How Biden's Playing in Real America, Where Real Americans Live

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 12 2012 11:15 AM

How Biden's Playing in Real America, Where Real Americans Live

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- I've landed and acquired seating at Grounded, a downtown cafe, before Vice President Biden campaigns in southwest Wisconsin. At the risk of becoming a parody of Tom Friedman, I can describe my experience at the car rental counter -- an Obama supporter named Sheryl, who'd signed up full time with the company after years in part time jobs, said she enjoyed Biden's performance but his pugnaciousness might "bite him in the butt."

The local paper runs with an AP story on the debate that doesn't much play up Biden's -- oh God, this word -- optics.

On television's split screens, Biden's body language — a montage of pained smiles, winces, head shakes and eye rolls — often screamed incredulity when Ryan was speaking. "I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground," Ryan shot back at Biden at one point, "but I think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other."

Andrew Kaczynski trawls the Newseum site for more local papers, and the pattern that emerges is not a written focus on Biden's body language, but photo choices that remind voters of how hammy he was. Most of the leads are the same AP stories with different photo choices. An exception, here in Wisconsin, is the Craig Gilbert lead in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. This seems like a phrasing Democrats can live with: Biden "took after Republicans with far more aggression than President Barack Obama displayed in his widely panned Denver debate, interrupting Ryan, smiling, laughing, scoffing, wincing and expressing his disdain in every conceivable way for the other party's ideas and opinions." The busy Republican spin is that Biden laughed at the issues themselves, which would make him a lunatic. They can count on Saturday Night Live making fun of Biden, because Jason Sudeikis's impression is exactly this brash and loud. The sideshow distracts from just how forgettable Paul Ryan was.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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