With polls now showing that Mitt Romney received a decent bump from the first debate, it is up to Vice President Joe Biden to stop the bleeding within his party when he debates Congressman Paul Ryan at9pm this Thursday at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
But is Biden ready to carry the mantle?
The mood of the Democrats seems to be that of cautious optimism. Yes, the horribly gaffe-prone Biden is responsible for another news cycle, but the vice president also has almost four decades of political experience to draw on.
Just going off of his debate with Sarah Palin in 2008, it is clear Biden is a skilled debater (granted his opponent was Sarah Palin) who knows how to relate to the middle class electorate.
Biden effectively walked the line during the debate by not appearing over-aggressive and still got in the necessary jabs, though he was in the end technically out-folksied by Palin.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans are salivating at the chance to see Ayn Rand acolyte and conservative darling Paul Ryan dominate Biden.
Ryan is tasked with maintaining the forward momentum of the campaign, but he also has demons to face down.
For much of the campaign, Ryan has kept Romney’s plans at arm’s length. Two Sundays ago, when asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday to describe the Romney-Ryan tax plan, Ryan responded: “It would take me too long to go through all of the math.”
If the Democrats have learned anything from the first debate, Biden will press Ryan on specifics and force him to completely embrace the things Romney has said in the past on policy.
The most glaring factor though will be the visible generation gap between Ryan and Biden. Because of this, Biden is in a strong position to cast Ryan as the dangerous young whippersnapper who wants to kill Medicare and Social Security.
In response to Biden’s attacks, Ryan will most likely try to eschew being overly wonky and cast himself as a folksy, relatable Mid-Westerner. He should certainly use Biden’s own words against him, citing how Biden said the middle class has been ‘buried’ under President Obama. It will be also intriguing to watch how Ryan handles foreign policy questions as his experience on the topic is virtually nil. Will we finally find out where the Romney-Ryan actually differ on policy with Obama-Biden on Afghanistan?
The debate should at the very least prove a pointed clash of two very different personalities. And even in the scenario of a Biden win, it is likely that debate-watchers will not be satisfied to declare winners and losers until Obama takes the stage again. The saga continues.