Vp Joe Biden in Charlotte, NC, Sept. 6, 2012, and GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan in Tampa, Florida, AUG. 29, 2012
Credits: REUTERS/Mike Segar (L)/Jason Reed (R)
Vice-President Joe Biden and Republican v-p contender Paul Ryan will square off in Kentucky for a debate that isn’t supposed to mean much — sort of a preliminary to the second presidential debate five days later, on Oct. 22, in New York state which means a lot.
Conventional wisdom is that Paul Ryan should mop the floor with Biden, which may be Biden’s secret weapon. He’s so prone to gaffes and misstatements that it’s almost endearing. He’s this year's Teflon Kid — nothing sticks to him.
Ryan, on the other hand, has a sharp edge which may play against him. He’s considered lots smarter than Biden, but then who isn’t?
The presidential match-up is a town-hall format with select “undecided” voters (hmm, one wonders?) asking question about foreign and domestic policies, and each candidate responding in a two-minute time frame which CNN’s Candy Crowley is supposed to moderate. We’ll see if she’s as adept as Jim Lehrer wasn’t in the first debate.
If up to 65 million (a record) watched the first debate in which Republican Mitt Romney unexpectedly creamed Barack Obama, this one will likely have even more people tuned in. It’s inconceivable that Obama won’t sharpen his game, but it’s also unlikely that Romney will unravel. In the first debate, Romney was so quick, so relaxed, so knowledgeable, persuasive and cheerfully aggressive, that it’s hard to see him letting up.
The trials by fire in gaining the GOP nomination have made him formidable.
Obama is still Obama, and the underdog role (if that’s what it is) suits him.
But is he an underdog? Hardly. Hell, he’s the U.S. president and he takes blame or credit for whatever America does in the world. As Afghanistan falls apart, he must take responsibility — just as he gets credit for the elimination of Osama bin Laden.
In fact, neither is directly his fault — nor his achievement.
U.S. Navy SEALs nailed bin Laden. Afghanistan was a lost cause the minute it was invaded, despite Obama making it “his” war when it looked good compared to Iraq.
While an incumbent invariably has advantage over a challenger in a debate, Obama’s administration has not distinguished itself with positive achievements, neither at home nor abroad.
We’ll undoubtedly hear from Romney about 23 million Americans without jobs, and Obama blaming riots in Muslim countries on a movie that no one has seen. This time around, Obama may bring up Romney’s curious observation that 47% of Americans are unlikely to vote for him, plus relevant snipes at his Bain Capital record.
You can bet both will be prepared to rebut whatever the other brings up.
If tensions rise, one wonders if Candy Crowley can keep control? If not, who does it help — the loudest voice or the most restrained response?
Whatever happens, the election is now more of a horse race with polls showing both contenders roughly equal in the eight battleground states that could swing either way: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
The third and final debate is five days later, on Monday Oct. 22, on foreign policy and back to the format of the first debate, but with CBS’ Bob Schieffer (Face the Nation) as moderator.
Then it’s the voters turn on Nov. 6 to declare the winner.