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Visual source: Newseum

Vice president Joe Biden drank Republican Paul Ryan's milkshake last night.

Full transcript and video here.

Biden delivered an eviscerating performance because he hit a trifecta that's wholly absent on the Romney-Ryan ticket: (1) deep knowledge; (2) huge heart and (3) brutal honesty. When all those three come together, you get what we saw last night.

The New York Times editorial board:

Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. would not sit still for a parade of misleading and often blatantly untruthful descriptions of the state of the economy and the Republican prescriptions for it. [...] Mr. Ryan’s performance on foreign affairs and military issues was at best disingenuous and at worst bumbling
TJ Walker at Forbes:
Unlike the first Presidential Debate, the Vice Presidential debate had two active, engage opponents who actually showed up. Conservatives who are fans of Paul Ryan should be happy that their man came across as intelligent, articulate, mature and on-message. However, Joe Biden wildly exceed expectations. Biden, who has previously been known for gaffes, was transformed tonight into a mix of Bill Clinton, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow. Liberals and Progressive Democrats could not be happier with Biden.

Biden actually debated Ryan. At every turn, Biden attacked, listened, rebutted and then attacked even more forcefully. Ryan was able to defend without making any major blunders, but Ryan sounded as though he were delivering talking points.

Joan Walsh at Salon:
Joe Biden wiped the floor with Paul Ryan at Thursday night’s debate, but we might have to spend a day debating whether he laughed too much while doing it.

On Medicare, on taxes, on abortion, on middle class opportunity and on foreign policy, Biden made Ryan look like he was trying out for the college debate team, and on substance, he pinned him to his and Mitt Romney’s least popular policies.

Republicans are trying to push back against Biden's clear victory by whining that he laughed too much during the debate.

Well, yes, Biden laughed during the debate but that's only because the Romney-Ryan plan is, to use a word that surprisingly was not used during last night's debate, literally laughable on its face. Claiming you're going to make a $5 trillion tax cut without getting rid of vital middle class deductions like those for mortgage interest and the like doesn't pass the straight face test. It's comical. It violates basic principles of arithmetic. It's a joke.

Moreover, how can you not laugh when Ryan serves up such deliciously comical and ironic lines like "Mitt Romney's a car guy!" Well, shucks, Ryan, we sure knew that. He loves cars so darn much he's gonna build his cars a car elevator. I give credit to Biden for not busting out in a fit of belly laughs right then and there.

From Bloomberg's editors:

We could decry these developments as inappropriate for a serious debate. Forgive us if we resist the temptation. First, serious is not a synonym for dull. Part of the art of politics is getting people to pay attention, and a little humor and theatricality can serve the cause.

Second, in debates perhaps more so than on the campaign trail, style matters. Biden’s avuncular persona -- whether you find it endearing or condescending -- is useful information for an undecided voter. So is Ryan’s wonky persona -- whether you find it refreshing or hard-hearted. [...] As Biden and Ryan showed, however, it is possible to have a debate between two ideologically antagonistic candidates that is informative, spirited, civil and even entertaining. We hope their running mates -- especially the president -- were taking notes for their next meeting on Oct. 16.

Frank Bruni at The New York Times:
Seldom have the words “my friend” been laced with so much arsenic. Joe Biden used them again and again Thursday night in reference to Paul Ryan, even as he painted the young Congressman as callow, shallow, mendacious and misinformed.

Seldom has a split screen yielded such vigorous facial calisthenics. When Ryan talked, Biden didn’t just listen. He smiled with disbelief. He smiled even wider with derision. He whipped his head this way and that, laughing scornfully, glancing heavenward in exasperation. This was listening as an aerobic exercise, muscle-taxing and calorie-burning, and the message that he conveyed with it was clear: this widow-peaked pipsqueak to my side has a lot of nerve, a lot to learn and no place at the same table where I’m sitting.

Alan Schroeder at CNN:
Let's give Ryan credit where credit is due. Before the debate he predicted that Biden would come at him "like a cannonball," and indeed he did. Though it wasn't always pretty, Biden managed to dominate the evening, an old lion who had no intention of being taken down by the young gun sitting across the table.

Like a master thespian on opening night, Biden conspicuously deployed pretty much his entire bag of performing tricks: dramatic line-readings, huge smiles, exaggerated laughter, asides to the audience. As over-the-top as some of this became, it got the job done. For much of the debate the super-charged veep kept his opponent in a defensive crouch. At times it looked as if Ryan was afraid Biden might ground him and take away the car keys.

Even Joe Klein, who admited that "my inner wonk sided with the criticism that Ryan raised," conceeded that Biden flayed Ryan:
[O]n the most important question, though, Biden did well — he did not seem goofy. A little over the top at times, especially when he was engaged in aerobic mugging while Ryan attempted to peddle his wares. Passionate, frustrated, but not goofy. Ryan did seem borderline geeky. At several points, talking about the economy, he rattled off a near incomprehensible string of statistics without anything that came close to humanity intervening. There was not one moment when Biden wasn’t human, wasn’t himself. He had awkward moments — but not one phony moment. [...] The Vice President was especially good when Ryan tried to raise Biden’s history of gaffes, after Biden mentioned Romney’s 47% soliloquy. “But I always mean what I say,” Biden said, totally comfortable in his skin. “And so does Romney.”
A scathing analysis from Richard Cohen at The Washington Post:
Biden dominated, looking forceful and ultimately confident. He may be a hack, but he’s one with heart.

Ryan, in contrast, came across as steely cold, a concoction of talking points and a bit too actuarial. He has the handicap of youth and relative inexperience and sometimes just didn’t know what he was talking about. [...]

Biden may be the last Irish pol still operating on the national stage. He eschews talking points. He’s emotional, bombastic – but he seems real. He may be an old fashioned politician, but Ryan seemed a new kind of politician – one of those plastic guys with red ties and an updated version of Brylcreem -- “a little dab’ll do ya,” – in his hair. He looked boyish.

E.J. Dionne makes a very important point -- Democrats needed this type of performance:
Biden was hot, avuncular, occasionally sarcastic, and always engaged. He laughed a lot, and never let a point slip. I am certain that the cheers in Democratic living rooms around the country were as loud as the sighs of relief. That alone was vital to Obama. Demoralized Democrats themselves contributed to the story line of Obama’s failure in the first debate. The days of demoralization are over.
UPDATE: Hat tip to user frsbdg for this fantastic Esquire piece by Charles Pierce:
For years, Paul Ryan has been the shining champion of some really terrible ideas, and of a dystopian vision of the political commonwealth in which the poor starve and the elderly die ghastly, impoverished deaths, while all the essential elements of a permanent American oligarchy were put in place. This has garnered him loving notices from a lot of people who should have known better. The ideas he could explain were bad enough, but the profound ignorance he displayed on Thursday night on a number of important questions, including when and where the United States might wind up going to war next, and his blithe dismissal of any demand that he be specific about where he and his running mate are planning to take the country generally, was so positively terrifying that it calls into question Romney's judgment for putting this unqualified greenhorn on the ticket at all. Joe Biden laughed at him? Of course, he did. The only other option was to hand him a participation ribbon and take him to Burger King for lunch.

You know what's the difference between Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan?

Lipstick.

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