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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Meet The VP Candidates Before Tonight

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan face off in their first and only debate on Thursday. (AP)

Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan pull up a couple of chairs for a vice presidential debate that has mushroomed in importance since Mitt Romney’s strong showing in the first presidential faceoff. This time, it’s the Obama team looking to put the brakes on the other guy’s momentum.

The veep showdown matches up two skilled politicians with strong policy credentials and very different styles. It’s 69-year-old Biden’s folksy appeal and solid vice presidential portfolio vs. 42-year-old Ryan’s intensity and extensive knowledge of the federal budget and economy from 14 years in Congress.

Like the second installment in a miniseries, it will help to shape the campaign narrative until Romney and Obama themselves meet up again Tuesday. Obama is eager to change the vibe after his lackluster performance in the first debate and Romney’s recent gains in the polls. Romney, for his part, is hoping that a strong Ryan performance will help propel Republicans forward on an energetic drive through the campaign’s final weeks.

Tens Of Millions Tuning In

The 90-minute debate at Centre College, a liberal arts school with just 1,340 students in tiny Danville, is sure to draw a television audience of tens of millions. But it’s unlikely to eclipse the 70 million who tuned in to watch Biden face off with Republican firebrand Sarah Palin four years ago.

That debate was more of a curiosity: It allowed Palin to outdo Biden in folksiness and recover from a series of painfully awkward media interviews but did little to alter the trajectory of the race.

“Normally vice presidential debates are good political theater and sort of interesting from a talent scout standpoint, as you evaluate the up-and-comers on the political stage,” says Alan Schroeder, author of a book on presidential debates. “But this year could be different because of the negative reviews of Obama’s performance. That heightens expectations for this second debate.”

VP Candidates Take Center Stage

“Joe just needs to be Joe,” Obama said, when asked his advice for the vice president in an interview Wednesday with ABC News.

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod, appearing Thursday morning on “CBS This Morning,” said he believes “the big challenge for him is to pin Congressman Ryan down.”

“Right now the Romney campaign is running away from some of their positions like unwanted stepchildren,” Axelrod said.

Thursday was a rare day when the political activities of the running mates were taking center stage and those of Obama and Romney were seen as secondary. But with just 26 days left until the election and the race still tight, neither Obama nor Romney was completely ceding the spotlight. The president was hunting for votes in Florida while his GOP opponent devoted time to North Carolina, another battleground.

Thursday’s debate, moderated by Martha Raddatz of ABC News, will cover both foreign and domestic topics. The debate is to be divided into nine 10-minute segments. At the outset, Raddatz will ask an opening question, and each candidate will have two minutes to respond.

Predictions From Obama, Romney

Romney and Obama both predicted strong performances by their No. 2s.

“I think Paul Ryan will do great,” Romney told supporters at a town hall meeting Wednesday in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

He said the debates offer people a rare chance to see the candidates directly, unfiltered by misleading and negative ads.

The GOP nominee said he’d seen some of the anti-Romney TV ads running in Ohio that morning, and added, “It’s a good thing I don’t do that very often because my blood pressure would be very high.”

Obama, in a radio interview Wednesday with Tom Joyner, said he’d been “too polite” in his debate with Romney – a sure sign that Biden won’t be going easy on Ryan. And that Obama won’t make the same mistake in the next two presidential debates, on Tuesday in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

“We’ve got four weeks left in the election, and we’re going to take it to him,” Obama said.

Later, in an interview with “ABC World News,” Obama minimized the importance of his poor first debate performance, saying: “Gov. Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It’s not the first time I’ve had a bad night.”

He added, “What’s important is the fundamentals of what this race is about haven’t changed.”

The president, who had tried to lower expectations for his own performance ahead of last week’s debate, predicted in his radio interview that Biden would be “terrific.”

Challenges For Both Candidates

Ryan signaled he’s ready for whatever Biden sends his way.

“I’m not intimidated, I’m actually excited about it,” he said on CNN.

Both Biden and Ryan head into the debate with vulnerabilities: Biden must rein in a freewheeling manner that can be endearing but also produces plenty of gaffes. Ryan hasn’t been in a campaign debate for more than a decade and is light on foreign policy experience, a sharp contrast to the vice president, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ryan also will need to find a way to reinforce Romney’s policy positions without selling out his own, more conservative credentials.

Romney adviser Kevin Madden signaled in advance that Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, would distance himself from his past proposals for sharp budget cuts.

“You have to remember that there is a Romney-Ryan ticket and there’s one presidential candidate – there’s one person at the top of the ticket – so the focus again will be on what Gov. Romney’s plan is for reforming Washington,” Madden said.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/anita.paul.5680 Anita Paul

    Why do people take Paul Ryan serious.  His policy ideas are the same Republican ideas that have been for years. Cut taxes, get rid of Social Security and Medicare.  Also,  he is the typical is okay if he is a Republican. He grew up after his father’s death on Social Security Death benefits but screw everybody else.  He is not a policy wonk.  Where is the new policy.  Plus the numbers don’t add up. 

  • Jochebed

    Everyone knows that politicians rarely know the truth.  I know of a little church in this town that will be out on the streets of Danville proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ, in contrast to whatever will be said from inside Centre.  Jesus saves!

  • Andrew

    You asked, “what do you hope to learn or what do you hope to hear in tonight’s debate?”

    Listen – we’re not going to learn anything about their respective positions during these debates. For goodness sake, if it’s not clear what the two parties stand for and their positions, we really need a better educated electorate.

    What do I want to see tonight though? I wouldn’t mind seeing the senior Senator kicking a little *ss tonight and wiping that damn smirk off of the Congressman’s face. That’d certainly be enjoyable.

  • J Frog

    You literally read every comment?  Anyway…should be an interesting debate.

    • Robin

      yes Mr. Frog! and tons more emails, which reminds me, we should ask people if we can post them. And  tweets!  And every now and then a letter comes and we gather the
      kids around and show it to them!

      Do love the feedback, despite the facial tic.

      All best

  • http://openid.aol.com/rlupodimare RAOUL

    I’m tired of hearing the Ryan-Rand story of his life. Around a 154,000 people die on the planet from normal causes everyday. There is no dignity in dying, yet, somehow Mr. Ryan’s 16 year old experience discovering the death of his father is somehow special. I can personally beat Mr. Ryan’s and Mr. Biden’s story anytime. The difference between Mr. Rayan’s and my story is that his father was an attorney, had a business and the family never had to ask for well fair. Life ain’t fair for those whom fathers are not present or are not attorneys. 

  • Sharon from Massachusetts

    I would like Biden (or someone in the Obama camp) to mention that Mitt Romney spent all his time in the weeks before the debate preparing for it (with the most expert and expensive help available), so of course he “looked good.”  Obama, on the other hand, was working at one of the most difficult, important, and largest jobs in the world — running the United States of America.  We don’t know what he had just been briefed on or was dealing with before he went into the debate. 

    When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he spent little time here.  He was clearly building his reputation nationwide for his future run for the presidency.  He didn’t seem to care much about Massachusetts (other than the health plan, strangely enough).  He mostly seemed to care about himself and his ambitions.  I think his flexibility in the stands he takes on issues is another symptom that he cares mostly about becoming president, not so much about what he intends to do for the nation 

  • Biwi

    I would like to see Biden forced to list, in detail, every one of the taxes contained in the “Affordable Care Act.”  Most counts I have seen have the number at 22, almost all of which have been concealed from the American public by the Democrats and the media.  Republicans have also been inexplicably quiet about this.  It is probably because the Democrats who voted for the act, as well as the Republicans who voted against it, don’t know what is in it.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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