since Obama and Biden were elected by almost 2%. Ryan knows the facts and he is presenting them in a clear and concise fashion. Biden was weak on tax plans. He just demagogued his talking points — tax breaks for the rich and pay their fair share, etc. But no real substance. He seems to think that talking louder and repeating the same talking points buttresses his argument. Biden will get killed by fact checkers on this segment.

President Obama’s Tax Plan “Would Hurt Small-Business Job Creators In Particular.” ”New research, released today by the National Federation of Independent Business, shows that allowing tax relief on the top individual rates to expire will hurt job creation and the economy. The report, published by top accounting firm Ernst & Young, shows raising top individual rates would hurt small-business job creators in particular.” (NFIB, Press Release, 7/17/12)

9:45  Biden is coming across worse than Al Gore. When he speaks he is spewing mostly false talking points and when he is supposed to be quiet, he makes noises, grunts, groans, smirks, sneers, laughs, and behaves like a spoiled child. This will hurt him with independents and women. His base will be excited to see him “fighting.” But everyone else will consider it boorish and unprofessional.

9:35  Ryan hit Biden hard by asking if spending American taxpayer’s money on stimulus for Chinese windmills or Finish electric cars was a good idea? There was no answer for that. Ryan seems more measured and calm than Biden. It will be hard to paint Ryan as some wild-eyed fanatic based on his very factual and measured approach.

9:30  Biden seems angry and agitated. His answers about GM are dishonest and inaccurate. But give Biden credit for being able to demagogue with the best of them. How does the Obama campaign have the nerve to call anyone a liar? That takes some chutzpah.

9:25  Biden’s bad behavior has not yet exceeded Al Gore’s boorish behavior in the 2000 debates, but he is pushing the limits of acceptable behavior. He is scolding the moderator. Biden is coming across as condescending.

9:20  Biden will be keeping the fact checkers busy. The Bibbi Netanyahu name dropping is rather silly. Obama was caught on an open mic saying he dislikes the Israeli Prime Minister. Rather than meeting with the Prime Minister of our best ally in the Middle East, he held fundraisers with Hollywood types, did the David Letterman show, and appeared on the View television show as self-proclaimed “eye-candy.”

9:15  Biden is debating the moderator. And he is losing on the question of Libya and the coverup. He did as well as could be expected, but that is a very bad set of facts. The facts are clear — Obama and his entire team spent weeks being dishonest about the facts and what happened in Libya.

9:12  Moderator cuts off Ryan, but hasn’t cut off Biden. Ryan is probably being too deferential. He will need to fight for his time a bit better — particularly with Biden jumping in and interrupting all the time and then acting like he’s been short-changed on time. Ridiculous!

9:10  Biden is playing the “they’re lying” theme hard, but not well. Raw name-calling and generalities. Misrepresentations galore. Nothing more. Fact checkers will have a field day. But Joe is one of the best at generalities and few can state falsehoods with the sincerity and earnestness of Biden.

9:07   Ryan did an excellent job bringing the debate back to the coverup and Obama’s refusal to admit or even acknowledge that the attack was terrorism, not a mob over-reacting to an obscure youtube video. This is an issue that Biden cannot hope to win. The facts are too ugly and Obama’s behavior too indefensible.

9:05   Biden did a good job of avoiding the real issue — the coverup and misrepresentations about what really happened. But the fact checkers will kill him on this answer. Biden says the intelligence community told them it was a spontaneous protest. But that is clearly not true and all the evidence says it is not true at least not after the first 24 hours. But they kept up with that nutty answer for more than two weeks. Biden won’t survive a fact check on his claim that they didn’t know that the was a risk of attack in Benghazi. This is simply a lie that Biden must tell because Obama cannot admit that on the anniversary of 9/11 he was asleep at the wheel. So he is stuck denying the obvious.

9:03   Benghazi, Libya scandal and coverup discussion right out of the gate. Ouch! This will be a rough start for Biden.

9:00  Welcome to Danville, Kentucky! Let the debate begin!

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George Landrith is the president of Frontiers of Freedom, a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government. Mr. Landrith is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. In 1994 and 1996, Mr. Landrith was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District. You can follow George on Twitter @GLandrith.