Before the vice-presidential debate last night, I had hypothesized that the only way it could make any difference in the presidential contest was if the incumbent made a gaffe so severe it forced the Obama campaign to spend the weekend playing defense. And as I read numerous accounts about the debate, I first concluded that it would make no difference whatsoever, save perhaps to fire up the Democratic base.
Until I read Peggy Noonan’s reflection on the Ryan-Biden face-off. And her words, coupled with videos of women in focus groups, remarks of female pundits, posts by female friends on Facebook and in the blogosphere caused me to reconsider my initial read on the reaction. Like those women, Peggy also found Biden’s boorish behavior last night bothersome with “Mr. Biden’s style” poisoning his content”:
. . . Mr. Biden was so childishly manipulative that it will be surprising if independents and undecideds liked what they saw.
National Democrats keep confusing strength with aggression and command with sarcasm. Even the latter didn’t work for Mr. Biden. The things he said had the rhythm and smirk of sarcasm without the cutting substance.
And so the Romney-Ryan ticket emerged ahead. Its momentum was neither stopped nor slowed and likely was pushed.
Emphasis added. She wasn’t the only woman turned off by Biden’s antics. Over at Powerline, Steven Hayward reported that “Most of the early snap polls showed that Biden’s antics didn’t play well, especially with women.” Reader Kurt alerted me to Ann Althouse’s reaction:
How did the gender balance change over the course of the evening? I’ll bet people — especially women — left in droves and the ratings were overall much worse than those already-low numbers say. And for the people that instinctively — with good human sense — clicked away, what was lodged in their mind was revulsion toward Biden. That’s what happened to me. But then I stuck around, enduring the (second hand) brow-beating and bullying.
And this got me wondering. Maybe the Athena of punditry is on to something. The Romney-Ryan momentum may well have been pushed along by last night’s debate, particularly among women. It may well cause “soft” supporters of the Democratic ticker to question their commitment to the president and his party and may push wavering female voters further away. . . .
It does seem women reacted more harshly to Biden’s boorishness than did men. Most men, it seemed reacted with mockery, women with disgust.
FROM THE COMMENTS: Joy McCann/Little Miss Attila reacted in a manner similar to that of Ann Althouse:
I’m a political animal, and I found it hard to watch because of Biden’s relentless mocking of Rep. Ryan. I found myself looking at the clock over and over, counting down the minutes that I would be subjected to this grotesque display.
The Obama campaign, if it put Biden up to this, was cannibalizing its support by bracing up true believers with “aggressiveness” while displaying entirely unpresidential behavior that hollowed out support among women and centrist-leaning Democrats.
AND AGAIN FROM THE COMMENTS, the ever resourceful Joy McCann/Little Miss Attila reminds us to check out this link, http://ricochet.com/main-feed/You-Want-To-Win-The-Debate-But-You-Also-Want-To-Win-The-Post-Debate, where Mollie Hemingway said that last night, Joe Biden was “embodying everything that women hate about talking with men.”
UPDATE: Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson includes a message from one of his readers who echoes my observations on how women reaction to the debate:
My conservative daughter was disgusted by Biden. The young female independent was appalled at Biden’s rude and condescending behavior, and was impressed with Ryan’s calm demeanor and knowledge. The staunch Democrats were disappointed with Biden’s inappropriate behavior. The older Democrats were not impressed by Ryan but the younger Democrats felt Ryan performed pretty well.
. . . .
I suspect his performance did harm to the ticket on the key demographic of women – they generally don’t appreciate rude and condescending behavior.
UP-UPDATE: It’s not just my anecdotal evidence. Michael Barone says, “Polling suggests Obama lost ground with women, and the CNN instant poll showed Biden scoring badly with them.“