Students critique the vice PRez debate

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?

35 thoughts on “Students critique the vice PRez debate

  1. publicrelationspro

    Personally, I don’t think the Biden was out of line. If someone is going to try to sit there and feed me some bull crap, I would also point out where they are wrong and probably smile because of how funny it is that the other person honestly believes it or believes that they can sell it to everyone else. I don’t think it was being unprofessional, I think it was more of a matter of conveying actual knowledge of the topics and not just some political garbage.

  2. Taylor Albright

    i do believe body language and appearance definitely add to the vote. Think of the debate in the 1960’s with Nixon and JFK. Everyone who was watching thought JFK won because he was more presentable, but everyone on the radio thought that Nixon won because he was so well spoked and calm,cool, and collected. Being personable and friendly, yet sticking up for what you believe in is a hard mix to get right, but when it is done correctly the viewers will respond. If someone is rude, or pushy, that comes off wrong and most of American will not respond.

  3. alex coughlan

    I agree with Kerri that Biden was a little rude at times. But to be totally honest I have found that all of the candidates have been a little rude especially to the moderators during this whole debate season.

  4. Kellie Sahagian

    I feel like Biden was a bit distracting to watch during this debate. I found it annoying with the certain faces that he would make and motions when Ryan was speaking. However, I believe that they each have a different way of speaking, and if Biden decides to respond with his actions, then so be it.

  5. Nicole Chiarella

    I did not get a chance to watch this debate but like all the others body language plays a big part. It is important to keep your composure considering you are being viewed on television by so many people. These people are the ones that take everything into consideration during the end of campaigning and debates. It is clear in your post that the smallest details matter to people so for PR people it is important to train your spokesperson who ever they may be. Sometimes it is better to keep your body language to yourself and keep your poker face on!

  6. Jessica Chalmers

    I didn’t get to see this debate so I really don’t have any comments of my own. It was interesting to see all the students comments about the reactions they had after watching the debate.

    -Jessica Chalmers

  7. Joanna Soares

    I wasn’t fond of neither Ryan or Biden during this debate. I thought they both came off rude in their own ways. The mediator however, was the star of this debate in my opinion. With assertiveness she controlled the debate and followed up responses with deeper questions to clarify responses. It was difficult to get by on her! I loved watching that aspect, but I often couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the transparency of the two men that night.

  8. Kerry Kiddoo

    Getting to know the VP and how they carry themselves is important to consider with the election. If all else fails and something happens, they are the ones taking over, correct? Their demeanor can be more criticized than the presidential candidates, though, as I view the VP as the people who stand, support and are a reflection of their Presidential candidates. Respectively, the decision will be made between Romney and Obama, but I believe getting a look at the VPs is important as well.

  9. Lauren Ciuzio

    I feel like it is important to know the Vice President candidates, but their representation should not be the the deciding factor in one’s vote. I think it is important to feel secure with an entire political party, but when it comes down to the election, the choice should be between Obama and Romney, not Biden and Ryan.

  10. Michelle Shelorke

    I did not get a chance to watch the vice presidential debate because of work but from all that I have heard from a variety of people, I agree that as a country we are split. I believe that people should not choose a president solely based on their like or dislike for the Vice President. Although they could potentially be our president one day, our focus should be on the 2 presidential candidates and their thoughts and ideas to make our country thrive. They are the ones who will be at least initially starting off the four year term and if something was to happen that the Vice President would need to come in to office, they would still have to pass their ideas through Congress before any plan was put forward for the country.

  11. Rachel

    I recently discussed with my mother my current preference toward Obama over Romney. She was surprised and exclaimed “But Joe BIden
    ?!” This reaction is understandable, considering if Biden became president I’d be forced to leave the country, but I feel people put more stock in the Presidential candidate’s performances and views than the vice presidential candidates. Honestly the vice presidential debate won’t have much sway over my vote for the next president.

  12. Kellianne

    I believe that besides the first debate, unless there is a clear winner, supporters of each candidate are going to find reasons as to why they won. I personally did not get to watch the VP debate. But, after reading the responses of your students and word of mouth, there were positives and negatives of both candidates. I can’t wait to see your blog post this week (hopefully about the debate at Hofstra)!!

  13. passportstories

    I actually really enjoyed watching this debate. Unlike the first presidential debate when President Obama clearly didn’t bring his A-game, Biden and Ryan were both well prepared and right on the money. Although I didn’t particularly like Biden’s debate style because I believe he came across as rude, this debate kept my interest. I think that Joe Biden’s attitude in this debate turned me off from the Democratic Party because he really is only a small step away from the presidency. Unfortunately for Biden, his behavior was distracting in my opinion. I wasn’t paying close attention to what he said, but how he said it since his actions often over powered his points. However, there were points that both candidates made that I supported, which made me even more confused on who to vote for! I think after the last debate I will be able to pull all of my opinions together to finally make an educated vote.

  14. Corey Wagner

    It is interesting to hear everyones stance on the VP debate. I have to say that there was no absolute clear winner. Most Romney supporters said Ryan won and most Obama supporters said Biden won. For this debate everyone seemed to be a little biased. Unfortunately Biden came off as immature but it was a little refreshing to see a politician not so polished. I think Ryan came off as too rehearsed.

  15. Caitlyn Hutchison

    I really dislike how there must always be a winner and a loser in the debates. What happened to simply leaving the decision of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses up to the public? It’s pretty obvious that the public is going to differ in opinions about what was said and who came out the victor. The debates have also seemed to turn into this free for all brawl where the candidates just go at it. There is an obvious disconnect in respect for each other and it shows.

  16. Holly Haynes

    In regards to the VP debate, I initially took the stance that Biden was horribly unprofessional. However, after talking among many of my peers in the days following, I can now say that I understand but from both standpoints. Biden was, after all, being… well, Biden. It was very characteristic of him. This being said, Ryan should have been better prepared to deal with the vice president’s demeanor and personality. Yes, Biden made Paul Ryan look inexperienced, but that’s because he is. However, I feel that Ryan still did fairly well in comparison to Biden. And who can resist Biden’s pearly whites? All in all, it was still very frustrating to watch for me, but assessing the debate with peers gave me better insight.

    As for the second debate here at Hofstra… wow! Obama returned to the stage (with the right makeup artists, might I add) looking more prepared and aggressive. This is the Obama the nation is used to seeing. The definitive moment I found during the debate was when Romney criticized the president for his reaction to the Benghazi attacks. I feel that it showed the true integrity of our president.

  17. Anand Patel

    I firmly believe that we have so many different opinions on the performances of the two candidates because of media bias. I currently am also in Prof Drucker’s “Presidential Debates and Media Literacy” classy and have since then learned after viewing the extremely different coverage style of the various media outlets involved.

    Still, depending on one’s own political leanings, one might be more likely to watch on a media outlet that matches their own political stance. For example, a Republican watching on Fox or a Democrat watching on MSNBC. This is probably why there are so many mixed reviews as to the performances of the two candidates. After this debate that Hofstra held and after hearing about the live experience as opposed to a televised one from a few lucky students, I have come to the conclusion that the editing process during the debate does indeed intend to put a spin on how the candidates are construed by the audience. Apparently seeing a debate live is vastly more different that watching it on a TV. Media bias… Get’s ya every time.

  18. Spencer MacDonald

    I think the point of the VP debate is to be aggressive. I remember Sarah Palin coming off strong in 2008 so maybe Biden was just not repeating past mistakes as I believe he came off the victor in the VP debate. Also the fact that it was a vice presidential debate kind of demands that the two be more willing to defend their running mate. Biden had to defend a controversial record and I think he did a solid job of showing his passion for the work the Obama administration has done. Paul Ryan, in my opinion, did not come off as a big defender of Mitt Romney and at times seemed uncomfortable with being there. But then, I would assume Congressmen are not used to this type of pressure.

    Biden’s aggressiveness may have annoyed some people but in my opinion it just showed me that he was passionate about the work the administration has been doing.

  19. Stephen Steglik

    Watching the VP debate was interesting to say the least. Here in front of us is a older man who is appearing to come across as rude and his opponent who comes across as a weasel…or maybe that’s just my opinion. Honestly because the President did so bad during his 1st debate performance, VP Biden had to come across as fiery and down Ryan’s throat. Especially because Ryan is half his age which would have looked awful and probably would have furthered the Romney Ryan ticket’s march in popularity. In hindsight we will be able to approach the debate with clarity and how it effected the outcome of Nov. 6th’s decision but as for me, a proud Democrat, I was finally pleased to see someone from that administration give Paul Ryan w what he deserved…a swift kick in his malarkey. All seriousness, VP debates often are filled with “zingers” and jabs at one another so it didn’t surprise me.

  20. kerrisheehan

    Personally I feel that during the vice presidential debate Biden was merely acting like himself. Although I have only seen him speak in a few other instances he has always been rather pompous, but that is what made people like him. Often politicians must act like they have no emotions and act very regal, however Biden has disregarded this thought. Many Americans find this refreshing and like being able to relate to someone who is helping run the country.

    I think that Paul Ryan was okay during the debate. He didn’t blow me out of the water, but I also don’t think that he was awful. I don’t agree with any of his views, but based solely on perform he held his own better than I predicted he would.

  21. Kevin Tamerler

    The lead up to the debate, while really fun and engaging at times, at other times it made me feel more like I was at Penn State in the lead-up to a big football game than like I was about to watch two men engage in a reasoned exposition and contrast of their policy positions. It was less like considering an election with implications that could potentially change lives from Illinois to Islamabad, and more like rooting for your favorite football team to score a touchdown.

    Speaking of football, Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz as moderators after Jim Lehrer are like getting the real refs back in the NFL.

  22. Kristin Mancuso

    I personally feel as if all the debates continue to lack substance, which therefore leads me to take notice of how the candidates present themselves to the public. Obama and Romney have failed to impress me thus far and I feel as both candidates and their VP’s have come of as immature and arrogant at times. Romney and Obama have a difficult time remaining calm while the other is speaking therefore almost making it impossible to take what they say seriously. The debate has in a sense turned into a game of “tattle tale” and I am sick of hearing solely about what they will do for the economy. Instead, I’d like more detailed and accurate game plans for the future. In saying this, I hope the final debate is approached more professionally by both candidates as I still remain undecided.

  23. Christine Brazeau

    The vice presidential debate was definitely an interesting one. When it came to looking at the way each man conducted himself, I felt that Biden stepped a little too far with the smiling. Although I can see where people may think it was charismatic and relatable, I saw it as very condescending. People believed that in the debate a week before between Romney and Obama that Romney’s smirk was too much. However, Biden was flashing his pearly whites the entire time. I felt that Biden was looking down at Ryan as if he was so much better than him. People were very focused on the way each candidate looked, and it’s definitely one of the biggest PR issues to deal with as we’ve seen analyzing these debates time and time again.

    The presidential debate here at Hofstra was a huge success, and I can’t wait to discuss it further in class to see the differing opinions!

  24. Sherrell B.

    The fact that Vice President Biden rolled his eyes and made countless smirks made him stand out in a unprofessional manner. However, some of the remarks that Ryan made him seem a bit immature. With all that said, this made for me another cloudy debate and I have my fingers crossed. I hope the next debates makes everything a bit clearer.

  25. Alecia Detka

    I honestly cannot begin to describe my excitement for the debate tomorrow! Hofstra campus has truly erupted with schoo pride and I am proud to be a part of it.

    Regarding the vice presidential debate, I have to say that although there are mixed reviews, after the first presidential debate both parties needed to send out specific messages during the VP debate. Biden needed to prove that the democrats could fight back, and Ryan needed to remain cool in order to keep the strides Romney made in the first debate. No matter which side I support, I admit that both sides seemed to play their parts too well which resulted in the mixed opinions–from Biden’s rudeness to Ryan’s poor posture.

  26. Julie Rafatpanah

    I’m personally a big Biden fan, and Biden’s performance strengthened my opinion. I hope that at the debate this Tuesday, Obama will take a cue from Biden and act a bit more aggressively; unfortunately, in the first debate, Obama came off as passive and unhappy. If Obama comes on stronger to Romney, it’ll be much more effective in changing the mind of undecided voters.

  27. hillary alexandre

    In my opinion, Biden’s performance was a fresh awakening for the Democratic party. Obama’s performance at the first debate was a disaapointment and not like him at all. Biden was able to add a little spice on behalf of the democratic party and show that it is possible to make remarks and facial expressions that express exactly how a politician feels. Unlike Obama whose only expression included disaapointment with frequent head shakes.
    At the second presidential debate at Hofstra, hopefully Obama can pull through and show off his impeccable speaking skills that we all know he posesses. At the same time he has to make sure that he can pull out points that will stump Romney in order to rally more of the votes from the swing states.

  28. Jenny Rowe

    My love for politics stems from watching interesting performances like during the VP debate last week. I’m already a fan of Joe Biden, so I enjoyed his reactions towards Paul Ryan. I do not think Ryan was expecting Biden to act the way he did, which definitely made him look lost. The first presidential debate was disappointing, so I’m hoping the debate here at Hofstra will be somewhat entertaining!

  29. brittanywalshr

    From my personal point of view I think that Biden’s style in the debate was extremely strange and rather entertaining however, through the laughs and smirks he was sharp, aggressive and knowlegable. His behavior was condescending toward Ryan, giving the impression that everything Ryan said was either untrue or completely ridiculous. Biden came prepared with a rebuttal for everything and then some which is what I felt was lacking from President Obama in the previous debate. He took control of the conversation and I feel this attitude worked in his favor. Though his personality seems to be a bit crazy, his knowledge and passion for the issues at hand was evident. I feel that Ryan is very smart and articulate however, I don’t think he was prepared for Biden’s over the top behavior and was a bit intimidated. I think he handled himself as best as possible, however he was not memorable and could not divert the attention from Joe Biden’s big smile and loud laughter.

  30. Maureen Moran

    Vice President Biden was rude, self-righteous and condescending. His “actions” spoke much louder than any of his words. I was appalled at clear disrespect. I am even more convinced that the United States of America needs Romney/Ryan leading our country by their example.

  31. Nicole Risell

    I believe Ryan performed better because he came off as more professional and mature. While I enjoyed Biden’s sass throughout the night, I don’t think it was appropriate for that stage. It didn’t do anything for his image and it made it seem like he wasn’t taking it seriously.

  32. Leia Schultz

    I watched the debate between Biden and Ryan with a group of my friends, including both conservatives and liberals. While we all didn’t agree with each other on the issues, we came to the conclusion that the debates leave us feeling unsatisfied in terms of what we expect from this nation’s leadership.

    I agree with Kerri that Vice President Biden acted much more aggressively towards his opponent than President Obama did during the first presidential debate. Biden seemed to dislike having a younger man trying to assert dominance over him. I thought that Ryan held his own. He was obviously annoyed by Biden’s interruptions, but his demeanor was calm and collected throughout the debate.

    Looking forward, I’m eager to hear the Obama and Romney engage in their second debate. It will be an important one to be sure.

  33. cmadse1

    Its interesting how different people have such different opinions after watching presidential debates. I think it’s a personal preference whether you pay more attention to style or content. I personally pay more attention to style and the was a candidate represents themselves. While watching the VP debate I thought Paul Ryan won, because I focused on style. Based on content, Joe Biden probably won.

    I’m really looking forward to the debate on Tuesday! I think this could be a make or break moment for President Obama and I’m excited to see which way the election goes.

  34. Jenny Zheng

    As far as substance goes, this debate was better than the first presidential debate. Biden pretty much knocked Ryan out of the ring with his well practiced debating skills and knowledge of foreign policy.

    I also thought it was a little unprofessional of Biden to be laughing at Ryan, but at the same time, Ryan did say some incredulous things. Ryan was very clearly nervous. He would take gulps of water every time it was Biden’s turn to speak, it was almost like he didn’t know what to do with his hands. This turned out to be a running gag between my friends when we were watching it, and it was mentioned on Twitter. Next to Biden, Paul Ryan looked like a little boy in an ill-fitting suit.

    Martha Raddatz did a great job as moderator (not that the bar was set very high after Jim Lehrer’s performance). She was pretty cut throat at times, but she was fair.

    I think Biden saved Obama in this round, but I guess we’ll have to see what happens on Tuesday.

  35. Chloe Lambros

    I think that there was definitely mixed reviews and they do speak to both style and substance. The mix of reviews provide many standpoints that convey different reactions to the different speaking styles of each speaker.

    Reading this from a PR standpoint, I do have to agree that Biden did not pick the best way to reply to his opponent. Rolling his eyes and conveying other unnecessary facial expressions will not help him or be in hi favor. To make a good impression, one must always remember that appearance and the way we carry ourselves sends a message to those watching. That is key thing to remember in PR.

    With all the misled reactions it seems that most were taken by Ryan rather than Biden. This will be an interesting turn out, especially after the debate on Tuesday!


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