Hello everyone, and welcome to tonight's debate between Vice President Joseph Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan. This will be the only debate between the two vice president candidates and it will be followed by two more debates between Presdient Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney on October 16th and 22nd over foreign policy and domestic issues.
Vice President Joseph Biden is coming into the debate under heavy scrutiny, partly due to his own history of gaffes, and partially as a result of President Barack Obama's widely criticized peformance last week. Republicans are convinced that the vice president is a stupid man who will be trounced by his competitor, a man who has been described by many as a budgetary genius, and are waiting to see the trainwreck. Others despaired over the president's performance in the last debate -- far too much in this blogger's opinion -- and are looking to Biden to provide the heavy hitting critique of the Republican platform that they desire. If Biden stays disciplined, a task which he seems far better at behind a debate podium than when giving a speech, he should be able to make up some ground lost during last week's debate.
Rep. Paul Ryan is coming into the debate under pressure to continue former Governor Mitt Romney's lucky streak and sink the Democratic campaign tonight. The only problem though is that he is associated with highly unpopular entitlement reforms and Biden is going to try and drag him down into arguing over every excruciating detail in order to paint him as heartless and willing to throw seniors under the bus. He will also likely face big questions over how he synthesizes the teachings of his Catholic faith with those of Ayn Rand, who contradicts the Vatican's moral lessons in just about every way. Ryan is going to be stuggling tonight to thread the needle of tearing down Obama and Biden without sinking Romney's campaign in the process.
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10:12PM Well, I stated yesterday that I would give a "Andrew Sullivan Award" for the moment that would throw its eponymous blogger into a paroxysm of despair. Unfortunately, I can't say that Biden did anything tonight to warrant it. Well, if we pretend we're talking about 2000 Sullivan and not 2012 Sullivan, then Ryan's admission that he did indeed petition the President twice for more stimulus funding for his district, arguing that it would create jobs, would definitely take the cake. Ryan was tasked with following up Romney's strong peformance and didn't pull it off.
9:32PM Biden came out swinging tonight and landed some solid hits tonight. Right out the gate he was stepping all over Ryan's arguments and trashed Ryan's critique of the stimulus by pointing out how Ryan himself had begged for more money for his district. This debate has also clearly revealed just where each ticket stands on foreign policy, and the GOP is not on the right side of it on Afghanistan and Iran. Ryan's reputation as a truth teller has been effectively shredded, with most people on Twitter seeming to laugh at his "honesty" remark. He also didn't have the gravitas to compete against Biden, giving a tone of voice that made him sound whiny rather than giving the impression that he is having a heart-to-heart with the American people. And I expect that Romney campaign spokesmen will be denying some of his comments on Afghanistan after this too. Moderator Raddatz did a good job asking for details and digging in on the grey areas of both ticket's policies, but I expect her behavior during the first 45 minutes will get her roasted in the right-wing media. The Democratic base ought to be riled up all over again after this.
9:26PM Raddatz brings up a question of character - what makes you a better leader? Ryan talks about his honesty (of all things). Is it just me, or has Ryan been coming across as whiny these last 10 minutes?
9:25PM Raddatz brings up how a veteran who fought for the country once told her how he hated how negative the campaign had gotten. Why couldn't they fight to build up the country? Were they ever embarrased about their own campaigns? Biden agrees that negative things have been said...then attacks Romney and his 47% comment.
I didn't notice it earlier, but Biden's earnesty comes across a lot better than Ryan's, probably because of Biden's gravely voice. Ryan is coming up short in the gravitas department. Ryan gives a list of attacks against Obama. Apparently Ryan's argument that "If you don't have a record to run on, you paint your opponent as someone to run from" is a rehersed line.
9:17PM Biden says that he accepts the Church's views on abortion in his personal life, but refuses to impose his views on others. Accuses Ryan of shifting his view on abortion, relaxing it to match Romney's.
9:15PM Ah, now they are going to go into abortion and the role their faith plays in their decision. Ryan opposes abortion except in regards to cases of rape or incest. Talks about how the Obama administration is trying to restrict church policy. Ryan cites Biden as being lax on abortion and for once praising China's one child policy.
9:13PM I don't know how many people are still watching the debate, but the discussion about intervening in Syria is getting pretty deep. This is a definite preview for the next presidential debate. Biden has been going deeply into the issues that restrict military operations; Raddatz is trying to pin the circumstances under which Romney and Ryan would militarily intervene abroad (not for humanitarian reasons). Ryan once again accuses Obama-Biden of not cooperating with allies and for failing to get Russia on board, and Biden cites all the work the administration has done in cooperation with others and Russia's divergent interests on Syria from the U.S.
9:06PM Biden argues that no soldier was removed who wasn't replaced by trained Afghan personnel. Given the state of public opinion, I think he's really tapping into independents here.
9:05PM Ryan nails Biden on how dangerous it was to withdraw soldiers, from combat, in the middle of fighting season.
9:04PM Ouch, Raddatz says that some troops in the field felt that the withdrawal of the surge was a political move. Biden denies it, saying that the administration and military leaders were of one mind on the issue. Biden also notes that it takes time to draw down forces, the surge would have to be withdrawn eventually.
9:03PM Raddatz, citing the attack on our troops by our Afghan allies, "Are the Taliban exploiting this timeline?" Biden doesn't really give an answer besides getting out ASAP.
9:01PM Ryan says that Romney doesn't want to extend the occuption in Afghanistan past 2014. I'm sure that a lot of Romney's neocon advisors are surprised to hear that. Raddatz is pushing Ryan to say that Romney would not keep troops in Afghanistan past 2014 but has no good rationale for fudging the issue.
8:57PM Well, that was a quick debate about the defense budget. Too bad Raddatz didn't mention the diplomatic security fund like Biden talked about earlier (which Ryan cut, indirectly tying him to Ambassador Steven's death). Onto Afghanistan.
8:55PM Raddatz: What national security threat justifies the defense spending increase? Ryan cites defense cuts, but Raddatz notes those all come from the drawdown in Afghanistan. Ryan's basic rationale is that we can't cut the Navy below WW1 levels as that makes us week. Even though no one else's Navy is remotely as strong as ours, by a factor of ten.
8:54PM Oh, now we're getting into the defense budget! Raddatz asks how Romney-Ryan will balance tax cuts with increased defense spending.
8:52PM Biden says that Romney isn't Reagan, Reagan at least gave details for his reform. Ryan says that Romney has a history of working across the aisle and could make a deal work. Biden: "If Romney did so well in Massachussetts, why isn't he contesting it?"
8:50PM And Raddatz isn't buying Ryan's waffling either. Thank God someone finally notices, but man, Raddatz is going to be flayed arive in the right-wing media tomorrow.
8:49PM Raddatz is actually asking Ryan for details for Romney's tax plan. Good luck with that one!
8:46PM Word on style: Biden's frequent interruptions of Ryan is going to cause some diverging post-game analyses later. Though as people on Twitter are noting, Ryan has been taking A LOT of drinks from his cup today.
8:43PM Ryan is now accusing Biden of using scare tatics. Someone's panicking.
8:41PM Raddatz probes Biden on raising the eligibility age of medicare; Biden cites a similar experience with social security back in the 1980's. Says that such a plan could only work if everyone agreed, and no Democrat agrees to Social Security privatization. Kind of a topic shift, but Biden has been wandering a bit.
8:39PM Ryan is arguing that means testing Medicare would close the donut hole his plan would reopen. No way. There aren't anywhere near enough rich people for that to work covering the whole population.
8:38PM Fact of the matter is, Biden is definitely interjecting much more successfully into Ryan's arguments.
8:37PM Opinion on Twitter seems to be that Biden is eating Ryan alive. Raddatz is already drawing heat for cutting Ryan off.
8:34PM Now the debate goes into healthcare. Ryan should now be in his element.
8:32PM Kill shot. Ryan says that the stimulus is a bad thing, and Biden cites two letters Ryan sent to him fighting for funds for his constituents! Saying that the stimulus helped create jobs! Oh, Ryan is in trouble.
8:29PM Biden does not doubt Romney's committment to individuals, but he was not committed to the auto industry - Obama cared and saved hundreds of thousands of jobs.
8:27PM Ryan is talking up Romney's kindness and generosity with other people. Says that Romney gave 30% of income to charity, which is the first time I've heard that. Says that Romney mispoke on 47%, gaffes about which Biden should know a lot of. Biden says that his gaffes still represented what he actually meant.
8:23PM Debate turns to the economy. Biden is slamming Romney time and time again for letting Detroit going bankrupt, for despising 47% of the people, for being beholden to special interests...he's getting all the attacks in the Obama failed to do.
8:21PM Biden has been having a fun time tonight...though it'd be nice if he'd string his sentences together better as his attacks are losing some of their power.
8:19PM Yes, he's mentioning Iran's currency collapse and drop in oil exports!
8:18PM Biden is smiling now; Raddatz is asking Ryan whether he and Romney could thwart Iran in two months (if Isreali PM Netanyahu is right.)
8:16PM Biden says that he is confident that the US could deal with the Iranian nuclear threat militarily, which is new. I certainly am not convinced. Does talk about Iran does not have a weapon and how no one knows how close they are to building one. He is taking a very nuanced approach to this. But c'mon Biden, the currency crisis! Cyber attacks!
8:15PM Ryan says over and over again that the sanctions regime has been watered down - the stream of lies is ridiculous. That he can flout such nonsense with a straight face is amazing.
8:12PM Ryan talks about the administration's foreign policy falling apart, going into Iran as an example where the regime is getting closer to nuclear weapons. Biden's gonna smack him down citing Iran's currency crisis and the administration's cyber attack efforts any minute now...
8:08PM Biden says that Ryan's lines are a "bunch of malarky". Accuses Ryan of cutting the budget for embassy security! Accusing Ryan for causing the very weakness he decries. This is turning into a knife fight only 10 minutes in.
8:07PM Ryan says that the ticket agrees with the 2014 transition - that's new! As far as I'm aware he always condemned the timeline as projecting weakness. How will this be followed up?
8:06PM Ryan notes that it took the administration two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attacks. The ambassador in France has more bodyguards than the ambassador in Libya. Calls for a status-of-forces agreement with Libya? Odd.
8:02PM Ah, opening with Libya! Getting that over rather quick. Challenging Biden over whether this is an example of a massive intelligence failure on the part of the administration. Biden promises that we will strike back and that such a mistake will never happen again, notes that President has honored his past foreign policy promises. Says that the president has a "steady hand and a clear vision, and Romney has the opposite."
7:58PM FYI, the moderator is reporter Martha Raddatz, who is known for her foreign affairs work in Iraq. There is some controversy over her selection though as apparently she hosted the Obamas' during her wedding reception 20 years ago. I can hear the Republicans' post-debate spin already...
7:56PM Alright, the debate is about to start! I wish had some popcorn.
1:08PM Ezra Klein over at the Washington Post has a good primer on Ryan's debating style, and an interesting rejoineder for Biden whenever Ryan argues that his plans are not Romney's plans: "You are trying to be the Vice President of the United States. If anything goes wrong, you are the President. Your reckless policies matter."
11:33AM Conversely, Edward Morrissey over at The Week thinks that the Denver debate has sealed everyone's impressions of Obama and Romney and that the VP debate won't matter much. The attack in Libya will negate Biden's critique of Romney's foreign policy, and Ryan is passionate enough to fight him to a draw elsewhere. Honestly, this is a load of bunk. Its not as though you can limit foreign policy to Libya, and Romney has made a lot of bad decisions over the last year - from his ill-advised trip abroad, to his use of neo-con advisors from the Bush administration, to his reckless defense spending - that Ryan has a lot of targets to defend. I am also skeptical that Ryan really has the gravitas to take Biden on in a battle for voters' hearts. He not only refuses to defend his entitlement reform stances properly in TV interviews, citing a "lack of time," but also has yet to convincingly square away his belief in Randian philosophy and Catholicism. I think there is a serious chance of a Ryan crackup tonight.
Of course, Morrissey mentions too that none of the past VP debates ever changed the outcome of the presidential election, which is true. Then again, few thought that the Presidential debates would change many minds either and yet the polls have been seesawing for the last week.
11:29AM Nate Silver, the New York Times polling guru, argues that a majority of Romney's gains in the polls is due to increased enthusiasm for him amongst the base of his party and a proportional drop in enthusiasm amongst Obama supporters and leaners, especially unmarried women voters. Even if the VP debate doesn't win over many dependents, if Biden can rev up the base by attacking Ryan's position on women's issues Obama may be able to break away again.
8:32PM In light of how blogger Andrew Sullivan reacted to President Obama's debate with Mitt Romney, I wonder: should I create an "Andrew Sullivan Award" for the debate moment most likely to throw the titular blogger in a paroxysm of despair? I think I should.
4:45PM I'm not sure to what extent foreign affairs will come up in the debate, especially considering Obama's performance last week on domestic issues, but if Afghanistan comes up I'm certain Ryan will be using the attack against a child activist in Pakistan this week as a symptom of Obama's failed foreign policy.
4:15PM Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast has his own list of attacks Biden could use to take Ryan apart.
4:10PM Doug Mataconis lays out a similar analysis of the competing pressures facing Biden and Ryan as what I've laid out, with the added mention that Paul Ryan has never debated on a stage as large as this before. Now that I think of it, Ryan has probably never gone through a serious debate while he's been in office since most of his competitors have been a joke. I think there is a fair chance that Ryan might choke during the debate.