Partisans took to the morning shows just hours after the first and only vice presidential debate, with both sides arguing over style, substance and outcome.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who played Paul Ryan in Vice President Joe Biden’s debate preparation, defended Biden’s animated performance during Thursday night's debate, saying the vice president’s passion for middle-class issues shone through.
Critics watching the first and only vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., labeled the vice president’s animated facial expressions, gestures, and frequent interruptions as rude. But Van Hollen said Biden “speaks from the heart,” and emphasized that critics should focus on what the vice president said, rather than how he said it.
“Look, Joe Biden is a fighter for the middle class,” Van Hollen said on CNN’s Starting Point. “And you can feel his emotion, he speaks from the heart… So, look, I know some Republicans want to focus on style, but what was important was the substance.”
CNN’s Soledad O’Brien pointed out that a nationwide CNN poll taken immediately after the debate showed Ryan ahead in likability, but Van Hollen countered that a CBS poll of undecided voters taken in that same time frame showed Biden winning by an overwhelming margin.
“Those are the voters that people are looking for right now,” Van Hollen said. “They clearly said Joe Biden was the winner.”
The CBS poll found that 50 percent of undecided voters said Biden came out on top, while just 31 percent named Ryan the winner.
Biden’s son, Beau Biden, the Democratic Attorney General in Delaware and an Iraq War veteran, also lauded his father’s performance, adding that Republican jabs at the vice president’s style should be seen as a positive referendum on his performance.
“You know, look, any time that the right is going after you on style points, you know you’ve won the argument,” the younger Biden said on CNN's Starting Point. “My dad was up there and he was respectful. He was in command of the stage… I think that’s why in the spin room the only thing Republicans talked about was my dad smiling too much. I’ll take that criticism any day. ”
Biden also criticized Ryan for his stance on Afghanistan, saying he left “the door wide open” for putting additional troops in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Republican surrogates cast Biden as overly aggressive and downright rude.
Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, said Biden’s chuckling and eye-rolling was disrespectful to those Americans who have been most affected by the recession.
“I thought it was really disrespectful to the American people,” Gillespie said on Fox and Friends. “When you're talking about some very serious issues and people -- their quality of life and their jobs and falling incomes, you know, I think that that's serious. And Joe Biden seemed to at times to find those topics amusing. I'm not sure that most Americans watching felt that way.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Biden’s performance was tailored to make up for President Obama’s poor debate performance.
“People were a little frustrated with Joe Biden’s rudeness, quite honestly. Come on, let Paul answer the question,” Johnson said on Starting Point, stressing that Ryan gave a “cool, collected” performance while facing an “assault” from the vice president.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also jabbed Biden for continuously interrupting Ryan, saying that Biden’s aggression made viewers question the substance of his attacks.
“When, you know, Joe Biden continued to interrupt Paul and continued to get in his face, I think people are sort of question, okay, listen, stop it for a second, let me hear what … you and the president have done over the last four years,” Cantor said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Jonathan Miller contributed