Joe Biden drove a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Democratic Party last night with the kind of persistent and colorful attack on the Romney ticket that President Obama had struggled to make just a week before.
The jury's still out on how Biden's performance played with swing voters, but for the segments of the base discouraged by Romney's emphatic showing at the Denver debate, Thursday night provided relief and renewed optimism.
"Biden's style resonated perfectly with most Democrats, and that's why you see the numbers fall along party lines," Dave Stroup, 28, a Washington-based Obama supporter and digital organizer with the Sierra Club, told ABC News this morning. "I'm sure there were plenty of people watching at home also laughing and throwing their arms up in the air. Biden's style worked because you can tell it's genuine."
Stroup's initial impression was bolstered by the reactions he read online and heard from fellow partisans, but none so much as what he saw on his phone soon after the candidates left the stage.
"The near-universal response [among Obama voters] has been, in the words of my dad, 'Joe Biden kicked butt,'" Stroup said. "My dad's the perfect example -- he was feeling a bit down after last week's debate. He texted me last night and told me he was going to make phone calls for Obama this weekend… The debate was the boost Obama needed. Now it's all eyes on next week."
Biden hit Ryan on all the topics Democrats had criticized Obama for avoiding or choosing not to pursue during his initial meeting with Romney. Consistenly challenging Ryan's claims Thursday night, the vice president at one point dismissed his Iran argument as "a bunch of stuff."
The vice president also repeatedly brought the conversation back to Romney's secretly-recorded remark that "47 percent" of the country was happy to freeload off the federal government.
"These people are my mom and dad, the people I grew up with, my neighbors," Biden said, growing flush. "They pay more effective tax than Gov. Romney pays in his federal income tax. They are elderly people who, in fact, are living off of Social Security. They are veterans who are fighting in Afghanistan right now who are not, quote, 'not paying taxes.'"
"Republicans hated Biden," ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd said this morning. "Democrats loved him… Possession arrow now points slightly in Obama direction today. This raises the stakes for Tuesday night."
Count the vice president's son as one of the party faithful energized by his dad's energetic display.
"He was having fun," Beau Biden, Delaware's attorney general, said after the debate. "My father was enjoying himself and he was in command of that stage and in command of the facts and in command of that debate and I was very, very proud of him."
John Hudak, a Brookings Institute governance fellow, said, "Biden can come home to Washington with a smile on his face and meet a grateful president who must honor his service to this ticket… Debates almost never matter in the end. VP debates matter less. However, that doesn't mean there aren't short term effects. Obama-Biden will get a boost this week and the outcome of the next debate will determine next week's voter mood."
Obama-backing pundits, who had experienced a collective panic attack in the wake of the first presidential debate, expressed as much relief as excitement.
"This is a calm, strong forensic refusal to accept any of the bullsh** being delivered by [Paul Ryan]," Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan, author of the week's most dramatic take on Obama's debate no-show, wrote Thursday night.
The excitable MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, who after the first debate railed on air about the president --"I don't know what he was doing out there. He had his head down, he was enduring the debate rather than fighting it!" -- declared Biden Thursday night's "clear winner."
And then there was the laughing.
Where Obama had come across, even in the most optimistic assessment, as reserved and disciplined in his delivery, Biden was just as apparently having a good time taking on his young, Republican challenger. Biden, 69, and Ryan, 42, were colleagues in Congress for a decade before Biden joined the Obama team in 2008. Their exchanges were often pointed, but never mean-spirited. And Democrats were laughing right along with their man.
On Twitter, 6 percent of the tweets being sent out at 9:45 p.m. ET -- and 500,000 total by night's end according to Yahoo's "Signal" -- mentioned Biden's chuckling. One opportunistic user created a @LaughinJoeBiden account, which had more than 9,000 followers by 10:30 a.m. today.