, Newburyport, MA

October 13, 2012

Setting the stage for the final stretch

Bill Plante
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Big Freddy was grinning ear to ear as I joined him on an otherwise dreary Friday morning.

“So,” I said. “You apparently liked the Biden-Ryan debate last night.”

“Indeed I did,” Freddy said. “Good, old head-to-head with Joe out-grinning Ryan while he’s hammering away.”

“Politics as entertainment,” I said.

“Which it wasn’t for the Democrats when it was Romney smiling all the way in his first head-to-head with Obama, who looked like he was out to dinner with his wife during it,” Freddy said. “He had a lot riding on this one between Joe Biden, the old war horse, and Paul Ryan, who turns out to be a young colt who knows his way around the track.”

“And the winner?” I asked.

“They were nose-to-nose at the wire, but Obama was, really,” Freddy said. “Joe Biden needed to re-set the starter button for him after that sleepwalk he did in his first debate with Romney. He did that.”

“Ryan didn’t let Romney down,” I said.

“He did better than that,” Freddy said. “Ryan’s no newcomer to Congress, but he’s a new face nationally and he’s politically savvy. He’s as bright as they come, which he proved. All he had to do was hold his own with Biden, and Biden made it easy for him.”

“Too much with Biden’s head shakes and grinning?” I asked.

“Not for the Democrats,” Freddy said. “They needed Joe to be Joe for a couple of hours, which he did, and they loved it. Technically, Joe won the debate, but at another level, Ryan was no loser.

“Let’s face it. Times are different. So’s the culture. It’s a generational thing. That’s what Ryan brought to the table. Fresh face. Plenty of get up and go down a different road.”

“I thought he did more than hold his own,” I said.

“Maybe,” Freddy said. “The pols are all over the place. Eyes of the beholders. This was a one-off. All Joe had to do was set the stage for Obama’s next time with Romney, and he did that.”

“Ryan really had to do more,” I said. “Romney’s going to have to come up with an economic play book people understand in his next debate with Obama, and I think Ryan lost some viewers by getting into numbers.”

“TV debates aren’t about numbers,” Freddy said. “They’re about gotchas.”

“Gotchas?” I asked.

“Put-downs,” Freddy said. “Making the other guy stumble, fumble and grunt.”

“That’s punt, as in football, not grunt,” I said. “There wasn’t much of that.”

“Well, there’s been a lot of grunting by Democrats about setting the table for the go `rounds ahead between Obama and Romney,” Freddy said. “Last time, Romney put Obama on his hip and Obama stayed there. No way they’re going to let that happen again.

“That’s what this debate was all about — a one-off because they won’t meet again. So it was attack and give their candidates a leg up.”

“Which is going to be different for Obama this time,” I said. “He’s the sitting president, but he’s a candidate now.”

“Heavy’s the head that wears the crown, so Obama’s best defense is an offense,” Freddy said. “That’s what made this debate important for both sides. They did on jobs, the economy, health care, the war, abortions — you name it, it’s all on the table as good as it could be set.

“Enjoy — the two of us may not see the likes of this one again.”


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is