America is still letting out an exhausted sigh from the debate two nights ago in Denver. At this point, who knows who won, and who actually cares? The best/worst part of it all, as my colleague James King pointed out, is that Donald Trump was mentioned two times in 90 minutes; that’s two times more than the number of times Trump should ever be mentioned in a presidential debate.
Nevertheless, the next two meetings between Romney and Obama will likely produce more “mehs” from the begrudging national audience. Don’t worry, Election Day will be over soon enough. At least we hope so.
But, Romney and Obama aside, we are forgetting a very important part of the American democratic process: the vice presidential debate. Next Wednesday, in lieu of the big boys fighting again, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden will face off at Centre College in Kentucky. The topics: domestic and foreign policy. The expectations: With last Wednesday in mind, it’s evident that the VP debate will be much more entertaining then what we saw with Romney/Obama.
Especially with these two characters involved.
To make this point, there’s a few things we have to touch upon. The first is what we’re working with in the past: Every time we’ve seen Joe Biden debate in the past, he’s been ignored by a higher power.
In 2008’s Democratic Party primary debates, the rivalry between Hillary and Barack took everyone’s attention off the other candidates standing there next to them (Dennis Kucin-who?). Once Barack accepted the throne and brought Biden with him to Camelot, the VP debate was dominated by the Barracuda herself, Sarah Palin. The media wanted to hear what she had to say about every issue in the political spectrum because each and every other sound bite of hers was a wonderful headline waiting to happen. With that being said, Biden was, once again, overshadowed.
But, against Ryan, Biden has the opportunity to shine.
In terms of wit, Ryan is the complete opposite of Palin: He can make coherent sentences and explain policy better than your political science professor (the substance of the policy notwithstanding, of course).
Remember: Every number and statistic Romney spewed out in Denver has some sort of six degrees of separation with Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget blueprint. The VP nominee just has to avoid coming off as the smug, pretentious know-it-all and be able to defend himself against accusations that his master’s numbers were a tad off from reality the other night (according to most fact-checkers, they were).
Also, with Joe, we have the go-to gaffe label — in terms of recognition, the vice president’s public persona, whether he likes it or not, is a running joke. He’s bound to say something he shouldn’t have, which everyone, except Barack, should look excitingly forward to. Cross your fingers and hope for the gaffe.
With these two on the same stage, we have a situation that is akin to a Thanksgiving dinner where the dorky cousin is trying to outsmart the drunken uncle. Ryan will attack with policy (percents, deficits, tax deductions); Biden will attack with emotion (“BUT THE MIDDLE CLASS!”). To win a debate in the American system, you need to perfectly balance the two: a little from column A, a little from column B. Luckily, we have both columns’ extremes on the national stage, duking it out for that middle ground.
Who said vice presidents weren’t important? Or at least, entertaining? Oh, right, Dick Cheney.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 5, 2012