Mark Grimm


Biden-Ryan: Bar Brawler vs. Math Professor

Emotion and intellect tangled in the VP debate and partisans from both sides are convinced their guy won.

On the “Who won?” question, a CNN poll of debate watchers gave Congressman Paul Ryan a slight 48-44 edge over Vice President Joe Biden.

Democrats, frustrated their presidential nominee didn’t take the fight to Mitt Romney in last week’s debate, got plenty of red meat from the pugnacious Biden. He played mostly offense in this one, putting Ryan on the defensive.

Biden was plain spoken and had some effective emotional appeals to voters, particularly on the 47% issue, insisting his “mom and dad” were the 47%. Biden’s major flaw: there is a fine line between feisty and obnoxious and he crossed it. It seemed like he was in an argument at the corner bar. His frequent odd smiles when Ryan was talking were dismissive and his constant interruptions were more rude than being tough.

Ryan showed a strong intellect and had an impressive command of the issues, not an easy task for a challenger against a sitting vice president. But too often he talked over people’s heads with endless math or obscure Mid-East geography. Voters don’t believe a string of numbers is the answer to every problem. He needed to connect more emotionally, especially in light of Biden’s “Joe Six Pack” persona.

Biden energized the ticket’s base voters who were demoralized a bit after the presidential debate. But his over-the-top behavior cost him what may otherwise have been a victory. Ryan proved he really knows his stuff but needs to be less of a policy robot.

The effect on the presidential race — very little. The A Team returns next week.

The writer is a speaking coach, message strategist, and former elected official. More at