It was all psychology Thursday night at the vice presidential debate. The unspoken issue—about which nary a word was spoken—was really, in my opinion, all that mattered. Sigmund Freud himself would have enjoyed watching.
Coming on the heels of a presidential debate in which challenger Mitt Romney outdistanced President Obama, leaving him to chase Romney in the polls, the bulk of the American electorate really only had one question left: If Mitt Romney were, tragically, to die in office, would Paul Ryan be able to take over and be a credible president of the United States?
That unconscious question—which I believe is the last one voters needed to answer before delivering the White House to Governor Romney—was answered by Ryan with a resounding “yes” Thursday night. Whether one agrees or disagrees with his policies, whether one is Democrat or Republican, few people would say that Paul Ryan lacks the knowledge base or gravitas or commitment to be our commander in chief.
Even Joe Biden seemed to know that that was the question of the night, and the only one that really mattered much. When Biden quipped, “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy,” after Ryan mentioned the former president, his tone sounded less derisive than it did alarmed, and with good reason.
Yes, Mr. Vice President, Paul Ryan, so young and so sure of himself and so convinced that America can be the greatest it has ever been, does evoke memories of Jack Kennedy.
And, yes, last night, looking at you and Ryan together on the stage, there was just a hint of the Kennedy-Nixon debate when one man looked tired and wasn’t terribly likeable (Nixon/Biden) and the other looked fresh and new and full of ideals and not unkind (Kennedy/Ryan).
As if to entertain Sigmund Freud even more, Vice President Biden seemingly couldn’t help but refer back to his debate with Sarah Palin, when the American people had the same question in mind: Could Palin lead the nation, if need be?
Because the same unspoken question thundered in the air last night, for those of us trained to listen with a “third (psychological) ear.” But where they may have answered that question with a resounding “no” (which was irrational, because Governor Palin could lead America with one hand tied behind her back), the answer about Paul Ryan having the ability to lead America came back a resounding “yes.”
Some may argue that Paul Ryan won the debate last night by only a few percentage points. Others may say the debate was a tie. But, psychologically, it was a massive win for the Romney/Ryan ticket, erasing the last unconscious doubt potentially in the way of their victory.
From a psychological perspective, barring any blunder, the presidential election of 2012 was over at 10:30 P.M. ET on October 11, 2012.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.