Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Here is the last issue of Capital Brief, from October 12, that takes a look at how the vice presidential candidates measured up to expectations in their face-off.

Click below to read the Brief.

Capital Brief  
Amy Greene
Capital Brief – October 12, 2012

Vice Presidential Debate: What Outcome for Biden, Ryan?


·      The fallout from the first debate was a wild swing in polling data that saw Mitt Romney take the lead in the national race, tie Obama among women, and surge in several swing states. It is unclear how long this “bounce” will last and how permanent this polling shift will prove to be.

·      In the meantime, unemployment fell to 7.8%, cutting a hole in a central Romney argument of Obama failure on the economy. In a consequent reversal of course Democrats have begun to steer the conversation back to the economy, where the Republicans now look for Dem foreign policy weaknesses (ie. Benghazi fallout)

·      What was expected of Biden and Ryan?
o   Joseph Biden: rev up listless Obama supporters; relentlessly attacks on Paul Ryan and Rep positions (esp. tax cuts); attempts to force Ryan into choice between his own stances and the newly-moderate proposals of Romney to play into narrative of “Republican Say-Anything Campaign”; link Romney to Ryan’s conservatism and to do-nothing Congress; send frequent signals to voters Middle Class that Obama understands and is like them.

o   Paul Ryan: double challenge of darting to the Center to attract undecideds to Romney while remaining faithful to his own ideas (“Ryan Plan” for US budget). Inexperienced in debates, Reps aimed to set low expectations; avoid detailed specifics of Romney tax cuts; consistently hammering home discrepancy between Obama words and actions.


·      No clear winner, no clear loser. No memorable gaffes. Both men honourably represented their tickets, demonstrated strength and confidence. For two men whose 2016 prospects loomed over the Oct 11 debate, Biden emerged fighting and Ryan solidified his spot in the vanguard of next generation Republicans.

·      Debate focused on foreign policy much more than expected. Biden was the authority, but Ryan performed with confidence and relative ease.

·      Biden was aggressive and spirited, attacking Ryan on nearly every point. He compensated for Obama’s drowsy turn and attempted to paint image of Republicans as having disdain for regular Americans and pursuing failed approaches. His tough demeanor veered at times toward disrespectful and insolent. His tenor did little to raise the level of attack in this election cycle, and he seemed more focused on rousing dispirited Democratic insiders and Obama supporters than swing voters. Perhaps the campaign calculated that their swing state infrastructure will pay off on Election Day, and that this exercise would be best used to send a message to reassure the base that “Obama is back fighting!”

·      Ryan was confident, composed, measured even if Biden’s persistent pressure accentuated Ryan’s youth at times. Despite reputation for “wonkishness,” Ryan stuck to sweeping criticism of Obama across a variety of issues to draw a portrait of unkept promises and disappointment, but also to avoid giving too many specifics of Romney plan. Ryan did not take many risks, nor did he jeopardize the momentum gained by Romney’s strong first debate.