OTR Interviews

Rove: We'll remember 'grimacing, grinning, condescending, weird Joe' from the debate, Ryan was the adult in the room

Former Bush senior adviser on the winners and losers from the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden face-off and whether the current vice president's demeanor was a turn-off to viewers

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: To the impact tonight's debate will have on the race for the White House, Karl Rove will join us. Nice to see you, Karl.

KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks, Greta. Nice to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, your post-mortem on tonight's debate.

ROVE: Well, in a debate, there are sort of four questions, the first of which is what did it look like? Appearances matter a lot. In the 1960 presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy, if you listened to it on radio, those people overwhelmingly picked Nixon to win, as the winner of the debate. If you watched it on television, you saw Kennedy and thought he won the debate because Nixon was sweating and nervous-looking and grimacing. He may have actually been sick with the flu at the time. But it matters how you look.

Tonight, I think the thing we're going to remember here weeks and weeks and be talking about in the years and years still to come is grimacing, grinning, condescending weird Joe. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this in a debate. The only thing that comes close to it were the size and exaggerated gestures of Al Gore in 2000.

The second thing in a debate is what was it about? And here, look, Joe Biden had some good substantive things. He did OK on foreign policy. He took the Democrat line on entitlements and spending and taxes. But the guy who came across as thoughtful and substantive and deep and fluid and respectful was Paul Ryan. I thought that superb performance on his part tonight.

The third question is who is this aimed at? And, tonight, Joe Biden was aimed at one group, and he hit them head on, which were Democrats who were down in the dumps after President Obama's performance last week. Ryan's pitch was to independent voters. It was, "We've got a plan. We understand the big problems. We've got a plan to deal with them. It's common sense and it is practical. We share your values. We share your view of how things ought to be. And we're going to do something about it."

And the final question is what is the impression left by this? What is the -- what does this do to the arc of the narrative that is being built about these debates? Joe Biden did do some good for Democratic ticket by basically making up for some of the absence of energy and focus and aggressiveness that was on the part of President Obama, but on the other hand, it sort of thereby raises a question why did it take the No. 2 guy to do what you expected the No. 1 guy to do? And Ryan, Ryan was substantive and responsive - I mean, who would've thought adult in tonight's debate was 27 years younger than his competitor?

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, that's exactly -- I read your Twitter account, everybody's account tonight, to see what people were saying and thinking. Let me ask you about the CNN poll that just came out. I don't know their methodology but it's sort of interesting. CNN post-debate poll has Vice President Ryan at 48 percent and -- I mean, rather, Representative Ryan at 48 percent and Vice President Biden at 44 percent. So 4 percent difference.

ROVE: Yes. Look, most debates are sort of in a middling range. You have partisans lining up on their sides. As long as your candidate does reasonably well, partisans go to their corners. What's interesting about that is that you've got essentially 8 percent undecided, that's slightly larger than the group of undecideds we've got in this race. But what matter here are the impressions in the days ahead. And how many times are we going to see Joe Biden's grimacing and grinning?

We're also going to have some very interesting - look, we can have legitimate disagreements about, look, Joe Biden says nobody's going to lose any Medicare coverage under Medicare advantage. Paul Ryan says, yes, you're going to have a bunch of seniors dropped off. Paul Ryan says 20 million seniors, quoting the CBO study, are going to - actually, 20 million American workers are going to lose their employer-provided coverage. There are legitimate disagreements about issues and those are going to sort of come out in the wash.

But the two interesting things about tonight: one has been talked about, one has not been talked about. The one that's been talked about is how Joe Biden denied that the administration was told about security concerns and then blamed the explanation for Benghazi and the unwillingness for a number of days to declare it a terrorist incident as the responsibility of the intelligence agency. This is not going to sit well with a lot of people in Washington and it further raises the question of what did the administration know and when did they know it?

Now, the other thing that grabbed my ear was something not much attention has been paid to. They got into an exchange about the economy. Biden said, look, the economy is in a bad shape because you, Paul Ryan, pointed to Ryan, he said you voted for two wars that were put on a credit card and then listed off a number of things. And then said, quote, "I was there. I voted against that. I said we can't afford that."

Well, wait a minute. Joe Biden voted both for the Authorization of the Use of Force Resolution for Afghanistan. Plus he voted for the resolution to go to war against Iraq. So tonight on national TV he said, "I voted against that. I said we can't afford that." But wait a minute, he voted in favor of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Both of these things, I think, are going to come back to haunt him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well let me get to the point about Libya, about what he said tonight about Libya, where he essentially threw the State Department and intelligence committee under the bus. I'll tell you where we're going see it again and that's at the presidential debate when they talk about foreign policy. We still haven't had that debate yet and there's a lot of criticism of the President he's sort of late to the game in terms of identifying it as terrorism, what happened on 9/11 in Benghazi. And now, it turns out tonight, that even his Vice President has a little bit of a problem with that. So I think that's going to come back to haunt him.

You talk about smirking and smiling, how much we're going to see a lot of that in the next couple of days. We're going to see a lot of that because even before I got on the set tonight to start the midnight show, I received what everybody else in the media did and that's the first RNC video. And what it does is that it says -- the name of it is, I haven't looked at the video yet, but it says, "Issues we face are no laughing matter." So you can be sure that by the time we start our news cycle, we're going to have back to back snippets of Vice President Biden laughing at very important, you know, very serious matters. So that is going to be a huge part of the narrative come sunrise tomorrow.

ROVE: Yes, look, this is a great material for Saturday Night Live and for the Internet. And remember, we're getting an increasing amount of information from the Internet. In 2008, more people after the election said they got more of their information about the election from the Internet than from daily newspapers. And those smirks and quirky grimaces and the sort of exaggerated gestures, all of those things were great fodder for the Internet and we're going to see them time and time again.

And full disclosure -- I've already retweeted the link to that video, which is a pretty good 1:01 long video. It's pretty amazing how often he was interrupting and hectoring and laughing and smiling and grimmacing and grinning. It's almost like they put Joker juice was in the water that he had there on the stage.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, full disclosure I've posted already posted it without watching it on Gretawire.com. I did ask one of my colleagues to take a look to make sure that it's not something off the charts, but came from the RNC so I figured it was just a competitive ad. But it's posted on Gretawire.com already. Karl, thank you.

ROVE: You bet. Thanks, Greta.