The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 11, 2012

Communications professor: No clear winner in debate

Despite vastly different communication styles, both Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan were effective in presenting their messages during the vice presidential debate Thursday night.

That was the assessment of a communications professor at Missouri Southern State University after the exchange.

“It was a good debate, but I don’t think there was a winner or a loser,” said Shanna Slavings, who teaches communications and public speaking at the Joplin university.

The debate offered little that was game-changing, she said, and probably will serve to reinforce the beliefs of supporters of both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

“I really felt both represented their tickets very well,” she said. “They stayed true to their core values and principles that the two sides are aligned with.”

In contrasting the styles of the two speakers, Slavings said Biden appeared more passionate, while Ryan was “more calm and steady.”

“I think that also is going to depend on what appeals to those in the audience, but when he (Biden) was talking about issues like heath care, he looked directly into the camera and addressed seniors,” she said. “He leaned forward. His volume increased. You could tell he was passionate.”

Slavings said she believed the more intimate atmosphere, with both speakers at the same table, contributed to a debate tone that was less strident than that of last week’s presidential debate.

“I think that really changed the communications style,” she said. “There was one point where Biden asked Ryan to be more candid, but I think if they had been standing at podiums across the stage from each other, he would have used a different word. It was somewhat aggressive, but I think he would have been more aggressive if the setting had been different.”

She said Biden was more effective at making eye contact with the camera, but she said she was bothered by times when he smiled or chuckled when Ryan was speaking.

Both candidates could have done a better job, she said, at providing details or steering voters to websites where they could do their own research and learn more.


THURSDAY NIGHT’S DEBATE was the only one scheduled for the vice presidential candidates. The next debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be Tuesday at Hofstra University in New York.

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