While members of the media disagreed over who won the vice presidential debate — or whether it was a draw — there was one subject they couldn’t stop talking about: Vice President Joe Biden’s constant amusement.
Fox News’s Brit Hume predicted that voters will pick a debate winner based on whether they liked Biden’s smirking and laughing or thought it was disrespectful to GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s remarks.
“What you saw while Paul Ryan was talking, was smirking, laughing, smiling, mugging by the vice president,” Hume said. “And my sense about it was that it was so compelling that people probably couldn’t take their eyes off of it. And so it’ll come down to whether people thought that was attractive or not. Myself, I didn’t. I thought it was unattractive, I thought it was rude and I have a feeling it will come across to an awful lot of people as rude. It looked like a cranky old man to some extent, debating a polite young man.”
NBC News’s David Gregory said supporters of Biden might be pleased with the performance, but it may have alienated other viewers.
“The smile, the laugh, I think a lot of people may view that and think that he was a little too hot, too aggressive, maybe condescending,” the “Meet the Press” host said. “I think supporters of the president and Joe Biden will say, ‘Hey, this was refreshing.’ He was feisty, he was aggressive, he was seeking in some ways to belittle Ryan as a challenger here in the arena and that was something we didn’t see out of the president.”
NBC News’s Savannah Guthrie said she was “struck by how fiery and at times acrimonious this debate was,” and also weighed in on Biden’s reactions.
“With regard to Biden laughing, I’m starting to think how to react, what to do when you’re not speaking, must be the most difficult task in these debates because we’ve seen time and time again candidates having such a hard time with it,” Guthrie said. “I think the fundamental question here remains, though, is anything that was said here tonight persuasive at all to independent voters, those who haven’t made up their minds. I think there were moments in this debate where it felt like the candidates were having this extended conversation with themselves and almost forgot the audience at home and that they are also supposed to be having a conversation with America.”
And Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace slammed Biden as “openly disrespectful” and “contemptuous” in a way he’s never seen before during national political debates.
“I think I have watched almost every presidential and vice presidential debate since the first four Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960 and thinking back over the last few minutes, I don’t believe I have ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight,” Wallace said. “And that’s what it was. You can talk about the smirks, the smiles, the head shaking, the mugging. It was openly contemptuous and disrespectful. And it wasn’t just the facial gestures, it was also the words.”
Meanwhile, on CNN, Wolf Blitzer said the debate “looks like, at least to me, pretty much of a draw.” Blitzer added that he thought the two candidates were “pretty happy with their respective performances.”
His colleague John King agreed, saying “there was not a wipeout in this debate.”
CNN’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger, meanwhile, focused on Biden’s animated style, calling it “condescending.”
“It was condescending at times to Paul Ryan,” Borger said. “And I think I could’ve done with a lot less eye rolling and chuckling on the part of Joe Biden. However, I thought it was a great debate. I think it was one of the most substantive debates or engagements we’ve seen throughout this campaign. I think if people are undecided, they would decide.”
Host Anderson Cooper jumped in, adding, “you certainly could not take your eyes off him. You could not turn away for a second.”