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News from the Votemaster

Biden Ends Democratic Freakout

After President Obama's lackluster performance in the first presidential debate, Democrats were tearing their hair out, wondering if Obama was actually interested in having a second term. He seemed bored and afraid to fight Romney. Those accusations will not be leveled at Joe Biden for his performance in the vice-presidential debate. Biden was at the top of his game, fired up, attacking Rep. Paul Ryan at every turn, and raising all the points Obama failed to raise. He did what Obama should have done and failed to do: fire up his own base while at the same time appearing reasonable to independents.

In 2008, Biden had to be very polite with Sarah Palin, lest he offend women by attacking her. He had no such constraints this time and he hit Ryan over and over. When Ryan said he was against the stimulus, Biden pointed out that the administration received two letters from Ryan personally asking for funds for Wisconsin companies. When Ryan criticized Obama on Iran, Biden asked Ryan to name one thing Romney would actually do differently, and Ryan couldn't. When Ryan said that his voucher program would save Medicare, Biden looked directly into the camera and said: "Who do you trust on this?" When Ryan made the mistake of mentioning President Kennedy, Biden shot back: "So, now you're Jack Kennedy?"

Ryan was pretty much playing defense the whole time. At one point Ryan said something Biden didn't like and Biden called it "malarkey." Instantly, it was the top search term on Google. Biden dominated the stage, constantly interrupting Ryan and talking over him, exactly the same thing Romney did last week to dominate the stage.

Several snap polls were held just after the debate. The OverTheShoulder.com poll showed Biden won the debate 65% to 35%. The CBS/GfK poll of uncomitted voters gave Biden a clear victory of 50% to 31%. However, a CNN/ORC poll of people who watched the debate (not all of whom were necessarily even voters) gave Ryan a slight edge 48% to 44%

What was also noteworthy is what was said in the spin room after the debate. The Democratic spinners talked about how Biden rebutted everything Ryan said on Iran, taxes, abortion, and everything else. Republican spinners didn't talk much about the substance of the debate but focused on criticizing Biden's body language and manner, calling him rude, disrespectful and unprofessional.

The moderator, Martha Raddatz, referred to Ryan as "Mr. Ryan" rather than the normal "congressman" (except one time she slipped up). This form of address was explicitly chosen by Ryan, presumably to avoid reminding the voters that he serves in that loathesome institution, Congress. In contrast, in the first debate, Romney was addressed as "governor." However, Biden kept referring to Ryan as "congressman" and sometimes a sarcastic "my friend," which he is decidedly not.

Except for her one slip-up using the term "congressman," Raddatz was totally in control, unlike presidential debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, who let the candidates trample all over him. Her questions were piercing and to the point and she followed up when she didn't like the answers. Her performance was an order of magnitude better than the hapless Lehrer's.

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post made up a list of winners and losers:

  • Joe Biden's last 15 minutes. He was measured, passionate, and heartfelt
  • Political Junkies. This was a debate for the ages, with content and fights on both sides
  • The term "my friend." If they were friends before, Ryan probably ran to his computer to defriend Biden afterwards

  • Biden's first 75 minutes. While his base loved him, he might might have gone overboard with derisive smiles
  • Undecided voters. If they were expecting a polite and civil discussion of the issues, they must be disappointed
  • Nonverbal communication. The candidates didn't seem to realize that they were on camera when they weren't talking

In the end, we might cite Wm. Shakespeare and describe the debate as "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." People rarely make voting decisions based on who the Vice President would be. Nevertheless, if Biden is able to stop Obama's freefall, he will have bought some time until next Tuesday's debate between the top guys.

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
California 53% 39%   Oct 07 Oct 09 SurveyUSA
Colorado 47% 48%   Oct 04 Oct 09 Quinnipiac U.
Florida 44% 51%   Oct 08 Oct 10 Mason Dixon
Florida 48% 47%   Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Illinois 55% 36%   Oct 04 Oct 08 Market Shares
Massachusetts 55% 41%   Oct 09 Oct 11 PPP
North Carolina 48% 51%   Oct 09 Oct 09 Rasmussen
New Jersey 51% 40%   Oct 04 Oct 08 Global Strategy
Nevada 47% 45%   Oct 06 Oct 09 Suffolk U.
Ohio 48% 47%   Oct 10 Oct 10 Rasmussen
Ohio 51% 45%   Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Pennsylvania 47% 45%   Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Pennsylvania 50% 42%   Oct 04 Oct 08 Global Strategy
Virginia 47% 48%   Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Virginia 48% 48%   Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Virginia 51% 46%   Oct 04 Oct 09 Quinnipiac U.
Wisconsin 50% 46%   Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Wisconsin 50% 47%   Oct 04 Oct 09 Quinnipiac U.

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
California Dianne Feinstein* 54% Elizabeth Emken 35%     Oct 07 Oct 09 SurveyUSA
Florida Bill Nelson* 52% Connie McGillicuddy 39%     Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 49% Scott Brown* 47%     Oct 10 Oct 10 Rasmussen
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren 50% Scott Brown* 44%     Oct 09 Oct 11 PPP
New Mexico Martin Heinrich 52% Heather Wilson 39%     Oct 08 Oct 08 Rasmussen
Nevada Shelley Berkley 37% Dean Heller* 40%     Oct 06 Oct 09 Suffolk U.
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 48% Josh Mandel 43%     Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Ohio Sherrod Brown* 52% Josh Mandel 41%     Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Pennsylvania Bob Casey* 49% Tom Smith 45%     Oct 09 Oct 09 Rasmussen
Virginia Tim Kaine 44% George Allen 47%     Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Virginia Tim Kaine 47% George Allen 46%     Oct 07 Oct 09 Marist Coll.
Virginia Tim Kaine 51% George Allen 44%     Oct 04 Oct 09 Quinnipiac U.
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 47% Tommy Thompson 45%     Oct 08 Oct 08 Pulse Opinion Research
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin 48% Tommy Thompson 46%     Oct 04 Oct 09 Quinnipiac U.

* Denotes incumbent

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