The vice presidential debate has never affected the outcome of a presidential election before. Thursday's probably won't, either. To the extent it does, it'll be another nail in President Barack Obama's coffin.
Vice President Joe Biden was rude, condescending, obnoxious. He interrupted Rep. Paul Ryan 82 times. His body language was worse:
"Joe, seriously, stop smirking," tweeted CNN host Piers Morgan. "This is serious stuff. Be vice presidential."
"I could've done with a lot less eye rolling and chuckling on the part of Joe Biden," said Gloria Borger, also of CNN.
The vice president lied a lot:
"We weren't told they wanted more security there [at the consulate in Benghazi]," he said.
"The State Department did know in real time from videos that requests for more security had been made and were turned down," noted Andrea Mitchell of NBC.
The vice president "may have some clean up of his own to do today on Libya," said Jan Crawford of CBS.
Mr. Biden said he voted against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when in fact he'd voted to authorize them both. Other whoppers were his claim the administration had "put back" the $716 billion it cut from Medicare to help fund Obamacare, and his assertion that Obamacare does not require religious institutions to provide for contraception in their insurance policies. There were more:
"On nearly every specific issue on which Mr. Biden attacked, he was demonstrably wrong," said the Wall Street Journal.
And, as is Slow Joe's custom, he said something really stupid. Syria "is five times larger geographically than Libya," he said. Libya (679,362 square miles) is nearly 10 times as large as Syria (71, 500 square miles). Someone who served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for years should know that.
To the Democratic Party's liberal base, which defines rudeness as "passion," and isn't meticulous about facts, Mr. Biden's aggressiveness was a welcome contrast to Mr. Obama's passivity in Denver.
"Biden's nastiness may have re-invigorated a Democratic base that wanted nothing so much as to tell their opponents to shut up," said Jonathan Tobin of Commentary magazine.
Paul Ryan was not assertive enough, many pundits said. He showed "excessive deference" to the vice president, said columnist Charles Krauthammer.
"Biden pushed Ryan around," said former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson. The vice president was "the dominant figure on the stage."
But it was probably better that Mr. Ryan didn't get into a mud-slinging contest with the vice president.
"I think that Ryan was calmer and frankly more presidential," said David Gergen on CNN.
The debate was a draw, many pundits declared. Those who watched it seemed to agree. Mr. Biden was the winner in the CBS instapoll. Mr. Ryan won in polls by CNN and NBC, and in an on-line CNBC poll. Independents and the undecided split evenly.
This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: http://press.post-gazette.com/ Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Press and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. firstname.lastname@example.org, 412 263-1476.