From Clint Eastwood to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, Joe Biden was a popular punchline at the RNC. Ted Cruz, a Tea Partier running for Senate, quipped that Hurricane Isaac was a blessing in disguise, since it kept Joe Biden away from the convention. Cruz also joked that Joe Biden would be the surprise speaker at the convention, since “every time he opens his mouth , he gets Republican votes.” (Presumably Cruz meant votes for Republicans, not Republican votes…you get it.) Governor turned pundit Mike Huckabee gave Biden a hard time for not giving as much to charity as Romney, and Paul Ryan has opened stump speeches with Biden jokes.
Biden, Past And Present
But as gaffe-prone as the vice president may be, he’s still more popular than Ryan. Biden’s approval rating is currently 44%, six points above Ryan.
It’s no wonder that the right’s attacks on Biden failed to land; what the Republicans couldn’t have foreseen as they cracked their jokes was what an embarrassment and liability Paul Ryan would become. Immediately after delivering his RNC speech – the speech that was supposed to be chock full of policy and shine a light on what an impressive wonk he was – the vice presidential nominee was lambasted for his multitude of lies.
And while the GOP was counting on Joe Biden’s not so honest past providing them with some laughs and leverage, their blows missed the mark. It’s true that in 1987 Biden was accused of plagiarism in one of his campaign speeches, and had met with similar accusations in law school. But those incidents were 25 years ago, and the current image of the much-maligned VP has more to do with The Onion than the ’80s.
In The Onion, Biden is the shirtless, Trans Am owning headache of the Obama administration whose antics have gotten him banned from Dave & Buster. In real life, Biden’s biggest gaffes have been either too much honesty – like calling health care reform a “big f—ing deal” and endorsing marriage equality – or total brain farts like asking a disabled state senator to “stand up.”
Those gaffes seem quaint when compared with Paul Ryan’s constant lies and distortions. And Uncle Joe, the blue collar guy who lost his wife and infant daughter in a car accident decades ago? Who choked up when his son Beau nominated him for vice president and called him his hero? He’s a lot more likable and human than the Romney/Ryan ticket – and Republicans were foolish not to realize that.
A Very Public Debate
While Paul Ryan may be able to mock Joe Biden from afar on the campaign trail, the two are going to debate each other in October. And contrary to conservative chest-beating, it’s going to be far from a blowout for Ryan.
After Biden’s DNC speech, Current TV pundit John Fugelsang said of the VP debates, “It’s gonna be Clarence Darrow versus Draco Malfoy up there.” He may not be far off. Not only have Ryan’s lies cast him into suspicion with moderate and progressive voters, his baffling lies about mundane topics have painted him as possessing all the worst qualities of a spoiled adolescent. His love of Ayn Rand hasn’t exactly helped him on that front either.
Personality aside, it still doesn’t look good for Ryan. The first debate between the two is on foreign and domestic policy, the second is on foreign policy alone. Biden served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for years, and chaired it for three years. During that time, he met with 150 leaders from dozens of countries.
Even if Ryan is willing to talk specifics on policy for the first time all campaign, it’s unlikely that his youth and charisma will be enough to best Biden. Biden may be a rambling old man who likes trains, but he knows his stuff and has the resume to prove it. And Ryan’s intellect has been touted enough that Biden can pounce on him without seeming cruel, as he would have in the 2008 debates against Sarah Palin.
Like all political analysis, only time will tell. But given both the respective records and recent public image of the two candidates, the GOP may have been a bit hasty slagging Joe Biden.