Who would have guessed that the junior varsity debate between the vice presidential candidates would have more fireworks and entertainment value than the one last week between the presidential candidates?
That’s exactly what happened Thursday night during the debate between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan. They couldn’t have been any different in policies and style, making it perfect television, and social media fodder.
Thirty seconds into the debate came this tweet from @BloombergView’s Paula Dwyer: “These guys are duking it out like two brothers in the backseat on a long road trip.” And this from @KimMance: “Vice Presidential #debates getting really similar to a Real Housewives of NJ reunion episode. I’m ashamed to have watched either.”
Ryan managed to hold his own in the debate with Biden, who was on fire the first 75 minutes until his Red Bull buzz wore off. From The New York Times live blog:
“Mr. Biden has been an explosion of reactions all night: laughing, rolling his eyes, grimacing, sighing, furrowing his brow and practically bursting out of his skin to jump at every answer.”
And this from @BloombergView: “Biden ate his Wheaties this morning.”
Boston Globe columnist Matt Viser complimented Ryan stepping up on issues, tweeting: “Paul Ryan had a thick briefing book on foreign policy. From early part of the debate, seems like he studied it closely.”
Still, Biden drew most of the comments on Twitter focusing on his mannerisms, most notably his smirk that he rolled out every time Ryan said something he didn’t agree with, which was just about everything. Some Twitter gems:
From The Washington Post‘s @TheFix: “Ok. I have decided. I find the Biden smile slightly unsettling.”
Fox News analyst Bernard Goldberg said: “Every time Biden laughs he gets another vote for Romney. Biden coming off as smug. Americans don’t like smug”
RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer tweeted: “For anyone playing one of those drinking games where u take a drink everytime Biden smirks, u are officially wasted, stop drinking.”
And, not surprisingly, the @LaughinJoeBiden was set up several minutes into the debate, garnering several thousands of followers.
The clear winner was moderator Martha Raddatz, ABC’s senior foreign correspondent. She blew away Jim Lehrer, who fell asleep at the wheel when he moderated the presidential debate two weeks ago. Raddatz kept the candidates on point, and didn’t let them gloss over the facts. Social media loved it:
Feminist organizer Shelby Knox tweeted: “So far, winner of this section is Martha Raddatz, making them answer tough questions. Perhaps women shld moderate more debates? ;)”
Former White House spokesperson Ari Fleisher offered this tweet: “I guess Martha Radditz doesn’t want to be confused with Jim Lehrer.”
The @ResistTyranny feed said: “Martha Radditz is committing a random act of journalism.”
And wrapping it up, Red Cross communicator Lynette Nyman: “Female babies born tonight will be named Martha.”
Gil Rudawsky is a former reporter and editor. He heads up the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.