Did anybody really “win” the Thursday night vice presidential showdown? Ultimately the answer to that question would mean that a candidate would see a surge in their favorability ahead of the election.
But whatever happened in the VP debate last night, don’t expect it to move the polls in favor of any candidate.
The chances that Thursday's debate will have a major impact on the 2012 presidential race are small, says a new analysis from Gallup. None of the eight vice presidential debates between 1976 and 2008 meaningfully altered voter preferences. A review of voters' preferences for president before and after each debate reveals that past showdowns have had almost no influence.
For what it’s worth, though, the day after the debate, the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday showed Republican Mitt Romney attracting support from 48% of voters nationwide, up ahead of President Obama, who earned the vote from 47%. Two percent preferred some other candidate, and 3% are undecided. (See daily tracking history.)
In the vital swing state of Florida, the Real Clear Politics poll average is reporting a 2 percentage point lead for Romney.
The Real Clear Politics general election poll average sees Romney with a 1 percentage point lead.
<---- The New York Times, though, is still all but calling the race for Obama.
It is important to note that nearly all of the responses for these surveys were taken before last night’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Romney’s running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Rasmussen notes that only 18% of voters rate the vice presidential debate as “very important” to their vote.
Still, the political rhetoric rages on Friday morning with both sides claiming victory after Thursday night’s vice presidential debate battle royale.
Of course, you can’t ever really “win” a presidential debate. I mean, c’mon America, this isn’t Thursday Night Football. There is no point system, there are no clear game rules (and the “rules” that do exist are constantly broken), and there is no end game. No matter what happens, the audience will be split every time, usually down partisan lines.
Based on the rough data we do have on the only quantifiable numbers that we can measure, the debate was more of less a tie. The “time of possession” for each candidate (via CNN clock) was Biden at 41:32 minutes and Ryan at 40:12 minutes. Ryan actually got more words out (per NBC): 7,463 to 7,013. (Another quick note about the game rules of the debate, please notice that it is CNN and NBC counting these states, not the Presidential Debate Commission … again it is outside sources that are left to chalk up the “scores” and “data” of the debates, which defeats the idea of a clear winner if there is no central authority.)
From a pure rhetoric standpoint Joe Biden mopped the floor with Ryan. Seriously, it was watching a dad lecture his 13-year-old son who had just taken his first civics class.
In the only vice presidential debate, Biden completely dominated all facets of the debate … from foreign policy, the national debt, taxes, and even social issues like abortion … boldly hammering through policy points and the Obama administration's policy decision rationales, and strongly defending his party’s stances on the issues.
Ryan looked shaky, out of breath, and out of things to say. Many times he looked down at the table, or the floor, or somewhere else … it was like he knew every word he was saying was wrong.
For every conservative who was disgusted by Biden’s snarky remarks and demeanor in last night’s debate, five liberals got super jacked up.
For conservatives in the last Obama vs Romney debate it was “look how soft Obama looks” … and suddenly Biden comes out swinging and it’s “too much.” That’s the big take-away here.
Still, according to the CNN poll of independents, Paul Ryan “won” the debate, 48% to 44%. The same poll showed that people who watched the debate believed that Paul Ryan expressed himself better than Joe Biden, 50%-41%. An NBC poll of 435 uncommitted voters after the debate showed Paul Ryan winning with 63% to 31%. CNBC had it 56% to 36%, again with Paul Ryan coming out on top. Even the Danville Advocate Messenger had Paul Ryan on top at the end of the day, attracting 56% to Biden's 41% (though, it should be noted that all site which report the Advocate Messanger’s poll don’t link to any real poll on that newspaper’s site).
Some final thoughts: the rough data we do have after the presidential debate should be taken with a grain of salt. The polling numbers are inconclusive and may not reflect national trends or attitudes. The best grasp we can get on how the VP debate actually affected the wider election will be three or four days from now, when full polling results from after the election can be compiled. This timeframe is critical, though, as the latest complete polls are released right before the next presidential debate, on Tuesday night. From there the next political poll that would matter would come a week from today, on next Friday. At that point, voters will have completely digested the results of the Thursday VP debate and the Tuesday debate.
That said, for the Obama campaign, which currently is losing steam and seeing momentum on the rise, Tuesday will be for all the marbles.
Get your popcorn ready.