Unlike last week's presidential debate, there was no clear winner this time around.
But the for dozens of people who attended Patch's public showing of the vice presidential debate at the Rosebud Cinema in Wauwatosa, Vice President Joe Biden might have beaten U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan by the thinnest of margins.
If it had been a football game, you would have to say it came down to the last seconds — with the final play disputed.
On style points, the consensus was that Biden was penalized heavily for smiling and laughing at Ryan, and drew personal fouls for interrupting him. Most people on both sides felt that way.
But some also said Ryan’s smirking, and playing fast and loose with facts set him back a few yards, too.
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- Live blog replay: A look back at our real-time coverage
On substance, Biden may have had the slight edge with experience — although by no means everyone agreed, and no one’s mind was changed.
It came down to those willing to put partisanship aside and judge on their honest gut reactions.
Who would be your drinking buddy?
“Paul Ryan is my congressman, he’s a real nice guy,” said Ray McKee of Elm Grove, a former Wauwatosa police officer. “He’s probably just too dour. That’s the way he is. He was fine, but Joe held his own. He’s a very interesting guy, good speaker.
“I’m a Republican. I try not to be biased, and it won’t swing my vote. Joe would have to walk on water to get my vote," McKee added. “But Joe had to be aggressive. You kind of want them to go for the jugular once in a while. And that’s what this was, two different styles.”
Ryan “was aggressive, too, in his own wonky way,” McKee said. “But if I wanted to have a beer with one of the two — I’d go with Joe. He’s just a more interesting, colorful guy.”
Better than a wedding for politically opposed pals
Dennis Rechcygl and Pat LaBreque from Sanbornton, NH, were in town for a wedding and came out with Pat’s bosom friend Christine McLaughlin. The two women used to work together at a Milwaukee public relations firm, LeBreque a graphic designer and McLaughlin a writer. Each thought the other was the best at her craft.
But, “politically, we’re polar opposites,” McLaughlin said.
“This is probably the highlight of my trip,” LaBreque said, “coming out to this event. Way better than a wedding.”
After the tilt, LaBreque said she was put off by Biden’s style.
“I’m a Romney fan,” she said. “I really didn’t appreciate Biden’s attitude. In a normal debate, I would have really liked to have seen them both… serious. I don’t need the smiles, I don’t need the smirks, I don’t need the laughs — I just want to hear the words. And I really feel that Biden interfered in the debate with his behavior.
“I’m really sorry that happened, because I wanted to listen to him. I just couldn’t put aside my anger," LaBreque added. "So, I think the tone of the debate is going to decide it, not the words, and that’s too bad. I’d rather have had just a serious debate without the emotion.”
Her friend McLaughlin certainly agreed with that sentiment — but turned it around.
“I thought that Biden did do a better job of answering the actual questions that were asked, and not just going off to the talking points,” she said. “I am an American citizen, and I want answers and suggestions and plans.
“I don’t care who wins a silly debate," she said. "That’s irrelevant to the American people winning. What I want to know is, are we getting someplace, are we protected? We are working harder than ever before, and I don’t like the suggestion that many of us are somehow slacking.”
Tie goes to the savvy veteran – despite his demeanor
“I don’t think there’s a winner,” said Julia Bauer of Racine, with the debate two-thirds over. “There’re both doing very well. I’m surprised that Ryan has stepped up as much as he has — I’ll give him that. But I think Biden is obviously more experienced, he has more facts and is — a better leader.”
“But there’s no clear winner. Especially about the war in Afghanistan. Biden is adamant about being out, and telling everyone we’re going to be out in 2014, and Ryan is not going to commit to that, he’s not saying that’s exactly when he’d be out – might be sooner, might be later, whatever, he’s flexible."
As for demeanor, Bauer did find Biden a bit grating.
“Way too much chuckling,” she said. “But I think his interruptions are valid. That’s all right.”
Bauer brought her grandson, Luke, who at 9 years old, and wearing a Yankees cap (he was born in New York) would rather be at a political debate with Grandma than home watching a baseball game.
“I just think it’s interesting,” Luke said – but he had no opinion on who won.
Family feels final minute was most telling
The Zydek family — Steve and Heather live in Wauwatosa — made a reunion of it when Steve’s brother Dave, who lives in Hinsdale, IL, was planning to come up for a professional conference. When they told their mom and dad, Barbara and Stanley, about the debate, they came up from Algonquin, IL.
“My brother told me about a viewing event,” Dave Zydek said, “and I’d never watched a debate with a live audience before, so I thought that would be kind of cool.”
Steve Zydek said: “What brings me here is I’m encouraged by the communal aspect of trying to bring people together in a common space to get in touch with what’s going on politically, nationally and locally – that’s what brought us here.”
Barbara Zydek said, before the debate started, that the whole family shared strong, common political views — but she still hoped to bring an open mind and a neutral attitude to the session.
Stanley Zydek hinted at where things stood, though.
“I voted for Obama, and I’m pretty likely vote for Obama again, although that isn’t absolutely certain,” he said. “I don’t think he’s done all that well. But I do not much like your young man from Wisconsin.”
Afterward, Stanley acknowledged it had been a see-saw battle, found Ryan’s smirking just as bad as Biden’s chuckling, and said it was the final minute that put it all in perspective for him.
“In their closing statements,” he said, with the rest of the Zydeks nodding in agreement, “Biden sounded sincere, straightforward, and spoke from the heart about his beliefs as an American.
“Ryan gave us a commercial, a memorized spiel. It was all talking points. It felt artificial, and that’s who I feel he is.”