Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Scoping Out the Veep Debate

I just returned from Danville, KY, where the Vice Presidential debate takes place tomorrow night at Centre College. I can't speak for the candidates, but Centre and Danville are ready.  The town and campus looked spectacular:  flags and bunting waving in the October breeze, chrysanthemums everywhere. Not too many students to be seen, as this is the last day of mid-terms.

Meanwhile, we learn that the debate moderator, Martha Raddatz from ABC, hosted "Barry Obama" at her wedding reception. It's true that Raddatz divorced and remarried, but still:  by what measure can she pretend to be objective?  I will assume, for sake of argument, that the Commission on the Debates was unaware of this fact.  Nonetheless, the conflict of interest is so manifest that one wonders why Raddatz even threw her name in the hat.  She's a good foreign correspondent; she should have known better.

So what should we expect tomorrow night?  Joe Biden will try to balance geniality with attack dog mode.  We'll hear that he's just a blue-collar boy form Scranton.  He'll refer to the Republican War on Women (the Violence Against Women Act is one of his signature pieces of legislation.)  He will tell us that Paul Ryan is going to end Social Security and Medicare because he has no compassion for the disabled and elderly.  And he'll try to drive a wedge between Ryan and Romney on the budget and entitlements.

Ryan needs to keep drawing the debate back to the Obama-Biden record.  He needs to call Biden out for distorting how Republicans would reform entitlements and health care.  And that's exactly where the brilliance of Ryan's selection will become evident.  Had Romney selected a governor as his running-mate, he or she would not have the command of the budget Ryan has and therefore would have a much dicier time spotting when Joe Biden is making stuff up (which he will). Ryan is so well-versed in the budget that he can spot the lie and call Biden out with confidence.  The trick for Ryan will be to do this in a way that doesn't look ugly.

Ultimately, the Vice Presidential debate is unlikely to change much.  We will wait in suspense to see if Joe gives us one of his gaffes. He's been practicing and practicing to reduce the odds of  that happening.  But any time Joe Biden opens his mouth, the possibility of him inserting foot is ever present. I'm reminded of Dr. Seuss:  "Left foot, left foot, left foot, right!  Feet in the morning, feet at night!"  Here's hoping the Vice President brings two left feet to Danville tomorrow.

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