In one of the mostly anticipated showdowns so far in the campaign, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney had their first presidential candidacy debate last week at the University of Denver. Post-debate reports indicated that Romney had been the “victor”…whatever that means…of the debate. A Gallup poll that interviewed respondents before, during, and after the debate suggested that 50% and 45% of respondents favored Obama and Romney respectively; whereas, post-debate data suggested that President Obama’s support had dropped to 47% and voter preferences for Romney rose to 47%. Speaking broadly, from the lack of control on the part of the moderator to what seemed like an overly rehearsed Romney to President Obama’s lack of charisma could all have contributed to the disparities in evaluations of the first presidential debate.
Last evening, however, was an entirely different story. Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan participated a roundtable debate moderated by ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. Already, we can notice that the ambiance is quite different from the presidential debate whereas President Obama and Governor Romney stood behind podiums. Raddatz seemed to have much more control over the debate (topics and candidates) than did Jim Lehrer. There were moments when it seemed like Raddatz could have lost control in between the interruptions and arguments between Biden and Ryan. Ultimately, Biden’s years of experience over Ryan was apparent during the debate. There are many moments when Biden seemed too casual as he laughed off many of Ryan’s statements. Biden was strongly in support of data and facts…after all an advantage is Biden’s presence in many of the decision-making moments. There were times when Ryan had to push hard to overcome the overconfidence and tone of Vice President Biden.
Not to make fun of Vice President Biden but one image that kept popping up in my head, during the vice presidential debate, was that of Biden as an elderly man sitting on his front porch shaking a walking stick and yelling at a young boy, Ryan, who had just trespassed on Biden’s property.
Here are some heated highlights during the debate: (1) Biden reminding viewers of Governor Romney’s comment of the “47%” of citizens who are a drainage on our system; (2) Rebuttals between both candidates on the lack of protection for ambassadors (in light of the attack of the American embassy in Libya); (3) security of American troops due to the withdrawal of troops during off- and on-seasons of fighting in Afghanistan; and (4) Ryan’s poke at the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, (5) what seemed like a childish “nahnahnahnahnah” who cares more about Medicare and Social Security, and (6) the miscalculations on the budget, such as on defense and taxes.
Did a “victor” arise from the vice presidential debate? Does it even matter who performed “better”? In terms of governmental responsibilities, the vice president is viewed as having VERY minimal duties (the ongoing joke is that the vice president is merely a tie breaker in the Senate). I believe this lack of interest surrounding the office of the vice president is transferrable to the results of the vice presidential debate. Historically, vice presidential debates have rarely changed the mind of voters in term of partisan preference. In fact, the Biden/Ryan debate showed the lowest pre-date favorable ratings since 1992. Even though I do not expect any of these debates to affect the voting preferences of the candidates bases, the vice presidential debate does help presidential candidates maintain their electoral base. The debates, nonetheless, might affect the slippery “independent voters”, who could hypothetically swing the vote in either direction.