The Hug family take on the debate

Procter Hug III is the son of prominent Ninth Circuit Judge Procter Hug, Jr., and a long-time reader. His messages always catch my attention because of his name; I have been reading his father’s opinions for many years. Procter Hug IV has now joined Mr. Hug in his Reno law practice, so they are keeping the family tradition alive.

Mr. Hug wrote yesterday with kind words for our commentary on Thursday night’s vice presidential candidates’ debate, but he also provided a summary of family reactions. Because the family reactions represent something like a demographic cross section of responses, I thought the message might be of interest to readers:

Great commentary on the debate. The first one I read was John Hinderaker, acting as our side’s [despairing] Andrew Sullivan. I chuckled and disagreed, but many people in the 24- to 30-year-old age group I watched or corresponded with agreed with John. Next I read Paul’s post which pretty closely mirrored my view. Then Scott’s salute to Paul Ryan, which was excellent.

My parents, sisters and much of my family are Democrats. My son’s girlfriend is an apolitical independent, and he and his friends are young gun conservatives. I was curious how they all would all see the VP debate. The young guns were disappointed Ryan didn’t crush Biden and wipe the silly grin off his face as they expected/hoped he would do. My conservative daughter was disgusted by Biden. The young female independent was appalled at Biden’s rude and condescending behavior, and was impressed with Ryan’s calm demeanor and knowledge. The staunch Democrats were disappointed with Biden’s inappropriate behavior. The older Democrats were not impressed by Ryan but the younger Democrats felt Ryan performed pretty well. My personal observations were:

· Biden’s blatant lies on Libya will cause problems in the days ahead and result in the media focusing on this issue to the detriment of Obama. Specifically the denial they knew that the people at the embassy had asked for more security; and that the intelligence community told them it was a spontaneous uprising in protest to the film. This is a big advantage going into the Romney/Obama foreign policy debate.

· Biden’s obnoxious conduct will energize his base a bit but will turn off independents, particularly women that he needs to win. The only thing Biden had going for him coming into the debate was likeability and he lost that.

· Even liberals like Piers Morgan and David Gregory couldn’t handle Biden’s grin and smirks.

· Conservatives expectations for this debate were unrealistically high in light of Romney’s outstanding performance. That was a black swan event requiring a passive moderator and a disengaged opponent. It is unlikely to be repeated. It would have been impossible with an opponent that interrupted you 82 times and a moderator who interrupted you as you reached your stride in important answers. I thought his one statement that he understood Biden was under a lot of stress to recover lost ground, but that the American public would be better served if he quit interrupting was about as far as he could have gone.

· If Ryan had aggressively attacked Biden as my son and the young guns would have liked, they would have been happier with the debate, but the effect on the election would most likely have been worse. He likely would have come across as disrespectful to his detriment (particularly with women and independents). Instead Ryan used Scott’s father’s advice (pretty much same as my father’s advice to me) and I think the long term effect will be better.

· Ryan accomplished the primary goal for a young VP candidate, and that is coming across as a plausible President if he is ever called on to serve.

In my view Ryan won a split decision. He won by knockout on style. He won more narrowly on substance. Biden seemed adolescent in his manner and almost deranged in his demeanor. I suspect his performance did harm to the ticket on the key demographic of women – they generally don’t appreciate rude and condescending behavior.

Thanks to all three of you for all of your efforts (and Steve too). I am glad you have Paul back on the team.

I appreciate Mr. Hug’s kind words and his permission to post this message.

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