Thursday, October 11, 2012
Against my better judgement I decided to spend the evening watching the Vice Presidential debate to see how Ryan and Biden compared to each other (and maybe a little bit just because I was hoping Biden would say something profane on national tv). It was an interesting ride and honestly involved a lot more policy discussions than the recent Presidential debate did, but I still felt like at the end of the day we didn't learn anything from it. Why? Well, let me explain (rant) for a little bit...
Well, it appears Joe Biden is a volatile old man who can't allow anyone else to finish their sentence before offering his own loud opinion on an issue. This is not news. What was interesting is that Mr. Biden seemed dead set on making up for President Obama's lukewarm performance last week by making sure he came across as aggressive and passionate this week. He may have overdone it. Mr. Biden interrupted Paul Ryan 82 times (according to the pundits) in a 90 minute debate. I might have guessed an even higher number. He simply couldn't sit there and let Ryan talk, he had to hear his own voice throughout the entire thing. It was obnoxious, and worse, made his complaints at the moderator appear laughable when he complained about getting to talk less than Ryan. The moderator was quick to point out that he wasn't getting less time than Ryan, but when you talk through half of your opponent's time in what appears to be an attempt to drown them out, you're not going to get a lot of sympathy from anyone. That said, the Vice President did relatively well tonight aside from his rambling, loud, and sometimes incorrect statements. He made his attacks on Ryan well, kept him on the defensive the entire time, and made lots of references to the middle class. It wasn't a performance that's likely to sway anyone towards the Obama/Biden ticket, but he didn't curse on national tv and he didn't say something incredibly stupid, so I imagine his campaign team is pretty pleased right now. Note: It will be interesting to see what the other side does with his "I never say anything I don't mean" comment considering his past colorful remarks.
Paul Ryan came across as a numbers-minded, soft-spoken young politician that thinks his opponents are at least a bit dumb. This also surprises no one. Ryan was put on the defensive from the get-go by Biden, but he handled himself well overall. It did handicap his ability to get the Romney/Ryan priorities across at times, but he attempted to compensate for this at the end of the debate (with limited success). He attempted to make human connections with middle class and family references while talking economic policy, but it came across as even more forced than Biden's own awkward pandering. As expected, Ryan focused on economic issues and broken promises as much as possible, and did well at articulating his vision for some of America's best known, and most expensive, programs. He was less specific on the details than many would have liked I'm sure, but he was at least as specific as Biden on the very same issues (this is not a compliment, simply stating that they were equally vague). Ryan's real strength was his demeanor throughout the debate. He managed to appear calm and collected throughout the night, which was a dramatic contrast with the firey frustration that Biden was projecting from across the table. Nothing makes your opponent look more like an angry jabbering mental patient than sitting there smiling calmly while they yell at you. I doubt Ryan succeeded in getting all of his platform's views across during the debate, and at times appeared to stumble in his defensive responses, but it was still a decent night for him overall.
Honestly, no one. The majority of polls are showing that most people think Ryan performed better overall, but I think that's mainly because of how aggressive and rambling Biden came across overall, not because Ryan performed especially well. Don't get me wrong, neither candidate did poorly, and both succeeded in making good points for their respective candidates. By the same token, neither candidate did particularly well. Biden looked like the angry old man compared to Ryan's youthful confidence. Ryan was unable to turn the tables back on Biden and never really had control of the conversation. I personally think this was a wash overall. If it helped anyone at all it might be the Romney ticket, but I doubt we'll see a bump in the polls for either side from this debate.
As always, your thoughts, questions, and rants are welcome.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I time my return to the world of political commentary fresh off three months of being trapped in the hospital right as things in the 2012 election get interesting. With the first presidential debate now behind us, I am both surprised and actually a little excited for the rest of the election season. Why? Well, let me grade the candidates and you'll see why.
President Obama: D-
I'm not going to give the President a failing grade as some already are, but this was a very bad night for him. He appeared unprepared to defend his record, he couldn't explain how his new promises were different than the old ones he didn't deliver on, and he couldn't keep eye contact or a straight face for more than a few minutes at a time. His surrogates are hiding after the debate, his spin doctor isn't even pretending the debate was a win, and the President himself appears notable unhappy. My question is: What the hell happened? President Obama has been described as a "great speaker" (a claim I have disagreed with in the past), and charismatic (a claim I agree with). Tonight he was neither. He frowned, grimaced, looked at the podium when being addressed, and was all over the place with his meaningless stories about his grandmother that didn't even address the points he had started talking about. No one learned anything new about the President tonight. No one found a new reason to vote for him. Instead we saw a President that was unable to explain why his policies of the last four years have failed to deliver what he said they would. He was unable to defend his economy. He was unable to counter Romney effectively when attacked, and totally unable to put Romney on the defensive. I can't explain why Obama had such a poor performance tonight, and I was quite surprised by his lack of passion and charisma. When Bill Maher, James Carville, and Chris Matthews are saying the the President lost the debtate, you know things are bad for the Democrats right now. My prediction: Obama's political strategists will unleash a whole new wave of mudslinging against Romney while
he studies up for the next debate. He won't make this mistake twice.
Mitt Romney: B-
This wasn't the same Mitt Romney I watched (and complained loudly) about in the GOP debates. He's been practicing, preparing, and apparently reading a lot. He came in with clear priorities, he knew exactly how to hit Obama on his policies and platform, and he even managed to keep his cool overall. This was a good night for Mitt Romney. I was surprised to see him able to put (and keep) the President on the defensive for the length of the debate. I was surprised at how well he knew the President's budget and proposals and how he was able to compare them to his own. He didn't do that during the GOP debates, but maybe he had been preparing for this the whole time. So why does he only deserve a B-? Well, he's still Mitt Romney. He still spoke of relatively vague "plans" that will apparently fix all of our problems. He still appeared to want to light the President on fire with his glare at times. He still looks like your boss. However, let me be clear: Mitt Romney appeared more confident, more comfortable, and dare I say, more presidential than President Obama did tonight. If he can keep this up for the next month, it will be a very close election.
Big Bird: A+
In an election he chose not to run in, Big Bird has risen in national popularity in a matter of hours. His poll numbers would be up if we had polls on Big Bird to start with, and the twittersphere and tumblrverse are chock full of his picture. If I were Big Bird's strategist, I couldn't be happier tonight.
Mitt Romney. There's simply no way to spin that debate to claim that President Obama won. Even the best Democratic spin doctors are calling it "a wash" or blaming poor moderation (they're not incorrect about that, sorry Jim). This one's a "L" in the Obama column, and they had better bring their A game next time if they want to stay ahead.
It's a debate and I'm not sure that any shift it causes will be significant or lasting. We watched the GOP debates produce massive swings in the poll numbers for individual candidates, but the effects were fleeting. I have no doubt that this debate will cause a bump in Romney's numbers in the short term, but will it actually change anyone's mind in the grand scheme of things? The cynic in me says probably not.
That's my take. Comment, question, or rant away.