Commentary Magazine


Biden’s Behavior Will Become the Story

As I predicted yesterday, Vice President Biden came out aggressive and swinging against his opponent, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Even when it wasn’t his turn to speak, Biden interjected himself into Ryan’s speaking time. According to RNC Chairman Reince Preibus, Biden interrupted Ryan a total of 82 times. CNN instant polling after the debate showed 70 percent of respondents noting that Biden, not Ryan, spent the debate attacking his opponent (compare this to 19 percent for Ryan).

As Jonathan noted last night, Biden’s incivility could end up causing him more harm than good with voters in the long term. CNN and NBC anchors immediately weighed in on Biden’s tendency to smirk and laugh during his opponent’s allotted time. In the age of split-screen television, Biden’s aggression may have come off well with the Democratic base, but it likely did nothing but turn off undecided voters. His behavior, as already noted by the GOP’s research team, was deemed inappropriate at best by many in the mainstream media.

There were few sound-bite worthy comments from Paul Ryan tonight, save for perhaps his telling Biden, “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.” After a debate that many in the mainstream media and instant polls are calling a tie, the GOP has already settled on a message for how they think the vice presidential debate went down, and it’s Biden’s physical reactions during Ryan’s remarks on Libya, Iran and Afghanistan. They released a web video less than two hours after the conclusion of the debate highlighting Biden’s worst laughs, gestures, and smirks:

We’ll see how many Americans actually watched this debate, but it appears that enough people were thrown off by Biden’s behavior to make that, not his words, the story after last night’s debate. After the last debate, many in the news media commented on Obama’s much more subtle smirk (the GOP even made an ad out of that, too). One can only wonder why Biden wasn’t instructed by his debate coaches to tone down the condescension instead of ramping it up several notches.