Over the past two weeks, as the media buries the grave for Romney’s campaign and writes its tombstone, we’ve heard it a million times, over and over again: the debates could change everything. The debates are going to be the most exciting television this fall. The debates will finally show the human side of Mitt Romney to America. The debates will give us a chance to really see what this election is all about. Even Governor Chris Christie said today the debates would turn the election “upside down.”
This Wednesday, we’ll see if any of those statements hold true as Romney and Obama face off in the first debate at the University of Denver in Colorado. Guilty as charged, we are excited for the debate as well – it’s that little piece of history occurring in front of your eyes that evokes that tingling sensation. And, also, with all the labels attached to each candidate since this whole thing started, we have a lot to work with.
(Even though, if history tells us anything, it’s that we’ll wake up on Thursday morning and say “Meh” about it all. The sad reality of high expectations in politics.)
Anyway, the same amount of emphasis the media has placed on this spectacle is not shared by one very important person: Republican VP golden child, Paul Ryan. In his mind, it’s not going to be game-changing, it’s not going to be fun and, hey, Romney isn’t that trained for these kinds of things.
Those are his words, not ours.
On “Fox News Sunday” this morning, Paul Ryan spilled the beans to whoever’s up on Sunday mornings and tuned into that channel: “I don’t think one event is going to make or break a campaign. Look, President Obama is a very – he’s a very gifted speaker. The man’s been on the national stage for many years, he’s an experienced debater, he’s done these kinds of debates before. This is Mitt’s first time on this kind of stage.”
Given, he has a point – Mitt has never participated in a general election debate before and, notwithstanding his entire political career, he says some dumb shit once in a while, whether it’s being recorded inside of a fundraiser or not. However, in the primary debates this past fall, he did a fine job of rising above the rest in terms of eloquence and forcefulness. Except a third grader could’ve outdone out his rivals’ talking points. You don’t need to be a beautiful orator to beat Michelle Bachmann in a verbal boxing match.
Also, it is true: debates don’t change much. Nate Silver, the New York Times‘s gifted mathematician, argued this the other day. The most a candidate can gain from a debate is a temporary bump of 3 points in the national polls unless you’re sweaty Nixon in the first televised debate of 1960. So, right, the debate wouldn’t ‘make or break a campaign,’ Mr. Ryan, except that’s not why the debates are important for you guys.
These media spectacles are the last fighting chance your team has to show the American people why the hell they should trust a candidate who thinks almost half of the country’s denizens are a bunch of food stamp babies. This is your opportunity for your running mate to at least be cool for one hour only. And to tell the people why his experience at Bain Capital has taught him everything he needs to know about global macroeconomics.
If anything, this debate will not ‘make or break a campaign,’ it will make or break the mold everyone has put your campaign into. So get excited!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 30, 2012