Showing that on substance, they’ve got nothing, Republicans are set to spend the day
arguing that Joe Biden lost Thursday night’s debate because he laughed at Paul Ryan. In fact, undecided voters thought Biden won, according to a CBS poll and an NBC focus group. But Republicans seem to be hoping that if they spin a retroactive win in the media, what actually happened will matter less.
Strategy one is misdirection: the attempt to get the media to focus on the fact that Biden laughed rather than what he was laughing at so that Ryan gets a pass. In that vein, the RNC put together a web video of Biden laughing.
Strategy two is blaming the moderator.
Sarah Palin, who Biden had to treat much more gently four years ago lest he be accused of beating up on a girl, joined Rove in that camp. She pretty much admitted that Biden rolled right over Ryan, but blamed Martha Raddatz for letting it happen:
“Really tough format, Sean, for someone like a Paul Ryan or anybody else up against Joe Biden, when the moderator allowed one candidate to absolutely run roughshod over the conversation, over the opponent,” Palin told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity on Thursday night. “That’s a tough format. It reminded me … of watching a musk ox run across the tundra with somebody underfoot. And in this case, when it came to style, it was Paul Ryan underfoot because of the moderator allowing Biden to do the interrupting, to kind of take control of the conversation.”
Strategy three is lecturing us on how Joe Biden lost the debate because his refusal to nod seriously and accept Paul Ryan’s lies as they came is somehow in conflict with Heartland Values of Politeness. These etiquette experts are led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who said “It was not the kind of thing that is very helpful to Joe Biden and his image with voters in the heartland of America who are taught to be polite.” (This is Huckabee’s second recent stand for politeness: in August he was “shocked” by Republican efforts to get Todd Akin out of the Missouri Senate race.) The president of the Dick Armey-founded Institute for Policy Innovation and a former Joe Walsh (R-Deadbeat Dad) staffer joined Huckabee in being all frowny about heartland voters.
When President Obama lost last week’s debate on style, his campaign turned the discussion to substance. It’s telling that style is all Republicans seem to want to talk about in the aftermath of the vice presidential debate.