Unlike most vice presidential debates, the faceoff between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan was important because a good showing by either the vice president or the congressman would allow one campaign to maintain its momentum or give a boost to the other campaign. Hence, Biden’s strong showing will energize the party faithful. More importantly, Ryan’s stances on Medicare and abortion would alarm many seniors and women. As a result, the president's campaign will use his positions on those issues to hammer Romney in the next debate and in the remaining weeks of the presidential election.
Biden scored major points in three ways. First, Ryan spent most of the campaign decrying the president’s stimulus. But he was forced to admit that he had solicited stimulus funds in order to help create jobs in his district. Second, Medicare has been one of the most important issues in the campaign because seniors always vote in great numbers. Ryan did his best to muddle the issue by arguing once again that President Barack Obama raided Medicare by taking out $716 billion from the program. But Biden did not merely go into the minutiae to challenge his assertions. He pointed out that the American Medical Association and even more importantly the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) support the action that the president has taken. Those groups, especially the AARP, are trusted by those older voters.
Third, Obama and Biden have spent a great deal of time courting female voters. Abortion has been the key issue that his campaign has used to appeal to those voters. In Thursday's debate, Ryan made it clear that elected officials who are pro-life should have no qualms in going after abortion. Hence, Ryan’s answer indicated that given the opportunity, he would take steps to do away with abortion. Women who have been passionate about this issue would certainly be alarmed by what he had to say.
Lastly, as indicated by Chris Hayes during the MSNBC coverage, the most poignant part of the debate was when Biden used the credibility that the Democratic Party has accumulated through the years as defenders of Social Security and Medicare by directly asking seniors who always vote in big numbers who they would trust to support those two vital programs: the president and him or Romney and Ryan, who happened to propose a voucher program and supported the privatization of Social Security when Bush was president. The vice president has been underestimated by many, especially conservatives who like to focus on his gaffes. But Biden won the debate (as indicated by a CBS poll of undecided voters) by methodically illustrating the impact that Ryan’s proposals would have on struggling Americans and seniors
For a full recap, check out my live blog.