NBC Brings on MSNBC's Maddow to Declare a 'Great Night' for Joe Biden

While admitting at the top of Friday's NBC Today that there was "no clear winner" in Thursday's vice presidential debate, minutes later, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie brought on left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to declare Joe Biden the victor: "Democrats are psyched that Joe Biden had such a great night....most Democrats watching last night probably think that Joe Biden clearly won." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Lauer teed up Maddow perfectly: "Going into this debate, just about everybody said the main goal of Joe Biden was to steady the ship and calm the nerves on the Democratic side. Let's start there, did he accomplish it?" Not surprisingly, Maddow replied: "Absolutely." The headline on the screen throughout the segment posed the question: "Did Biden Blunt the Romney Momentum?"

Guthrie pushed back on Maddow's assertions: "I think the analysis that there's no clear winner is because of Joe Biden's style, his demeanor...Do you think that Biden was over-amped, overly aggressive, and that detracted from his performance?" Maddow ran to the Vice President's defense: "Biden's aggression, I think, was both expected from him, and the laughing thing was essentially implicit messaging, 'Don't believe what this guy is saying, I can't believe this guy.'"

Teeing up Maddow yet again, Lauer followed with: "Well, on the subject of what you can believe from Paul Ryan, his calling card, he's a numbers guy, okay? So on the subjects of the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, how did he do?"

Maddow eagerly slammed Ryan: "He had a couple of problems on basic numbers issues. When he tried to make the case that the unemployment rate is going up, when he made the case about Scranton versus Janesville, it was stylistically interesting because Biden jumped in so aggressively to shut him down."

In his next question, Lauer continued to offer Maddow the opportunity to go after Ryan: "This was his first major test on a stage like this. Did we learn anything about Paul Ryan last night that will impact the election?"

Maddow ranted:

Yes, and that's what I think is so exciting about this debate, whoever you want to win. What was exciting about it is that all this new ground was covered, mostly by Joe Biden pinning Paul Ryan down on stuff that we weren't sure if the Romney/Ryan ticket was gonna stick with. He is in favor of privatizing Social Security, he is in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade and making abortion criminal.

Guthrie made one final attempt to bring some balance to exchange: "Obviously you think Biden won, but would you acknowledge that Ryan passed the threshold test, proving that he would a plausible vice president and president, if the need arose?" A snarky Maddow sneered: "On everything except foreign policy. Honestly I think that Paul Ryan was very clearly out of his depth on foreign policy. Maybe it wasn't fair to have him with a foreign correspondent moderator and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee there talking so much about foreign policy."

Claiming to want "another perspective" on the debate, Lauer and Guthrie turned to radio talk show host and Obama supporter Michael Smerconish, a frequent regular on MSNBC.

Unlike Maddow, Smerconish was more even-handed in his review, observing: "Paul Ryan turned in a very strong performance....Joe Biden is very skilled in that realm, but there's no shame in Paul Ryan's performance....probably each of the bases got what they were looking for out of that debate."

However, like Maddow, Smerconish ultimately gave the win to Biden: "...the big momentum has clearly been on the Republican side of the ledger. I think that was thwarted last night, and what Joe Biden did was set the table for the next presidential debate."


Here is a full transcript of the October 12 interview with Maddow:

7:06AM ET

MATT LAUER: Rachel Maddow is the host of the – of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. And you two were up late working last night, so coffee's on me. Going into this debate, just about everybody said the main goal of Joe Biden was to steady the ship and calm the nerves on the Democratic side. Let's start there, did he accomplish it?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Going Forward; Did Biden Blunt the Romney Momentum?]

RACHEL MADDOW: Absolutely. I mean, Democrats are psyched that Joe Biden had such a great night. And you said at the top that there was no clear winner, and that may be, but it was very important for the Democrats that Paul Ryan not be the clear winner. And I think most Democrats, and I don't know about independent voters, but most Democrats watching last night probably think that Joe Biden clearly won.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I think the analysis that there's no clear winner is because of Joe Biden's style, his demeanor, and if we've learned anything from these debates is that those things matter as much as substance, occasionally more. Do you think that Biden was over-amped, overly aggressive, and that detracted from his performance?

MADDOW: It definitely seemed like aggression and not like a cool distancing from the proceedings, which I think was the problem with the President's performance, in terms of his style the first time around. Biden's aggression, I think, was both expected from him, and the laughing thing was essentially implicit messaging, "Don't believe what this guy is saying, I can't believe this guy." It actually sort of had a messaging function rather than just being a display of his emotions.

LAUER: Well, on the subject of what you can believe from Paul Ryan, his calling card, he's a numbers guy, okay? So on the subjects of the economy, jobs, spending, taxes, how did he do?

MADDOW: He had a couple of problems on basic numbers issues. When he tried to make the case that the unemployment rate is going up, when he made the case about Scranton versus Janesville, it was stylistically interesting because Biden jumped in so aggressively to shut him down. But it's true that the unemployment rate is below 8% now and being unwilling to admit that, I think, put him maybe on sort of shaky ground. Obviously he's very comfortable talking about these issues. The fact that the debate focused so much on foreign policy, was not Paul Ryan's wheelhouse, and I think that spoke to Mr. Biden's strengths. But, you know, those issues, they both feel confident when they're talking about the middle class. It's a question, I think, of whether or not it resonates.

LAUER: Okay, we know Joe Biden, okay? Americans know him. They watched him in the Senate, they've watched him now for almost four years as vice president. Not as many people know Paul Ryan. This was his first major test on a stage like this. Did we learn anything about Paul Ryan last night that will impact the election?

MADDOW: Yes, and that's what I think is so exciting about this debate, whoever you want to win. What was exciting about it is that all this new ground was covered, mostly by Joe Biden pinning Paul Ryan down on stuff that we weren't sure if the Romney/Ryan ticket was gonna stick with. He is in favor of privatizing Social Security, he is in favor of overturning Roe vs. Wade and making abortion criminal. On Afghanistan, nobody has pressed them on Afghanistan. Now we know they are going to stick to the 2014 deadline, but they also think that deadline is dangerous and a bad idea. I mean that's the sign of a campaign that hasn't been pressed very much on that issue, that it made so little sense when they finally had to.

GUTHRIE: Very quickly, obviously you think Biden won, but would you acknowledge that Ryan passed the threshold test, proving that he would a plausible vice president and president, if the need arose?

MADDOW: On everything except foreign policy. Honestly I think that Paul Ryan was very clearly out of his depth on foreign policy. Maybe it wasn't fair to have him with a foreign correspondent moderator and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee there talking so much about foreign policy. There, I think, he bottomed out, but other than that I think he did fine.

LAUER: Rachel, thank you very much.

MADDOW: Thank you.

LAUER: We'll see you tonight at 9 on MSNBC.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC