BOWLING GREEN, Ohio. — Joe Biden’s laughs have legs.
The dismissive and derisive side of the vice president is the image that is sticking around in the minds of many voters in Ohio after last week’s debate with Paul Ryan.
At a stop at Bowling Green State University on Saturday, Ryan was repeatedly stopped and congratulated — not for winning the debate, but for putting up with his sparring partner.
Greeting a group of three class of ‘92 BGSU football players at a tailgate, Ryan quipped to one particularly large man, “Let me guess, you were the place kicker right?
“Defensive end, or tackle?” Ryan asked seriously. “Defensive end,” the man responded, before congratulating Ryan on keeping his cool against Biden.
“We were really impressed that you kept your composure,” he said. “We collectively could not have kept our composure. That was awesome.”
“You smoked Biden! You smoked him,” another man shouted from the bleachers as Ryan walked the sidelines.
Biden’s laughing was instantly seized upon by Republicans as their way to claim victory on a night that what was for them, at best, a tie. Within two hours the Republican National Committee released a web video collecting the grins, smirks, and chuckles to portray the vice president as, in the words of Ryan aides, “rude” and disrespectful. And the Romney campaign followed up on Sunday with an ad contrasting Biden’s guffaws with Ryan’s policy talk.
Democrats adopted a similar strategy to less success the week before, trying to portray Romney as “testy,” throughout the first presidential debate, but it was Obama’s absence from the conversation that broke through. In the more muddled VP debate, Republicans — and even some independents — see a win for Ryan in Biden’s attitude. (Various polls have suggested a tie or an advantage to Biden.)
“I don’t know how he did it,” said one older woman at a Ryan town hall in Youngstown earlier in the day who said she was an undecided voter, but is leaning Republican. “Ryan was so calm. Biden kept cutting him off.”
Retired Paychex vice president Bob Sebo, a university benefactor and a GOP contributor, told BuzzFeed that Ryan won the debate just by being there.
“All Paul Ryan had to do was just sit there and do what he did,” he said. “I thought he was excellent — what he had to say. The vice president was a major disappointment. He was rude, he came off like a buffoon. Actually he was a disgrace.”