A few more thoughts from last night’s debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan before we move on:
1. This was a trial run for the second presidential debate, especially in light of President Obama’s comment this week that he was “too polite” the first time around. I don’t think Obama will follow Biden’s lead exactly — in fact, I assume part of the strategy was for Biden to be so over the top with his laughs, smirks and interruptions that Obama can be fairly rude toward Mitt Romney next week but look gentlemanly by comparison. If nothing else, the media’s panning of Biden’s demeanor will surely dissuade Obama from going too far in that direction.
2. That said, Obama almost certainly will pick up where Biden left off — and from his own recent stump speeches — in branding Romney as dishonest. I noted this last night, but a clear part of Biden’s plan was to call Ryan’s credibility into question with labels such as “malarkey” and “incredible.” The laughs were surely part of that, too: This guy’s lying so much I’m ROTFL! The problem is that Biden’s subsequent “arguments” about Ryan’s accuracy rarely amounted to more than “that’s wrong!” And he told a number of whoppers himself. To name a few:
Some of that’s fluff — in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter when Palin started talking about death panels — but much of it gets to substance. And for all the talk from the left about Biden’s supposed superiority on substance, I have to ask: When was that? He was wrong about Libya (as noted above); wrong about the tax cuts being scheduled to expire for “millionaires and billionaires” (they’re scheduled to expire for everyone, and there is no tax bracket solely for “millionaires” or “billionaires”); wrong about Obamacare’s effects on health-care providers; wrong about how Ryan’s proposed premium support model for Medicare would work and whether it is a bipartisan idea.
3. He was spot-on correct, however, in his recitation of Democratic caricatures and talking points. But none of that was new. Nor was it likely to resonate beyond the Democratic base — which, as with the Democratic National Convention, was the entire intended audience. We’ll see if, as with the DNC, that’s reflected in the momentum of the race. As Mary Matalin said on CNN last night, when you’re still having to rally your base this close to the election, you’re not in good shape.
4. I noted on Twitter last night that Ryan was doing a better job of bringing the discussion back to Romney than Biden was to Obama. Now someone has done the math: Ryan made 26 references to Romney, Biden just one to Obama. It’s as if the Obama campaign was trying to make up lost ground in the race by making the public forget Obama’s the one running for president …
5. Finally, in case you never thought you could laugh like Biden, Current TV (that’s Al Gore’s network) analyst David Shuster said the debate had made Biden “the frontrunner for 2016.”
If true, Republicans surely think that was the very best news of the day.
– By Kyle Wingfield