The Vice Presidential Debate’s winner? Not a candidate, but the debate’s moderator, ABC’s Martha Raddatz.
Raddatz asked questions on a wide span of issues, ranging from foreign policy to abortion, and pressed the candidates to be exacting in their answers. “Be specific,” she pushed Biden when she didn’t find his answer to a question on Libya to be sufficient.
She also had a pretty easy act to follow. Last week’s presidential debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, was called “unconscious” and “a disaster.” His pushover performance even inspired a “Silent Jim Lehrer” Twitter feed.
“She did a good job. She kept it focused without interfering too much. I felt like the questions she posed were important questions - very relevant to the concern of most Americans,” Ted Strickland, Ohio’s former Democratic governor, said after the debate.
Lehrer, as Strickland put it, “allowed [last week’s] debate to become unfocused.” He also took issue with the fact that, “There was no discussion of issues that are related to women — like equal pay for equal work. There was no discussion of the choice issue.”
Even Michael Steel, a spokesman for Paul Ryan said he “thought she was clearly more assertive,” even if the resulting answers were “no more disciplined.”
The pro-Raddatz sentiment played out on Twitter — dozens of users posted tweets asking if they could vote for the moderator come November. “Raddatz for prez.”
Political reporters and commentators largely agreed:
A word about Raddatz: she is making the case for Jim Lehrer’s retirement. http://t.co/XDuXLVnw— Andrew Sullivan
I’m a defender of Lehrer’s performance in the first debate, but Martha Raddatz is doing a really excellent job here.— Ezra Klein
Raddatz already WAY better than the last guy— Bill Maher
Martha Raddatz for moderator of everything.— daveweigel
Raddatz also kept the audience engaged and armed with unexpected questions, like this one she asked of Ryan: “Should the U.S. have apologized for Americans burning Korans in Afghanistan? Should the U.S. apologize for U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses?”
With questions like those, she asked the candidates to provide answers that required they draw on their moral compasses, rather than simply on party politics. She especially put this tactic on show at the end of the debate, when she asked the candidates about how their personal religious beliefs informed their views on abortion, and finally — what individual character traits made them fit for the job.
Critics largely agreed that Biden reigned superior in the debate, leaving some Republicans to discredit Raddatz. “She clearly interrupted,” said Bay Buchanan, a Romney campaign advisor. “It got to be ridiculous.”