Playing the post-debate game


The Biden-Ryan debate, in addition to being more fun than the Presidential debate (probably because it matters less), demonstrated how conservative media is just better at playing the post-debate game than liberal media. Obama didn’t do well in the first debate and hardly anyone thought he did, but the fact that it was such a political disaster for him was partly due to the reactions of his supporters, who declared that he had blown it and that Romney put on a great show. MSNBC, the most Obama-friendly cable network, was home to lots of stinging or panicked criticism of Obama’s performance.

Now compare that to conservative outlets. While liberals were crowing about Biden’s show, conservatives were already formulating a narrative of why Biden was terrible: in real time, you could see complaints that Biden was being mean, disrespectful, crazy, “unglued.” By the time the news coverage was ready to go, Fox News had that narrative solidly in place. Biden was mean and nasty, and Ryan was a polite young man. (Obviously, this type of narrative only works if you don’t like the guy to begin with; Chris Christie is the biggest hero on that network because he’s so belligerent.) Unlike reaction to the first debate, in other words, the reaction was split along partisan lines. Liberals thought Biden was great, conservatives thought he was awful.

If liberals had tried to search for weak spots in Romney’s debate performance, or focus attention on the idea of Romney being disrespectful or arrogant, it might not have worked – but it might have at least distracted attention from Obama’s poor performance. Liberal media figures just don’t seem to be very good at that; they’re a lot more inclined to get depressed about their guy. Maybe it’s partly a question of negative reactions. Liberal pundits, for the most part, don’t really hate Romney as much as conservatives dislike Obama and Biden, so conservatives don’t have to search for reasons why Biden wasn’t good: they genuinely find him unappealing. Pro-Obama pundits, on the other hand, focused all their ire on Obama for not coming back more strongly against Romney.

One comparison would be the Obama-supporting MSNBC with its conservative sister network CNBC (the network that created the Tea Party movement). After the debate, CNBC promoted the results of a web poll as if it were a real poll, because it showed Ryan winning by a considerable margin. MSNBC could have done that if it were the liberal mirror image of Fox News, but it just isn’t. They’ll spin poll numbers in Obama’s direction or pump up their liberal viewers by telling them Obama’s doing fine, but they’re just not as good at creating an “our guy won” narrative. And that’s part of the reason why the next few days will consist of TV talking heads arguing over whether Biden was too uncivil.

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Playing the post-debate game

  1. Perhaps it has something to do with liberals at least holding on to the vestiges of the empirical tradition – to value and test what is true for its own sake. Many modern day Conservatives OTOH seemed to have wholly given up, given in to the need to always be in the right. I guess it makes them better at the game of politics,but a whole lot poorer as inheritors of the Conservative legacy.
    Not to worry neocons, one of these fine days you’ll reap the whirlwind and most of us liberals will sign on to your intellectual mutual suicide pact too. Wont that be a blast?

    • But there is no left or liberal on the American political spectrum, it is all “right” and the divisions tend to be between reasonable and crazy. I think that plays a big factor,if you lean towards reasonable politically you will probably apprciate it and seek it in your news coverage.

      • Stop, you’re scaring me. Leave me to my illusions ok. Maybe, just maybe Conservatives [in the US] will one day wander back into the empirical camp on their own? But not if they’re all crazy to begin with.

    • So true! Our VP is the last of the great empiricists…Locke, Hume AND UNCLE JOE BIDEN!

      Can’t wait to vote that empy suit out of the White House on Election Day!

      • Misconstruing someone’s general remarks/observations is one of the oldest and dumbest tricks in the book.
        And i bet you just can’t wait to vote another one right back in…only this time it will have your team label on it, so that’s all right then.

  2. The less of a horse race, the less advertising revenue.

    No matter what happens, the MSM will always consider this, and any big election, to be

  3. Who would predict what an uncivil, un-presidential behavior
    Biden would manifest to the American people? The thought of a man like Biden
    having the possibility of ascendency to the office of the President scares the
    hell out of me. Honestly, if he does not have room for any other opinions other
    than his own, he has no business leading this diverse nation.

    Biden statement about the ease of making a bomb is wrong.
    The hard part is the refining a fuel to the required level of purity. Only a
    small quantity of Highly Emriched Uranium or plutonium would be needed to
    assemble a crude device, often referred to as a dirty suitcase bomb, and such a
    bomb if detonated in the heart of a city would have catastrophic
    consequences,” according to Al Jazeera. “Plutonium is a fuel that is
    toxic beyond human experience. It is demonstrably carcinogenic to animals in
    microgram quantities [one millionth of a gram].
    According to
    The time needed to convert this low-enriched uranium to one bomb’s worth
    of finished uranium metal enriched to 90 percent U-235 is 3 – 12 months from
    NOW. Well happy frigging New Year! Wipe
    that ignorant smile off you face Mr. Vice President.

  4. The premise of this post (which reads like it was 75% written before the debate) is nothing more than liberal self-congratulation. Last night’s debate wasn’t Denver reversed, and failure to act like it was is not a test of conservative reasonableness.
    “Liberal pundits, for the most part, don’t really hate Romney as much as conservatives dislike Obama and Biden, so conservatives don’t have to search for reasons why Biden wasn’t good: they genuinely find him unappealing. Pro-Obama pundits, on the other hand, focused all their ire on Obama for not coming back more strongly against Romney.”
    In keeping with the self-congratulatory theme, the implication is liberals are just too darn reasonable to hate their opponents. An alternative explanation is their regard for Romney is so low they couldn’t recognize that he did a good job, and are furious at Obama’a inability to expose that wooden plutocrat for what he is.

    • It was written 100% after the debate, for what it’s worth (I realize you were saying it read like it could have been written before, not that it actually was).