The VP Debate and the Media—No Landslide This Time!
By Suzanne Spurgeon, Founder, Women Media Pros
Joe Biden had a job to do, and he did it. He painted himself and President Obama as champions of the middle class and he wasn’t “too polite” to play the 47% card—and more than once during the 90 minute Vice Presidential Debate. Paul Ryan talked of a “clear choice” and held his own on key issues. What struck me most was the generational divide. The 69-year-old Vice President wearing his age and experience with pride. He used words like, “malarkey” and referred to Congressman Ryan as “my friend”, which is better than “my boy or sonny”, but with about the same meaning.
When Ryan criticized President Obama for not meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while the two leaders were in New York, Biden shot back with the fact he and “BiBi” have been friends for 39 years. And, Biden says his boss has met with the PM a dozen times.
42-year-old Ryan spoke of reforming Medicare and Social Security for “my generation” as he tried to assure retirees and those approaching retirement, they have nothing to fear from a Romney/Ryan administration. Ryan also wove, “younger people, like myself” into a response.
Biden was effective, I believe, when he spoke to camera and directly to seniors watching. You can’t get more direct than, “look, all you seniors out there…”
I think Ryan delivered a better closing argument than the Vice President. As a communication pro, I like the fact he ended by asking Americans for their vote. It’s a simple, call to action.
Ryan had the best quip of the night, in response to one of those 47% attacks on Governor Romney. Ryan countered that the Vice President knows about things not coming out of his mouth right. Indeed Biden does. But tonight, Biden stayed on message and journalists covering the spin rooms, report more enthusiasm from Democratic spinners than following the Presidential debate.
When Ryan tried to make a point by saying President Kennedy raised taxes and increased growth, Biden had a quip of his own. In a moment reminiscent of the Dan Quayle/Lloyd Benson VP debate, Biden asked, “Oh so now you’re Jack Kennedy?” Point goes to Biden.
A CNN/ORC poll of registered voters gave the edge to Ryan. I think both men delivered the messages they needed to, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the polls break down by age.
Biden pointed his finger at the moderator, the camera and Ryan. And of course, he smirked, smiled and laughed. Fox’s Brit Hume said it was “rude,” like a “cranky old man.” Whatever it was, it added to a feisty debate.
Representative Ryan had never debated on a national stage and the Vice President was said to be rusty. It didn’t show. The takeaway for communication pros is—don’t try to change the people you coach. Fine tune their messaging, prepare them for the toughest questions, arm them with facts, but leave their personalities in tact. Earlier this week the President was asked by Diane Sawyer what advice he had for his Vice President as he approached this debate. He said, “Let Joe be Joe.”
A clear winner of the VP debate is moderator Martha Raddatz. She pulled no punches and proved her critics wrong. Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge will still say she showed her “liberal bias,” but I bet if you ask Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, they’ll say Raddatz was a true professional.