Peter Beinart explains why Biden won:
The debate showed why it’s still Obama’s race to lose, if he remembers to show up for the next two debates. Some of the issues where the Republican Party brand was once strong—crime, welfare—no longer matter. And on some others—national security, fiscal management—the brand is no longer what it once was. As a result, Ryan had to change the perception of his party whereas Biden merely had to confirm the perception of his. The man with the easier job won.
Jonathan Bernstein says the ball is now in Obama’s court:
It was probably a night that put Democrats, especially those dedicated enough to watch, in a much better mood than they had been for the last week. It’s possible that might even move the needle a bit by pushing them to answer pollsters with a bit more enthusiasm. But soon enough, the nominees will be back onstage, and if Obama wants to keep any gains with Democrats that Biden may have made tonight, he’s going to have to do it himself.
Jonathan Chait had predicted Ryan would wipe the floor with Biden:
That did not so much happen. Ryan did not perform quite as well as I expected — he seemed greener, younger, and he visibly gulped when challenged. But Biden delivered a revelatory performance that proved me utterly wrong, and probably gave depressed Democrats an emotional jolt in the process.
Kevin Drum noted that the Fox News crowd is going absolutely nuts over Biden’s smiling and laughing.
I guess I don’t blame them, really. I probably would too if I were them. Partly this is because I think Biden overdid things on this score, but mostly because it’s a lot easier than trying to take on the substance of the debate, where Biden pretty clearly got the better of Ryan.
Conor Friedersdorf declares Ryan unfit for high office:
Here’s the difference between Biden and Ryan: whereas Biden has been studying foreign policy for many decades (over which he’s made his share of mistakes), everything Ryan knows about foreign policy, or at least everything he’s shown us he knows, comes from interventionist ideologues with talking points that test well among the base and bear little resemblance to reality. I didn’t quite realize how awful Ryan’s performance was until I read the transcript of the debate. Biden did smile too much. It distracted me from Ryan’s apparent unfitness to be commander-in-chief.
Dan Larison felt that Ryan was weak on foreign policy:
It was on foreign policy where Ryan was most obviously outmatched, as I assumed he would be. Especially in the sections of the debate on Afghanistan and Syria, Ryan was stuck defending Romney’s very similar positions on both while trying to argue against administration policy. It wasn’t an enviable task, and Ryan was limited by what he had to work with, but it doesn’t change the fact that Ryan didn’t inspire much confidence that he is prepared to be president if the need arose. It’s not surprising that Ryan didn’t do very well in these sections. He isn’t “fluent” on foreign policy, and that should have been obvious all along. Ryan’s boosters did him a great disservice by pretending that he was.
Doug Mataconis disagrees:
Paul Ryan accomplished what he needed to last night. In Ryan’s case, the primary task was to demonstrate his readiness on the national stage to take over should something happen to Mitt Romney. I was actually surprised that the issue didn’t specifically come up during the debate itself, but I’d say that in his answers on both foreign and domestic policy, Ryan demonstrated that readiness quite effectively. If the Congressman fell short, it was that it didn’t strike me that he came off as the overwhelming debater that some of his Republican boosters were anticipating.
Michael Medved argues that Biden’s rudeness will turn off voters:
The debate became queasy, unpleasant, uncomfortable to watch, not because Biden overpowered his opponent on substance (he emphatically did not), but because the normal, reassuring, ritualized sense of congeniality and decorum seemed altogether lacking. When TV professionals analyze the viewing audience in detail, I’d be surprised if a huge number of debate watchers didn’t tune out the broadcast in disgust or at least uneasiness after the first half hour.
Michael Tomasky thought Biden interrupted too much:
This is what the wingers are going to be trying to push now. And his smile. “Condescending,” they will say. And they’ll bitch about Martha Raddatz. This is the kind of thing people do when they know their guy lost.