After the drubbing that was the Presidential debate, Democrats were keen to get back in the fight. Who better to be in your corner than Joe Biden (VP, attack dog, middle class man of the people).
The Democrat’s strategy was surely to blunt every attack by the GOP, poke holes in every argument and undermine the credibility of Congressman Paul Ryan who was new to the debating scene.
So what would the tactics be?
Four years ago Biden was dealing with a very different politician in Sarah Palin and had to be careful not to be seen as condescending to this rising star. This time around condescension seemed to be the weapon of choice as Ryan is famed for his wonkish personality and grasp of detail. Although young, Ryan has been in congress for 14 years and is the architect of many economic plans.
Going toe to toe with a man who was clearly in command of his brief was always going to be difficult so Biden had to send messages that communicated how little he thought of Ryan’s message.
From minute one Biden shared with the American people dentistry that can only be described as Hollywood and that smile along with eye rolling, interruptions and headshaking was present throughout the debate. This tactic was effective because it created a visual that communicated disbelief around Ryan’s positions. Along with words like “malarkey” and phrases like “that’s a bunch of stuff” he visually undermined Ryan at every turn. The split screen that the networks now use made the reaction shots carry even more weight. This was crude but effective because if he had sat there impassively, he would have had to wait for his turn to speak before he stated his case. These visuals gave the impression that everything coming out of Ryan’s mouth was untrue. As icing on the cake, he either referred to Ryan as “Congressman Ryan” when referring to him in the 3rd person (congress has a 7% approval rating) or “my friend” when addressing him directly which took the edge off his attacks.
For his part Ryan was very well prepared, performed well and was for the most part cool under pressure. His arguments were well laid out, he was articulate and he came across as likeable but a little bit reserved. It is another case of winning on the radio. In fact Biden’s delivery was all over the place and his rambling, although authentic, was less focused and rather poorly structured.
The post debate spin on CNN was fascinating as both sides claimed victory but looking at social media reaction and polling of independents it is clear that Biden’s tactics worked.
The second Presidential debate is on Tuesday. Can’t wait!!