In response to my Friday Corner piece arguing that Biden won on points, Jim Bennett offers a very interesting and quite powerful qualification. Here it is:
John, let me suggest that the criteria for victory are changing. The debate no longer ends when the debaters walk off stage. And now it no longer ends when the TV spinners have, like cuckoos, laid their eggs and flown away. There is now the long, long reverberation in social media, where the basic debate footage serves as raw material for mash-ups and parodies and treatments for the rest of the election cycle and beyond. And Biden’s performance, which won him some tactical advantage in the debate, has set him up as the target for rich satire and a way that Ryan’s conventional performance didn’t and cannot do. His performance is comic gold, and although within hard-core Dem/left circles he will be celebrated as the warrior, everywhere else, and especially for basically apolitical young YouTube viewers, he will be the jackass supreme. I suspect that by Election Day, the various parodic videos will have had a larger viewership than the debate itself. By this criterion, the tactic was a massive miscalculation.
Of course in my piece (and earlier in the Globe and Mail article) I had offered my own qualification to the conclusion that Biden had won on points. It was that Biden’s eye-rolling, head-shaking, and hand-waving might well annoy viewers, especially women who might think the veep was bring rude to a nice young man. Other commentators made this point too. But Jim’s argument adds some depth to our qualification, and he identifies a new and significant audience likely to be alienated by Biden’s theatrics — namely, the young voters whom Obama won last time and whose apathy he has been hoping to dispel this time. If these voters not only vote but vote in some numbers against Obama — and Jim’s speculation is certainly plausible — then Thursday night, Biden might have contributed to a landslide against the Democrat ticket.