The media’s 24 hour news cycle has a lot of time to fill and this season’s has allowed far too much time spent analyzing who “won” each debate. Students in my “Public Relations and the Presidency” class have been asked to submit a brief reaction paper after the debates, contrasting the candidates’ style vs. substance, with a critical eye on performance. In class discussions and in the papers this week, my students were split on both candidates’ performances, which mirrored much of the nation’s reaction.
“Biden was assertive in a way that Obama was not,” wrote Kerri, “I do believe that Biden was a little rude at times.” “I found Ryan to be more confident and consistent,” noted Kristin, “From a PR standpoint, it was immature for Biden to roll his eyes and give unnecessary smiles.” But some students warmed to the vice president’s persona. “Biden came across as extremely relatable, friendly and trustworthy,” said Caitlyn. Anand liked Joe Biden’s look as well as his demeanor. “…his facial expressions and other eccentricities (made) for a more enjoyable viewing experience, especially his ever-bright teeth…Biden was on point, and he did extremely well at conducting himself whilst still adding an air of humor to the mix.”
Students’ reactions to Paul Ryan were equally mixed. Kristen wrote, “I found him to be the bigger person and more mature. He carried himself more professionally and to me, showed more respect than Vice President Biden.” Kevin observed, “Ryan sounded reasonable at every turn, repeatedly listening to the moderator, obeying the rules.” Jeanette didn’t see a strong performance by the congressman. “He looked like he was a little lost,” she wrote. Corey found Ryan’s “posture to be a little goofy and awkward at times. A plus for Ryan was that he came off kind of sexy in a goofy way, and after seeing him at the debate I definitely think he’s hot, but still ignorant.” Talk about a mixed review! But it does speak to both style and substance. And much like the media, no clear winner was declared.
Hofstra hosts the next debate this Tuesday! Your thoughts?