Dr. Owen’s Election Scorecard - October 12

Editor’s note: This post is part of a weekly series by Dr. Owen that we will feature on on weekends until Election Day. They are part of a blog being run by Affan Chowdhry of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail. The blog series will focus on providing a weekly campaign scorecard for each candidate.

This week's full blog post can be read at the Globe and Mail's website here.

The Romney campaign gained some momentum this week in the wake of Mr. Romney’s solid performance in the first presidential debate. The media’s horse race coverage played up changes in the polls in favor of Mr. Romney, although this post-debate bounce appeared to be small and short-lived.  After a lackluster debate performance followed by public scoldings by Democratic heavyweights  like James Carville, President Obama sought to change the dynamic as he took to the stump.  He seemed to be channeling his more engaged and hard-hitting 2008 campaign persona, and claimed that he has been “too polite” to Mr. Romney.

Vice presidential debates do not change the course of campaigns, and even Washington was distracted by the Major League baseball playoffs involving local teams.  Still, political junkies looking forward to an energetic exchange between the vice presidential candidates were not disappointed.  In an era of incessant media scrutiny, Mr. Biden’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to politics can be a liability.  Last night this tactic served him well, as Biden unplugged kept Mr. Ryan on the defensive and the debates moving along.  Mr. Ryan was articulate and competently reinforced the Republican campaign’s key talking points about taxes and the economy.  But Mr. Biden’s snarky side comments—calling Ryan’s statements “malarkey” and “a bunch of stuff”—made for better copy.  Mr. Biden was undeterred by the split-screen television presentation which showed his facial expression ranging from amused to annoyed.  He gained favor with Democratic partisans and aggravated Republicans who didn’t like him to begin with.  His performance enlivened debate watch parties where viewers played drinking games based on how many times Mr. Biden called Mr. Ryan “friend.”

The real winner of the debate may have been moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News who managed to maintain a semblance of order in the free-wheeling debate format.  She asked tough questions that required the candidates to reflect on their personal and political sides. She raised the abortion issue by asking the two Roman Catholic candidates how their faith influenced their work in politics and their views.  She has, though, come under fire by Fox News for not keeping Mr. Biden more firmly under wraps.