He came across as competent, informed, and knowledgeable, someone who would be ready to step in as chief executive if the moment came. He connected effectively with average Americans, especially the middle class voters he claims to have championed throughout his political career.
He was aggressive – very much so – perhaps in a way he could not be against Sarah Palin in 2008. But he also came across as condescending and dismissive at times. Some perceived his exasperated smiles as sneering. And his frequent interruptions and eye-rolls recalled Obama’s dismissive body language in the first presidential debate.
But at least it was clear that Biden wanted to be there. He was willing to fight to hold on to his job. He was bold, and he defended the policies and achievements of the Obama administration even more forcefully than the president did last week. In that sense, Biden may have actually overshadowed Obama, as many believe he has frequently done over the past four years. Still, many Americans appreciate a fighter, and they may be wondering when – or if – that spirit will emerge from Obama again. After all, this is a presidential race, not a vice presidential contest.
Ryan kept the spotlight more on Romney. Overall, the congressman came across as reasonable and tempered. He has done his homework, and he rebutted the vice president’s attacks vigorously. He clearly got under Biden’s skin during their exchanges, but Ryan largely kept cool. His demeanor suggested confidence, but not hubris.
For those being introduced to Ryan for the first time, they were likely to be impressed. His forceful defense of Republican policy proposals, especially with respect to deficit reduction, taxes, job creation, and the economy generally, would have satisfied many, especially those predisposed to support Romney in the first place.
In the end, voters got a very clear sense of how different the two presidential tickets are, but it is doubtful whether anything that transpired last night will be enough to push any undecided voters off the fence.