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    « A Prez Debate Interview with Figaro | Main | How Did Romney Win? »

    The Kid Wins the Veepathon

    Congressman Ryan fumbled whenever the superb moderator, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, pushed him on specifics. His budget claims ranged from mathematiclaly impossible to hilarious. His point about America’s foreign policy “unraveling” (a great word rhetorically) went largely unsupported, and the foreign policy he espoused for Governor Romney was as vague as Romney himself.

    So who won the debate? Ryan.

    The spatfest beautifullly illustrated Aristotle’s point that ethos trumps logos. (Do we repeat ourselves? Have you heard us say this before?)

    Vice President Biden was his absolute self, which was the problem. He grinned. He mugged. He interrupted constantly. Advisors had clearly coached him to act very, very un-Obama. As a result, he came across as simultaneously arrogant and goofy.  Figaro can’t wait to read the transcript of Biden’s performance. He’s guessing the words are pretty great. Biden’s a very smart guy. But the VP’s great logos came out of a big cartoony ethos.

    While Biden seemed to forget his chief role—to buck up his boss, the President of the United States, Ryan talked up Romney whenever possible. Ryan came off as crisp, respectable, likeable, and decisive. We’re guessing he won’t come off nearly as well in the transcript.

    Figaro’s score: Biden wins on points. But Ryan wins.

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    Reader Comments (9)

    And it doesn't bother a wordsmith like you that he used "duress" wrong?
    October 11, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersarah
    Do you think you would have liked Biden's performance better if you'd heard it on the radio instead of seen it on TV? I listened over NPR and though Biden was pretty good. The interruptions were annoying but his lines were great and he came off sounding like a leader.
    October 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Johnston
    Sarah, it actually did bother me but I cut Ryan some lexicographical slack. After all, he was under duress.
    October 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Robert, I usually listen to these debates over radio when I'm at home, where I don't get television and where the broadband isn't very broad. But I"m on the road with genuine TV! Logos definitely plays better on the radio, while ethos is TV kinda thing.
    October 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    I thought Biden won on ethos. Big-time. Ryan reminded me of an Amway salesman - super smooth, super vague, and super uncomfortable when asked to get specific. It seemed to me Biden interrupted for one of three reasons: 1) he wasn't getting equal time; 2) Ryan wouldn't shut up (I'm a teacher - Ryan sounded like a kid trying to talk his way out of not having done his homework); 3) Ryan was lying.

    Best line of the night is a choice between 1) Biden's comeback to Ryan's attempted zinger about "mis-statements": When Biden brought up Romney's 47%, Ryan said that Biden knows words don't always come out the way you want. Biden said, "but I always mean what I say." Option 2) Biden's, "Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy" - great reference to Bentsen-Quale; 3) Biden's comeback to your best line, "I would if you'd give me a chance to speak."

    Also, Ryan had to mention Romney; Biden didn't have to mention Obama. Rhetorically.

    Oh, and about the body language - Biden's responses matched Ryan's language. You knew when Ryan was making a serious point - rather, a debatable point - when he was pushing his soap, and when he was lying, just by watching Biden's reactions. Biden was neither arrogant nor goofy; he was passionate and frustrated.

    (Did he push Ryan around? Yes, when Ryan was pushing untruths. I forget, did you mention that Romney was a bully?)
    October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kaufmann
    I disagree with you. Biden did support the President and the current policies very often, and as far as Ryan coming off as likable, I don't think anyone would think that if they were not supporters of his to begin with. The one thing that was bugging me about Ryan was his eyes were turning red and veining. That is not a very appealing or a likable quality in a person. Ryan is youthful, and has the persistent spirit in him because of his young age, but it was if he was being trained the entire debate. Lastly, my personal opinion says that if Ryan had substance to debate with, he would have done better.
    October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRaymond Duke
    Followup polls seem to show that both Dems and Republicans came away energized but he debate. A good thing all the way around. Interestingly, David Frum listened on the radio and thought Biden was terrible, but liked Biden better in a TV replay.

    Raymond, I love Biden and don't like Ryan's policies. And I do think Ryan came off as likable.
    October 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    David, I think it's hard to call a candidate a bully when he's debating another candidate. I mean, who's the victim? On the other hand, which one looked like a "blustery jerk in the bar," as one commentator put it?
    October 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    I actually had the opposite reaction. I felt like Ryan was lacking ethos--he was very flat in his speech and apperence, while Biden was very passionate. This pssion seemed to work for Biden, even if it lead him to interupt too many times. And perhaps his interuptions did hurt his rhetorical sytle, but Biden seemed to pull out every ethos out of the bag. When Ryan made a joke about how Biden tends to put his foot in his mouth, Biden pulled out the story of when he lost his daughter in a car crash. The effect was apparent. Ryan was trying to attack his oriatory skills but Biden deflected by explaining why he's so invested in politics with a heart-wrenching story.

    Ryan came in with a jab, but Biden was ready with the block. It had no impact.
    October 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

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