DANVILLE, Ky. — While the real Joe Biden was debating Paul Ryan onstage, his online persona went into overdrive.
"Couple drops of Visine and nobody will ever know," tweeted "Diamond Joe" from the OnionPolitics account. "Have some debate bullshit I got to do tonight."
He had, according to The Onion, "put on his lucky debate suit"; then, "Biden Unleashes Torrent of Vomit On Debate Stage."
The stereotype of goofy Onion Joe is one that's stuck for some time, but none of it was on display in Danville. This was far from the stereotype run amok who cuddles with biker ladies and gives people fake names for fun. Biden didn't make any serious gaffes, and didn't come across as particularly fun, instead turning on his other persona: angry, populist Biden. He frequently interrupted his opponent and mocked him by smiling and laughing at what he said.
This left Democrats pleased, though having to defend a performance that seemed overly aggressive at times, and Republicans figuring out how to attack an adversary they've tended to criticize as unserious, not formidable.
"My father was my father," Beau Biden, son of the Vice President and attorney general of Delaware, told reporters afterwards.
"I think some of the things the Congressman said, it's difficult ot sit there and see some of the things that come out of the Congressman's mouth," Biden said. "My father was respectful.
Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who played the part of Paul Ryan during debate prep, wouldn't say whether or not the laughing and smiling were planned.
"Joe Biden came out swinging as the champion for the middle class, I think it was a clear win," Van Hollen said.
"I think the main issue is to focus on the substance of this," Van Hollen said, describing Biden as "passionate."
"He's a human being and there were some remarks that Paul Ryan made that he found astounding and incredible, and I think the American people would agree with him," Van Hollen said.
Obama campaign deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter echoed him, calling Biden "one hundred percent authentic."
Ryan, she said, "talked like he was looking at a bunch of index cards."
Meanwhile, Republicans there to spin the press afterwards accused Biden of being too aggressive.
"The Vice President goes over the top sometimes and I think he did tonight," former Missouri senator and Romney advisor Jim Talent said. "Obviously the voters have got to decide, but every time I was prepped for debate I was told, be careful about interrupting too much, dont laugh at your opponent, show respect for the format and your opponent, and there were times when he didn't."
"I think the constant interruptions and the smirks and that sort of thing are not going to be helpful in terms of the way undecided voters see the debate tonight," said South Dakota senator John Thune.
But they didn't have an opening to accuse Biden of having gaffed, or of being a joke. For that, the only option tonight is Onion Joe:
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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