How will it affect the race?I think both candidates basically did what they needed to do in the vice-presidential debate, which leaves the Republican ticket in a slightly better position—since Biden’s goal was damage control with the base and Ryan’s was reinforcing a positive impression with persuadable voters.
After the calamity they experienced in last week’s presidential debate, liberals needed to be bucked up by the Obama campaign, and I think they got that tonight. It probably came at a real cost—I have a feeling that Biden’s hyper-aggressive and at times buffoonish performance (and perhaps especially his Joker grin, which seemed to me as much a product of nervousness as of intent) hurt the ticket some with independent voters and especially with women—but it was a price the Obama campaign is probably quite willing to pay given the situation they’re now in. This debate didn’t help them win persuadable voters, and it probably won’t move the polls in their direction, but it will calm liberals down and it was absolutely essential for them to do that. The MSNBC types needed someone to be a jerk toward Paul Ryan to his face, and they got it.
To assess the effect of it all on the race, I think an important question will be how many voters watched this debate, compared to the last one. For those who did, I imagine this will basically be a draw—a tie between those who found Biden’s bullying effective and those who found it off-putting. But among those who only hear about it in the coming days, I have a feeling that this will turn out to have been a bit of a problem for the Democrats. Ryan’s performance probably won’t be much noted either way (which is about what he was going for, I suspect; he has now established his place in the very upper tier of American political life without even much of a fuss), but the two lasting impressions of this debate that will be talked about will be Biden’s bizarre behavior and his false assertion about requests for security by American diplomats in Libya. As they struggle to close Romney’s narrow lead, neither will be a welcome subject of discussion for the Democrats.Ultimately, the race will still come down to Obama and Romney. The pressure is on Obama. The pundits and everyone are saying that Obama did poorly in their first debate. There's no where to go but up. The problem is Obama isn't a natural debater. He's more professorial. Likes to lecture.
Romney has to come off as credible and presidential in the next debate. People are nervous and very concerned about where our nation is headed. They want to know whether Romney has a credible plan and is competent to take us in a different direction. If Romney can accomplish these goals, without major mistakes, he's likely to expand his lead.
Of course, we'll find out what happens on Tuesday night.