Before the Obama campaign could steal away Mitt Romney’s supporters or lock down undecideds, it had to reassure its own supporters after last week’s uninspiring debate performance from President Obama. Judging from early reactions to the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden succeeded with flying colors on that count, garnering strong reviews from the same left-leaning pundits who rushed to decry the president’s first debate as a demoralizing debacle.
Andrew Sullivan, who was the most prominent media critic of Obama’s performance among the president’s supporters, offered unreserved praise for Biden throughout the debate.
“The Onion’s Biden is absent. This is a calm, strong forensic refusal to accept any of the bullshit being delivered by the congressman,” Sullivan wrote, marking the result a “solid win” for the vice president.
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, another critic of Obama’s performance, was a fan of Biden, who he said “came out of the box … as if he knew exactly what he needed to do.” Schultz suggested Biden was particularly impressive on the economy, where he had a chance “to say things that weren’t said last week” by Obama.
Ditto MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who had a similarly harsh take on Obama in the previous debate. This time, Matthews ruled Thursday’s matchup “a clear victory for Joe Biden” who he said dominated in particular on economic issues and on Medicare.
“Obama looked like he didn’t want to be debating Romney in the first place,” Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein tweeted. “Biden looked like he never wanted his debate with Ryan to end.”
Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas tweeted that cheers broke out at his office when Biden interrupted a Ryan reference to President Kennedy’s tax policies with “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?”
“GOP convinced themselves Biden was a moron,” Moulitsas tweeted. “Now he’s cleaning the clock of the supposedly smart Republican.”
Outside the left, the media reaction was more mixed. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer considered the result a draw, while several FOX News hosts chastised Biden for appearing too aggressive or condescending in taking on Ryan. But for a Democratic pundit class on the edge of hysteria in the wake of Obama’s performance, Biden calmed nerves that the ticket had lost its fight. That will surely help tide over the Democratic base for the next few days before Obama gets a second crack at Romney on Oct. 16 in New York.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.