VP debate: Did Joe Biden win?

Everyone agrees that Biden's debate performance topped President Obama's. But did the veep beat Paul Ryan?

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) shake hands after their debate: Though most people believe Biden dominated the conversation, there
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Obama lost big in last week's debate against GOP challenger Mitt Romney. But after Thursday night's face-off between Vice President Joe Biden and Romney's No. 2, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), says Daniel Politi at Slate, "the only thing everyone seems to be able to agree on without equivocation is that Biden did better than Obama" — and that, for better or worse (depending on your partisan lean), Biden was dominant in Thursday's debate. MSNBC declared Biden the winner, Fox News declared him a boorish and condescending loser, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer scored it a draw. Even with the "its a tie" crowd, though, says Politi, "if you read a bit between the lines, the consensus seemed to see a Biden victory." In a media environment where "winning" seems to move polls, did Biden score a run for Team Obama?

Biden killed it: On almost every topic, "Biden was on the offensive and owned the conversation," says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "I don't think it was close." He nailed Ryan on Romney's mathematically impossible tax plan, "47 percent" flub, foreign policy — basically, "he hit Romney really everywhere Democrats wanted him to." Ryan clearly believed the Right's caricature of Biden as "some sort of Crazy Irish Uncle, gaffetastic, and corny," and he paid the price. "After the debate ended, Republicans were calling it a draw and Democrats were calling it a strong win for Biden. That tells you all you need to know."

"Very quick thoughts"

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Ryan at least fought to a draw: Ryan could have pushed back more aggressively, but "he more than held his own" against Biden and "did what he needed to do," says Kimberley Strassel at The Wall Street Journal. Still, I'm sure "the judgment of many in the media is that the bigger win went to Mr. Biden." Why? The press "loves a good comeback tale — especially when it's their guy coming back — and reporters and pundits have been priming" the Biden-stanches-bleeding story all week. "The real proof will, of course, rest with the voters," and I doubt they'll be impressed with Joe's "contemptuous" bluster.

"Filiblustering Joe"

Biden wins the split decision, barely: Biden seems to have fallen into "the awkward middle ground... between a tie and a modest win," says Nate Silver at The New York Times. The two big insta-polls are split between a statistical tie (CNN) and a 19-point Biden win (CBS), and social media suggests Democrats are happier with Biden than Republicans are with Ryan. My best guess is that Biden earned a "hold," a baseball stats term for "something a bit shy of either a win or a save." It "might have done his team a bit of good," but it won't mean anything unless Obama steps up his game.

"In polls, Biden gets a hold"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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