Before Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, we outlined six things that Vice President Joe Biden and Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan needed to accomplish in Danville, Ky. Here’s a report card on their efforts:
1. Stop the bleeding.
Biden definitely shored up his base with strong appeals on Medicare, Social Security and tax cuts for the rich. Even if it wasn’t a knockout, it was a draw.
2. Attack, attack, attack!
Joe Biden was the happy warrior, a smile on his face and an attack line on his lips. President Barack Obama was listless and passive.
3. Win the budget/tax battle.
He made his points, repeatedly accusing Ryan of proposing a budget and tax plan with numbers that don’t add up. But Ryan didn’t give an inch. Your view of the Romney-Ryan plan at the end of the debate is probably the same as it was going in.
4. Look like the only grown-up on the stage.
If being grown up means that you are knowledgeable, then Biden was grown up. If it means that you don’t make faces or say people are full of “malarkey,” he wasn’t so mature.
5. Don’t be a bully.
Obama was pushed around by Romney; Biden wasn’t going to let that happen to him. He played offense with a relentless determination. His repeated interruptions can’t have played well in living rooms across America.
6. Don’t commit a major gaffe that will dominate the headlines.
A gaffe-free performance by Biden. That’s news these days, isn’t it?
1. Keep the momentum going.
On issues ranging from abortion to small business, the Wisconsin congressman gave answers that will cheer Republicans. He may not have won many converts, but he didn’t have any Dan Quayle moments.
2. Avoid wonkishness.
Ryan loves power-point presentations. He needed to use words instead. His approach was to speak in talking points, not power points. Not too wonky.
3. Pay attention to details.
Ryan avoided details like they were a communicable disease. When asked whether his numbers add up on taxes, he said to trust him. Do you?
4. Fight to a draw (or win) on Medicare and Social Security.
Ryan did about as well as he could on Medicare and Social Security. His retort to Biden’s attack on his support for Medicare voucherization and partial privatization of Social Security will reassure many seniors: “This is what politicians do when they don’t have a record to run on.” Good sound bite.
5. Sound competent on foreign policy.
Biden dominated the discussion of Iran and Libya, which have been Republican strong points in recent weeks. He seemed better informed and faster on his feet. But Ryan came back with a detailed response on Afghanistan.
6. Look like he could be president.
Biden looked more presidential but Ryan was no Dan Quayle or Sarah Palin. After the debate, most Americans could imagine him in the Oval Office if the unthinkable occurred.