Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
Thursday night's vice presidential smackdown was one of the best debates I have ever seen. Yes Biden was annoying as he interrupted constantly and made endless facial expressions, laughing, shaking his head, and expressing his exasperation non-verbally. Did Biden “assault” Ryan as some Republican pundits claimed?
But, it was a tight and fun debate. It was a fact-filled debate even when the accuracy of those facts was often questionable. So who won?
Ask any Democrat and there is no question that Biden blew it away. He over-did what Obama failed utterly in doing during the first Presidential debate. Ask any Republican and Ryan won against a buffoon Vice President keeping control over his debate style, marshalling the GOP themes in defense of the Republican campaign thrust.
The moderator Martha Raddatz was magnificent! She opened with a smart bomb that set off the debate with great energy when she asked about the Libya attack on the U.S. consulate. She allowed the candidates to be spontaneous and did not over control yet she consistently steered each contender on to the next topic with precise questions that perfectly matched what the viewers were thinking of asking.
All of my colleagues, political professionals, and friends agree that the setting around a table, close proximity of moderator and candidates, a live audience (although too muted and discourages from expressing their reaction to points and counter-points), and focus on BOTH domestic and foreign policy made this debate so much more successful than the first 2012 Presidential debate.
Anyone who thought that debates were, well, boring was proven wrong. This was almost as good as most reality shows. And that’s good for civic engagement, for getting the next generation excited and involved in politics. We had over 600 live bloggers watching and participating in the WNYC New York live blog, including many of my 200 college students in a lively live event filled with humor, incisive observations, whimsy, and wonderful enthusiasm. That guarantees the future of debates assuming that the organizers choose a fantastic moderator, great format, and a good setting that encourages energetic interaction.
Biden: “This is a bunch of stuff! Look, here's the deal.”
Ryan: “It’s Irish”
Biden, laughs: “We Irish call it Malarkey!”
Ryan to Biden’s interruptions, “Mr. Vice President, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other.” Lots of laughter from the audience.
Biden: “Look, I don't doubt his [Mitt Romney’s] personal generosity. And I understand what it's like. When I was a little younger than the congressman, my wife was in an accident, killed my daughter and my wife, and my two sons survived. I have sat in the homes of many people who've gone through what I get through, because the one thing you can give people solace is to know if they know you've been through it, that they can make it. So I don't doubt his personal commitment to individuals. But you know what? I know he had no commitment to the automobile industry. He just -- he said, let it go bankrupt, period. Let it drop out. All this talk -- we saved a million jobs. Two hundred thousand people are working today.”