DANVILLE, Ky. -- Paul Ryan prepared for several possibilities during his weeks-long debate practice with a Joe Biden stand-in, but arguing with a laughing opponent wasn't one of them.
"The laughter certainly was not something that we expected," Mitt Romney campaign spokesman Michael Steel told Yahoo News after the debate. "On the policy front, I think it was precisely what we expected. I didn't hear any new attacks really. There were a few statistics that were more of a reach than usually, but pretty typical of the vice president in the limited amount that we've seen him in public in the past few months."
During the vice presidential debate here Thursday, Biden regularly smiled and laughed out loud while Ryan was speaking, and often chuckled at times when it wasn't clear what he was smiling about.
"There was a lot of incredulity" among Romney-Ryan campaign staffers watching the debate in Kentucky, Steel said. "What is he doing? Why is he doing that? Does he know there's reaction shots? Several times it was just really inappropriate. Several times it seemed like he wasn't listening."
In the weeks before Thursday's debate with Biden, Ryan prepared behind closed doors with members of Romney's staff and with former solicitor general Ted Olson, who played the role of Biden. Olson, who studied Biden's policy positions and debate style, channeled the vice president during debate prep and would interrupt Ryan during practice sessions, Steel said, but the laughing tactic was not something they specifically rehearsed.
President Obama's campaign strategists denied that Biden's laughter was part of a premeditated strategy, even if it appeared to be a tactic intended to get into Ryan's head during the debate.
"It was the vice president having some fun," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said. "It was the vice president being a fierce advocate for the middle class, and I think that's who the vice president is."