Before too many readers lay into me for failing to immediately score this as a big Biden win, I’ll remind you I didn’t think Romney did all that well in the first presidential debate. Assessments of the Veep debate almost totally depend on what you thought the two candidates needed to accomplish.

If the biggest impact of the presidential debate (and you can make that case) was to discourage Democrats, Biden clearly provided a major tonic for the troops. He was combative, confident, never let Ryan win an uncontested point, and did not forget to make simple assertions of fidelity to progressive values. The very things some pundits criticized him for–talking over Ryan, laughing and grimacing when his opponent was doing his number, etc.–were exactly what many Democrats wanted to see and hear.

Ryan’s accomplishment was not screwing up, not sounding “radical” (except for the abortion issue) and sounding superficially knowledgeable about foreign policy. He also, as I figured he would do, dragged the brief discussion of taxes and budget far enough into the weeds to become relatively inscrutable to low-information voters.

A CBS instapoll had Biden winning by a 50-31 margin. This impression will probably be reinforced or perhaps strengthened by the spin, which is mostly “Biden wins!” from Dems and “tie” from GOPers, though some conservatives will naturally think Ryan hit it out of the park and/or that Biden channeled Gore 2000 with his mannerisms.

On the big controversies between the two parties, Biden clearly did a better job than Obama did last week, while Ryan probably didn’t change many minds, other than those who missed his convention speech and expected him to howl at the moon.

It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the debate will move any numbers. It mostly depends on whether you think the “Romney surge” was abating anyway, and if not, whether it was feeding on simple momentum and/or Democratic “discouragement.” But the public opinion reactions, if any, will barely settle in before the next presidential debate next Tuesday. So it will probably be a while before we can calm down and see where the “fundamentals” and event-driven perceptions of the candidates–plus GOTV!–will position the contest during the final, final stretch.

I’ll definitely have more refined thoughts in the morning, but keep talking in the comments thread if you want; fresh impressions are sometimes most accurate.


Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.