Why Biden Won

Two of the big research themes of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab converged in last night’s VP Debate: Social Sentiment Analytics and Transmedia Storytelling. The analytics part is fairly straightforward. For the last year in association with the Signals Analysis and Interpretation Lab, we have been recording the real time sentiment on Twitter of the Presidential Candidates. This is a huge corpus of data and during last week’s Presidential debate we were analyzing about 1400 tweets per second. Last night Joe Biden seemed to overwhelm Paul Ryan both in volume and in positive sentiment on our real time dashboard.

Which leads me to the second part of our work, Transmedia Storytelling. As our Chief Advisor Henry Jenkins has taught us, Transmedia is the art of telling a single story across multiple platforms, with each piece adding to the total narrative. The story cannot be told in a single commercial or a single debate as each piece adds to the transmedia narrative. Last night Joe Biden helped clarify the Democratic narrative that had been so muddied in the first debate by Mitt Romney’s desperate dash to the center.Two elements of the Democratic difference were hammered home relentlessly.

Clashing in a feisty, hard-edged debate, Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday night repeatedly accused challenger Paul D. Ryan and his running mate, Mitt Romney, of favoring the rich at the expense of middle-class Americans and engaging in loose talk that could lead the country to another war.

Ryan tried to put Biden on the defensive over Libya, but it didn’t work.

BIDEN: I will be very specific. Number one, the — this lecture on embassy security — the congressman here cut embassy security in his budget by $300 million below what we asked for, number one. So much for the embassy security piece. Number two, Governor Romney, before he knew the facts, before he even knew that our ambassador was killed, he was out making a political statement which was panned by the media around the world. And this talk about this — this weakness. I — I don’t understand what my friend’s talking about here. We — this is a president who’s gone out and done everything he has said he was going to do. This is a guy who’s repaired our alliances so the rest of the world follows us again.

On Tuesday Obama will have an opportunity to press this theme. Romney has surrounded himself with Bush era Neocons like John Bolton and Dan Senor, who clearly would like nothing more than to start another war in Iran (and maybe one is Syria as well). I’ll have more to say on that subject on Monday, but for now it is safe to say that Biden got the Democratic Transmedia story back on track.


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13 Responses to Why Biden Won

  1. Roman says:

    “…it is safe to say that Biden got the Democratic Transmedia story back on track.”

    Maybe, it will interesting to watch how the MSM positions and re-positions the debate over the next several news cycles.

    But getting the narrative back on track was secondary to Team O’s #1 objective – halting Romney’s momentum.

    Yes, Biden did well regurgitating his show prep, but so did Ryan. And unfortunately neither major political outlet (NYT & WaPo) declared a definitive winner.

    What is clear however, is that Biden will be remembered as a loyal and capable foot soldier. Tip O’Neill and the boys would be proud.

    Still not certain what the Twitter analysis demonstrates, or is hoped to demonstrate. It seems akin to taking the pulse of fish swimming in the same barrel. Can the barrel results be safely and accurately extrapolated to rivers, lakes and oceans?

  2. Jon Taplin says:

    @Roman We are not sure what the Twitter analysis means. We don’t contend that it is predictive of election results.

  3. len says:

    It means the base enjoyed this part of the show. TwitterPlause.

    The Facebook conversations where there are more threaded components are better for analysis vis a vis a narrative. Each is it’s own scene with cross-populated tropes that in some ways reflect the debate itself but also reveal the reactions among the sides better. The Republicans became whiny and dismissive but were unable to handle the subtantive issues in the debate as their fear overrode their ability to formulate cogent replies past nah nah boo boo.

    One thing is evident as previously stated: Romney is doing what he said he would in the 47% video, attempting to carve off small pieces at any cost including credibility. There won’t be another pivot towards truthiness.

  4. debra hamidian says:

    They delivered for their party. They were both prepared, pleasant, quick to attack, defend and alert to respond. They did the job they are running VP. They covered their Presidential candidate. They were their back. They pleased their parties. They were authenic and you knew they were honest in what they detailed were their intentions if elected. Joe Biden has been pleasing me as being the most honest politician I have yet to know. I love Joe and he is the only one that I would call by first name.

  5. Alex Bowles says:

    The only question Ryan didn’t evade was the very last one, in which Raddatz asked what individual character traits made each candidate fit for the job. Ryan’s one word answer: “Honesty.”

    What else do you need to know?

  6. rhbee says:

    I was struck by Biden’s answer on abortion. In its restatement of what freedom of choice means: He keeps his befiefs he doesn’t beat down mine. We always have the right to choose. Now if just one of those bastards would step up and say something similar about our WAR on drugs the debate would really heat up.

  7. Alex Bowles says:

    Yes, it was remarkable to see just how much didn’t come up. Foreign policy focused exclusively on the Middle East – absolutely zero mention of places that we’re unlikely to attack, but which are very likely to effect the national economy. Discussion of domestic policy was similarly constrained, limited to taxes, abortion, and core social spending.

    In other words, the entire debate was focused on the sliver of national interests that dominate the thinking of Conservatives. And even then, it skipped their other big issue, immigration. No mention of crippling household debt, structural changes in the employment market, or the dangers of unprecedented income equality. And zero consideration of energy or environment.

    As macro topics, these last two probably have a greater influence on policy – both foreign and domestic – than any other factor. They are becoming the essential frame of reference for understanding every other challenge and opportunity we face. In terms of vision, they’re the subjects that demand the greatest leadership.

    Conservatives make a point of having nothing to offer on this front. Indeed, their goals in this arena relate largely to the destruction of the arena, reversion to pre-Nixon policy (i.e. the absence of all policy) and the studied avoidance of any further discussion. Dems seem happy enough to hold the line (more or less in some places, kinda but not really in others) but that’s a straight status quo position. Nothing truly progressive dares whisper its name. Simply putting “energy” in the same sentence as “transition” is unimaginable. Fusing them into a single idea? Downright thermonuclear.

    Glen Greenwald made some sharp observations about the extent to which all of this – questions asked an unasked – reflect a Washington consensus that is as limited as it is ungrounded.


    In other words, it’ll be surprising if the debate opens up dramatically during the next two installments. And I’d be astonished if the $2 trillion (with a ‘t’) in proposed military spending is associated with any specific or foreseeable threat. Let’s be clear: that’s what’s sucking all of the oxygen out of the room.

  8. len says:

    And once again the Republicans show us what they really think about American security by outing the Benghazi location as a CIA base. Oh, really American patriots. Despicable.


  9. JTMcPhee says:

    Oh, c’mon,, len — there had to have been some deep geopolitical machination behind all that. Wheels within wheels within wheels within wheels, Bendreth… http://everything2.com/title/Wheels+within+wheels%252C+Bendreth

    US foreign policy/war doctrine: “We kill some of them and take their stuff, so they kill some of us, so we kill some of them, so they kill some of us…”

  10. len says:

    @jtmc: Remember when Reagan accused Carter of being soft on defense because he cancelled the B1 bomber while only Carter knew he did that because the B2 Spirit was almost done?

    The State Dept fronts operations world wide. All sides play that game that way. My reaction to Romney and Ryan on this one is to quote Daffy Duck:


    I really wish they would quit using the deaths of our diplomats for political points.

  11. JTMcPhee says:

    Down here we’ve got the HQ of CENTCOM over at Superbase Macdill. A couple of times a year, a local boy who’s made good by getting his short-timer’s pass to Heaven is brought “home” in an aluminum box. The uniformed press people have arranged a Great Hero’s Mournful Return for this person, passed out press kits with the kid’s history as an exemplar of American Youth (football hero, never been arrested, whatever), set up a cortege headed by The Body and The Stalwart Weeping Family Who Support Our Government’s Campaign along the route to wherever the remains will be buried from, put up little American flags at intervals on the curbs, used the local media to tell people the Hero (who was maybe shattered by an IED made from US-label 155 artillery rounds or 500-lb bomb casings, while on a fool’s errand decreed by some Bureaucrat-in-Camo — see, e.g., Pat Tillman — or killed by an Afghan angry about invasion doing “green-on-blue”), the whole idea being to give the Folks At Home the sense that the Brass gives a flying fuck about The Troops (and yes, I don’t doubt that some of them do, in their way, within their processing parameters) and that there are still more Hostile Wogs out there who are not above killing US GIs rather than just going along with The Mission, and so “WE” must continue to continue to do More Of The Same. Because of Think of the Girls and Women! Think of all that ore containing Rare Earths! WE broke it, now we have to fix it! Them hideous Taliban Terrorist Militants are going to Infiltrate Our Drinking Water and GET US if we don’t GET THEM FIRST! Trillions for DEFENSE, but not one cent for common sense!

    Good luck getting a bunch of cynical shits to eschew the abuse of real people’s shades for crass personal and political gain.

  12. len says:

    Good luck getting a bunch of cynical shits to eschew the abuse of real people’s shades for crass personal and political gain.

    A harsh lesson I’ve had to learn as an idealist is that I can’t fix people. They are what they are. A hard lesson I’ve had to learn as a manager is that that is no excuse; I have to find a way to move a process forward to a pre-determined goal or accept the need to revise the work breakdown. Bad goals in service of ignominious strategies can’t be fixed. They have to be abandoned.

    Campaigns today look like proposal tasks with a 24 x 7 red team called the press except the red team thinks they can do the downselect for the customer.

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