After President Obama’s lackluster performance on the first presidential debate last Wednesday night, Democrats are placing their faith in Vice President Joe Biden to regain momentum in his upcoming match against Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and prove that the president and his running mate want to stay in Washington.
The Vice Presidential debate, which will take place at 9pm (EST) on Thursday, October 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky will cover both foreign and domestic policy, giving each VP candidate an opportunity to clearly lay out their running mate’s plans for America. For Biden to win, he must give a spirited, informed, and aggressive performance — avoiding gaffes, but full of his characteristic zingers — while Ryan will need to follow in Romney’s footsteps by moving to the center and simplifying policy positions to attract undecided voters.
Following Wednesday night’s presidential debate, Biden has responded to criticism that Obama seemed tired and misinformed, defending the president by saying he “did well,” and calling Obama's debate demeanor “presidential.”
Meanwhile, Ryan has enjoyed the afterglow of Romney’s golden performance.
"Mitt reminded me of Ronald Reagan in the first presidential debate," Ryan told to the Weekly Standard. "I told him how proud I was, how wonderful his performance was, how presidential he was, how I was excited that people got to know the man I know."
Given the overwhelming consensus that Romney won the first debate, the stakes are even higher for the upcoming VP debate. Ryan has said he is expecting Biden "to come at [him] like a cannonball," “in full attack mode,” after Wednesday’s performance.
Ryan is likely correct. Biden has already shown his willingness to attack his opponents throughout the campaign, and has increased this rhetoric since the first presidential debate.
The “public is gonna have collective amnesia” if it tries to follow Romney’s positions on Medicare, Biden said at the Mid America Center on Thursday. “Now, they’ve got a new plan. They’ve got a lot of new plans. Matter of fact, it’s hard to … keep up. It really is hard to keep up,” Biden said, “I think it’s even hard for them to keep up.”
Biden’s zingers might appeal to some, but he will also have to articulate how his party’s plan for America differs from the Republican Party’s “Path to Prosperity,” which would make Medicare a voucher system, transfer Medicaid to states as block grants, repeal the 2010 health care legislation, and include significant tax cuts.
Ryan played a prominent role in drafting and promoting the Path to Prosperity which will likely face scrutiny from his opponent during the debate. Biden will try to convince Americans that broad cuts to social spending and across-the-board tax cuts will hurt middle class Americans.
Biden is also likely to try to paint Ryan as a right wing conservative. In 2011, Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which significantly limits methods of in vitro fertilization and some types of birth control. Those on the left have tried to liken Ryan to the controversial Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin for his uncompromising anti-abortion views.
Ryan will succeed with American voters if he appears as congenial, informed, and centrist as did his running mate during the first presidential debate. He will need to convey that he and Romney would lead 100% of the country’s people and make decisions that better the poor and middle class as well as the wealthiest Americans. In discussing his policy positions, he will need to explain simply and directly the impact his policies will have on American lives, avoiding Obama's "professorial" style in favor of a simple, clear, and concise way of speaking.
Ryan is likely to attack the president directly rather than focusing his criticism on Biden. During rallies, Ryan has derided Obama’s leadership style, foreign policy record, and economic decisions.
Compared to Biden, Ryan has much less debate experience. His aides have said he may have participated in one debate when he ran for congress 14 years ago, while Biden has debated during two presidential candidacies and participated in the memorable VP debate with Sarah Palin in 2008.
Despite his upper hand in debate experience, Biden is famous for uncouth remarks. He will need to avoid his infamous propensity for “gaffes” and longwinded conversation style if he is to make the most of his two-minute answers on Thursday night.
Both candidates have a tall order ahead of them in complementing or correcting their running mate’s messages still fresh in the minds of Americans from the first presidential debate. With record viewership of Wednesday's debate, it is likely Americans will find themselves peeled to their televisions and computers again on Thursday night, as “loose cannon” Biden takes on "the brain" of the Republican Party.