I think I’ll have to sleep on this one, but my early take is this: It’s a draw. Why? On the one hand, Biden won a narrow victory, not on substance, but by cackling, grinning, interrupting, yelling, and browbeating not just Paul Ryan but moderator Martha Raddatz. He maintained control of the debate by bullying his way through it. That’s one way to go. It’s going to excite committed liberals — who, I can tell from Twitter, all think Biden led from pole to pole — but I don’t know if it’s going to move the needle on undecideds. For one thing, at times Biden’s signal-to-noise ratio was so out of whack that no facts got through, just LOUD NOISES. Moreover, watching the Luntz-style meters on CNN, Biden took a lot of hits, especially with women.
Biden was a used-car salesmen, who at times looked straight at the camera and asked, e.g., seniors and the middle class, “What am I going to have to do to put you in a certified, pre-owned Acura tonight?” Ryan had a couple of good lines — hitting Biden on his own gaffes in response to the first 47 percent mention — but he was generally less righteously indignant than Biden. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of Ryan’s substance wasn’t going to be able to cut through the frequent interruptions from Biden and Raddatz alike.
But again, for every viewer who keys on Biden’s “passion”, there is going to be another who keys on his rudeness. So I think it’ll be a wash. I bet the most common reaction from swing-voter types — and there’s some anecdotal evidence of this listening to the early callers on C-SPAN — was that the entire debate was “disappointing” or “frustrating.” Again, that’s because while Biden managed to domineer his way into the driver’s seat, he was so loud and angry that very little of substance cut through.
Biden’s cleanest win was on Ryan writing him letters asking for stimulus.
Ryan’s cleanest wins were the big laugh he got on Biden’s gaffe, and a good substantive answer on Afghanistan and “fighting seasons” toward the end. I might be forgetting a few.
The big question mark for me is what the MSM commentariat seize on tomorrow.