"I think Joe Biden is an authentic person. He speaks his mind. People know him. They expect that," Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said. "I think that authenticity is something that people appreciate."

The Romney campaign disagreed.

"The sighing, the eye-rolling, the grinning. I don't know if the vice president knew that there was a camera on him the whole time, that there was a split screen," senior Romney campaign adviser Russ Schriefer said. "Even if we thought he was making good points, I think that they stepped on his good points. He was trying to cram everything in that he could that wasn't in the last debate to try and get it all out at once. But I don't think he made any kind of coherent argument as to why the Obama-Biden ticket should be re-elected."

Gergen agreed: "On style I think that Paul Ryan won the debate. The Biden dismissive laughs, the interruptions, the sort of shouting, I think that Ryan was calmer and frankly more presidential."

What did debate watchers think? Seven out of 10 debate watchers in a CNN/ORC International poll said that Biden was the aggressor.

3. Does the debate even matter?

The short answer is no.

People don't vote for vice presidents at the ballot box. They vote for presidents. Past vice presidential debates, no matter how high the drama, have ultimately done little to move the needle in modern elections.

Not surprisingly, Biden's scenery-chewing performance was viewed differently by both campaigns. The Romney campaign said he looked erratic, rude and unhinged. The Obama campaign said he laid out the facts and made Ryan look, in the spin room words of former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, "like a lightweight."

But a common refrain from both campaigns after the debate was that it will probably have a minimal effect on the race one way or the other.

The biggest impact of the night, and the reason Democrats were ebullient after the debate, was the base-rallying impact of Biden's aggressive and blustery stage presence.

In the wake of Obama's wilting flower routine in last week's debate, the full Biden, exasperated and angry with Romney and Ryan, was just what Democrats needed.

How happy was team Obama? Campaign surrogates stayed in the spin room with puffed chests for much longer than they did in Denver, when they offered dubious messaging before escaping. The campaign immediately sent out a fundraising plea. President Obama put himself in front of cameras after landing at Andrews Air Force Base to praise Biden's performance.

And it wasn't just the Obama camp.

Democratic state parties, liberal interest groups and down-ballot campaigns rushed to send out fundraising e-mails to capitalize on a fired-up base. You didn't see much of the same on the Republican side.

The debate launched a fresh news cycle that will put a temporary halt to the "Chicago in disarray" storylines. Now the pressure is on President Obama to keep that narrative going next week in New York.

4. Ryan rises to challenge

It was arguably Ryan's biggest task in the vice presidential debate.

As the running mate to the Republican challenger, Ryan needed to convey that he's fit to serve should something happen to the commander in chief, that he would be acceptable to Americans as president.

Known as an expert on economic and budget issues, early in the debate Ryan showed his smarts on foreign policy. During a discussion on troop drawdowns in Afghanistan, he explained how the seasonal changes affect the fighting in Afghanistan.