The pundits were all over the map in their reactions to Thursday's vice presidential debate. Everybody seemed to be able to find something that they liked in the showdown.
On CNN, analysts agreed that the debate was a draw for Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Wolf Blitzer made the assessment immediately after the fiery exchange ended, and speculated that each candidate's "respective supporters were pleased" with their performance. He repeatedly compared the debate to what many thought was a lackluster showing by Obama last week, remarking that Biden "came out swinging."
John King started his assessment with praise for both men, whom he called "happy warriors who love what they do," and also drew the line down the middle. "There was not a wipeout in this debate," he said. "Both sides will leave thinking, 'I did what I came to do.'" He said the vice president "came and showed fight" and speculated that Ryan will "leave just as happy."
Others at CNN agreed with that assessment, but criticized Biden for laughing and breaking out into cheshire cat-like grins during the debate. David Gergen remarked that the night was a win for Ryan on style, adding that he found Biden's laughing and shouting "dismissive." Mary Matalin echoed that sentiment, saying that Biden was "condescending at times" because of his "eyerolling" and "chuckling." She compared it to Al Gore sighing in his debate with George W. Bush.
Fox News did not take to that behavior as kindly. Brit Hume hammered Biden's demeanor. "I thought it was unattractive... It looked like a cranky old man, to some extent, debating a polite young man," he said. "That smiling and laughing. Megyn, it's interesting to see how it will play at home."
It seemed to be the main takeaway for Sean Hannity, who said, "I can't wait to get back to our studio ... and montage Joe Biden and his facial expressions ... I think that will be the big story." Chris Wallace criticized Biden as well, saying, "I don't believe I have ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of another as Joe Biden was to Paul Ryan," he said.
Drudge Report splashed its pointed critique of Biden at the top of its front page: a picture of Biden's toothy grin with the headline "SMILE, SMILE, SMILE."
MSNBC, a network whose reaction to President Obama's debate with Mitt Romney could be summed up by Chris Matthews' anguished, "Where was the president tonight?!" was a much more cheerful place on Thursday. Matthews said he thought the debate was a "clear victory" for Biden. Rachel Maddow and the rest of the panel hammered Ryan's answers on foreign policy.
Even so, the network was not ready to fully bury Ryan. Lawrence O'Donnell said that both camps "are going to have a real fight in this room tonight about who did better."
Even the polls for different networks brought different results. A CNN insta-poll found Ryan winning, 48 to 44 percent. A CBS insta-poll found Biden winning, 50 to 31 percent.