What effect will the vice presidential debate have on the polls?
On September 30, Real Clear Politics aggregate polling data showed that President Obama had a 4.1% lead over Mitt Romney in the polls. Less than two weeks later, this advantage has completely evaporated, and the Real Clear Politics average now gives Romney a 0.7% edge. This shift can largely be attributed to the president’s poor debate performance. Considering that debates between presidential candidates have already shown their influence on public opinion in this election, will Thursday's vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden have an impact on the presidential race?
In 2008, the vice presidential debate had little to no effect on polling data. The vice presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden took place on October 2, 2008. Real Clear Politics data showed that Obama had a 6.7% advantage over John McCain before the debate. By October 7, the date of the of the next presidential debate between McCain and Obama, polls showed that Obama’s lead trimmed slightly, to only 5.6%. Likewise, the impact of the vice presidential debate in 2008 was negligible. In 2004, the vice presidential debate between John Edwards and Dick Chaney was held on October 5. On the day of the debate, Bush had a 1.6% advantage according the Real Clear Politics aggregate poll. Three days later, the day of the second presidential debate, Bush’s advantage only slightly increased to 2%. Once again, the vice presidential debate did not drastically change the opinion of Americans. In fact, according to Gallup, in the eight vice presidential contests since 1976, the median change in the polls is 1%.
Do not expect the vice presidential debate to drastically impact the race. However, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden will provide an excellent discussion of the issues and two very different debating styles. Ryan’s youthful exuberance will be juxtaposed with Biden’s long track record of experience in the Senate. They both represent two very different schools of economic and political thought and will accordingly be in direct opposition on most policy points throughout the debate. Expect to see a dynamic between the two candidates that resembles a role reversal of the Obama-McCain contests. The Republican will be the younger, fresher, professorial candidate, while the Democrat will be the older, gaffe prone, but more decorated option.
Thursday's debate should paint a clearer picture for what to expect over the next four years in both a Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden administration.
The debate will be held at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, from 9:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., moderated by ABC's Martha Raddatz. For live coverage, including real-time analysis, live stream, and updates, follow along here.