Things to watch for in the Vice Presidential Debate

Joey Demarco

Last Wednesday, the 2012 Presidential election went from looking like a blowout to becoming a close race again. After Mitt Romney grabbed the attention of the country by not getting trounced on the stage, all eyes will be turned to Danville, Ky. this Thursday, October 11 for the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate between Republican Paul Ryan and Democrat Joe Biden. In these uncertain times, where Mitt Romney can poll close to the President of the United States, it can be hard to know what to expect next out of this race. So I thought I’d go ahead and help you out. Without further ado, here are the top three things to watch for in Thursday’s debate along with, of course, a debate prediction.

3. Experience. Both of these men will play on experience they have, though from different aspects. For Biden, experience is measured in time. Biden has been in Washington for 42 years now, the last four of which he has spent as Vice President. Ryan, on the other hand, has been in Washington for 14 years. That’s still a good number, but it pales in comparison to Biden. Expect Joe to give a number of anecdotes that subtly mention his experience. For Ryan, experience is measured in accomplishments. Ryan is currently the chairman of the House Budget Committee, meaning he has a specialized experience in one of the most politically significant topics in the country right now. Look for a large portion of the debate to focus on Ryan’s various budget proposals, with both attacks from Biden and suggestions from Ryan.

2. The attack. Vice Presidents are often viewed as the “attack dogs” of a presidential campaign, and that will be a role both men will want to take on Thursday. For Rep. Ryan, attack might not be in his nature, but he will want to keep the momentum Romney gained in the first debate, and continue it against a notoriously gaffe-prone Joe Biden. Biden, on the other hand, will have been looking for opportunities to attack. It’s simply the way he campaigns. Now, with the President having looked so passive this past week, Biden will no doubt take it upon himself to rally the Democrats back into the game. Saturday Night Live hit the nail right on the head when Seth Meyers said, “There’s like a 50 percent chance he’s gonna come out of the next debate with his shirt off.”

1. The truth. It may be hard to find in this one. Accuracy of statements was a major issue in the first debate. Obama’s advisors claim that the reason he debated so poorly was because he was in shock that Mitt Romney changed his positions during the debate. This one could go a similar direction. With both men on the attack, they may not have time to think about the long term effects of what they say and could get caught up simply denying everything their opponent says. Biden came away from the 2008 debates having strayed from the truth on a number of occasions, but was fortunate enough to be debating the one person in the world who didn’t know facts about her country. If Ryan tries to centralize his positions in the way Romney did, expect Biden to call him out. Biden claims that he has been studying Ryan’s policies nonstop over the last week and should be ready if and when the time comes.

Honorable Mention- Contrasting knowledge points. Both Biden and Ryan have specific areas of expertise, and those just happen to be the main points of the debate. For Ryan, it is the economy, and more specifically, the budget. Ryan has fathered several recent budget proposals and knows more specifics about that topic than probably the rest of America combined. Biden was a long time member and former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and foreign affairs figures to be a major factor at the debate as well. To make matters more interesting, both men are relatively weak when it comes to their opponent’s strengths, Biden rarely discusses the economy and Ryan hasn’t given a position on foreign policy in five years.

Prediction: Biden, angry and fired up from the shellacking his counterpart has taken from the media in recent days, comes out swinging with both fists. A terrified Paul Ryan seeks immediate refuge under his podium, claiming, “I’ve never seen that look in a man’s eyes before.” After ten minutes, Ryan is coerced back into an upright position and slaps himself across the face in an attempt to get his head back in the game. The following hour and twenty minutes turns into one of the nastiest debates of all time. Ryan yells at Biden 6 times, the camera 5 times, and Barack Obama 12 times. Biden responds by cruelly mocking Ryan for being a “no good Catholic” on issues like abortion and gay rights before Biden is reminded that he himself is Catholic. Ryan’s budget is mentioned a record 507 times, and Big Bird is mentioned no less than 10. Mentally exhausted and unable to keep up with Biden during the foreign policy section of the debate, Paul Ryan tries to undo his running mate’s Big Bird fiasco by sheepishly suggesting that Dora the Explorer be granted full US citizenship in a clear appeal to the dwindling Latino support in the Republican Party. After the debate, befuddled political pundits flip coins to determine the winner, causing mass outrage and hilarity when Fox News, despite re-flipping 8 times, is forced to call the Debate in favor in Biden. In the end, the debate, as all Vice Presidential things do, means nothing to the election, but everyone admits that it the most fun they’ve had watching adult men talk about a complex government system in years.