When President Obama said that "Joe just needs to be Joe" in the vice presidential debate, he may have been expecting the forthrightness and populist appeal Vice President Joe Biden delivered Thursday night. He may not have expected so many snarky smiles or eyerolls.
While his debate against Republican Paul Ryan was substantive, it was Biden's animated attitude that stole the headlines. For those who are familiar with the vice president's style, his aggressive posturing wasn't a surprise. But the snickers and grimaces that punctuated his performance broadcast the pressure he was under to win back the momentum from the Romney-Ryan campaign.
Ultimately, Biden's performance is unlikely to move the race that much: Democrats called his performance bold and inspiring while Republicans dismissed it as boorish and off-putting. Those in the middle are simply unlikely to pick a side based on the vice presidential debate.
In the immediate aftermath, it appears that Biden's aggression may have helped him more than hit hurt him: A CBS News instant poll of uncommitted voters showed that 50 percent considered Biden the winner of the debate while 31 percent called Ryan the winner.
Democrats, of course, wholeheartedly agreed.
"Tonight Democrats got the show they wanted -- and President Obama may have gotten the boost he needed," Jonathan Cohn wrote at the left-leaning New Republic after the debate. Biden, he said, "gave one of the most aggressive, passionate, and substantive debate performances I can recall." He acknowledged that Biden interrupted Ryan frequently and was "at times openly dismissive of Ryan." Still, Cohn swooned, "Oh, Biden had some great liners."
Liberal MSNBC blogger Steve Benen concluded, "Ryan was simply overpowered -- where Biden was on the offensive; Ryan was on the defensive. Where Biden was direct; Ryan was evasive. Where Biden was confident; Ryan was in over his head."
Republicans, meanwhile, charged that if Biden "won" the debate, he did so by acting like a bully.