VP Debate: A Non-Event

By October 12, 2012March 30th, 2020SpeakerNotes

Joe BidenWhen I sat down to watch last night’s Vice-Presidential Debate it was to observe each candidate and assess what kind of presence they projected and how they related to their viewing audience.

Joe Biden

Biden, who had to make-up for Obama’s lackluster performance in the first Presidential Debate, was prepared and ready for action.  When answering questions he was clear and articulate.   He was passionate and expressed himself with good vocal variety and purposeful hand gestures reinforcing what he was saying.  He primarily maintained eye contact with the moderator, ABC’s Martha Raddatz. Unfortunately on several occasions when discussing Medicare, when he looked directly into the camera appealing to the American public it felt abrupt and forced.

Even so, overall Biden’s performance was strong, credible and aggressive.  If his goal was to level the playing field for round 2 of the Presidential Debates, he achieved it.

Paul Ryan

What struck me about Ryan’s performance were some similarities to Romney’s approach– they must have had the same coaching.  Both candidates remained steady, avoiding any extremes in their delivery.  Each was clear and articulate, expressing their views using a conversational tone. They aligned what they were saying with how they expressed themselves — their words, body language and voice all in-synch. Both Ryan and Romney kept a pleasant facial expression and looked alert and engaged, appearing to listen to what their opponent was saying

Ryan made some strong, assertive points, and maintained his cool under fire. But where he diverges from a Romney-esque style is a sense that he’s less in command than Romney, less passionate, more about facts than translating those facts into a story.

Overall, Ryan was confident, credible and respectful in his delivery, allowing Romney to maintain a strong position going into the October 16th Town Hall Meeting.


I’d say stylistically this debate was a draw.  However, there were some behaviors that got in the way for both men and should be avoided in the future. . .

Did you notice how Ryan took a sip of water following every comment he made?  Because of the pattern (talk, sip; talk sip) I suspect it was a nervous mannerism that he needs to alter.

Biden would smile and laugh, while Ryan was speaking.  It was the “smirk” coupled with the phrase “as my friend . . .” that added insult to injury and is one of the primary reasons the press is describing Biden as condescending.

The Score

In many ways, last night’s vice-presidential debate was a non-event. It did however give insight to both candidates’ character and leadership abilities.

What do you think?

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Thanks for your comments. Being under the microscope like this is very difficult. I certainly wouldn’t want to be there! Taking that into consideration, both man did an exceptional job.
    And I agree with you Greg, I suspect the sipping gesture was to help Ryan manage his nerves. In fact once or twice, I saw his shoulders “twitched” (in a fight or flight gesture) and he immediately reached for the glass. It was a coping mechanism that while distracting was not offensive. If all that drinking was because he had a dry mouth, all he had to do was gently bite his tongue and problem solved!

  • Lisa Fahoury says:

    Love these “behind the curtain” peeks from a presentation pro — your insights provide such valuable food for thought. Wonder what mannerisms would reveal themselves if I was the candidate up there! Thanks for making the debates that much more interesting.

  • Stephanie, very astute to observe Ryan sipping water. I stopped counting after he’d done so 13 times. Ironically, from a body language perspective, sipping water that number of times in such an environment (debate) would indicate nervousness. More than likely that was, to some degree, the case with Ryan. From my perspective, he stated his positions in a manner that did not belie the degree of nervousness he may have been experiencing. I attributed that to the fact he was well rehearsed Which goes to show, preparation enhances your presentation.