If you were a democrat, you liked the debate. If you were a republican, you liked the debate. Issues were pretty well debated actually. And both VP candidates Biden and Ryan were energetic and performed well. So, a draw, but there were some important differences.
#1 The Split Screen difference.
Both candidates were on continuous split screen, so the viewing audience saw as much listening as talking. And the biggest factor in the ‘communication experience’ of this debate was the Biden smirk. Almost every time Ryan made a point we see a Biden reaction. And after awhile it turned into just repetitive condescending smiles, derisive eye rolls and a dismissive head toss. It is odd that the apparent adult on the stage was 27 years younger. Normally this would not be picked up by a viewing audience, but it’s dominant in a split screen. If you loved Joe Biden, it was OK. If you were undecided – the condescension was not attractive.
#2 Being a CEO
We’ve often written about the communication qualities of a CEO, and both Biden and Ryan had to fill that role. With the exception noted above, Biden did that well – he looked confident and spoke with a strong voice, even getting emotional and gravelly towards the end. It reminded us of his Palin debate 4 years ago which we blogged on here. Ryan had more to prove – younger, quick in both eyes and tongue, detail driven – could he rise above it and be commanding. Pretty close, but too often he let Biden, or the moderator Martha Raddatz, take command and override him. This was in stark contrast to how Mitt Romney did not allow himself to be interrupted, or interrupted himself when he thought he should. Ryan did not take command.
#3 Closing Statements
Ryan looked at the camera and gave a forceful, measured response. It was powerful. Biden looked at Raddatz and did not have as prepared a close. He didn’t ask for the order.
Both used stories well. Personal stories, emotional stories. Stories make ideas sticky, and if you saw the debate and were asked how Ryan’s daughter got the nickname “Bean” – you would remember what subject he was talking about, and how he felt about it.
#5 Knowing the Facts
Ryan had the most to prove here, particularly on foreign policy and experience. He did well in having command of details, and talked on an equal footing with the more experienced VP Biden.
#6 Elevating the Discussion
For the most part, both Biden and Ryan missed opportunities to elevate the discussion to their philosophical differences. Both were in the weeds on the details of the economy, role of government, foreign policy, etc. But we didn’t hear much of the differences, or much inspiring, about the importance of innovation, the role and size of government, freedom in America and inherent responsibility.
But this was a VP debate – back to the main stage next week. We doubt if that will be a draw – but behavior will still reign.