The vice president debate is typically a nice, unpredictable show, and is never projected to create major shifts in the polls. While the stakes of this debate were slightly higher due to Romney’s new lead, the overall expectations did not include a complete reversal of the public’s political opinion. Ryan simply needed to look smart when he addressed Romney’s 47% comment, and show the American people he could do math. Meanwhile Biden just needed to agressively bring the facts Obama forgot to present at last week’s debate, and stay gaffe-free for 90 minutes.
The experience of listening to the radio, rather than watching the debate on television, should take away the perception of debates as a grand show, and provide more focus on the expectations and policies at hand. The appearance game doesn’t matter: no calling a candidate weak because he looks down too much, or obnoxious because of the way he stares. So based on just the words floating through the airwaves in a tense hour and a half, and not the facial expressions, who won?
On foreign policy: Biden’s voice boomed with aggression toward Ryan, who was expected to fluster on foreign policy topics. “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” he said after Ryan commented on Obama’s remarks on the attack in Benghazi. “Because not a single thing he said is accurate.” But Ryan did keep to the conservative base, with strong inflection every time he said America should not compromise its values when addressing foreign policy.
On the economy: Biden continued to sound aggressive, not hesitating to bring up Romney’s insensitivity seen in the 47% comment and reiterating Obama’s and his duty to the middle class. But Ryan’s tone seemed exceptionally calm when addressing the comment. “With respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way,” said Ryan, who afterwards was greeted with some laughs. Ryan stuck by Romney’s plan, while at the same time calmly tried to humanize him.
On abortion and religion: Ryan’s tone immediately moved from relaxed to serious when asked about his personal views on abortion. He appealed to his voter base by going after Obamacare and stressing religious liberty. Meanwhile, Biden’s tone reversed in the opposite direction. For the first time in the debate, his voice sounded softer and very sensitive. A lighter-sounding Biden cared into his closing statements, which made the overall debate’s conclusion feel not so abrupt.
Honorable mention: Martha Raddatz deserves plenty of praise for maintaining control of the debate’s direction. Her conscious effort to maintain balance in terms of time on each topic, and questions toward the candidates when they made unclear comments made the debate more bearable to listen to as a radio broadcast.