Biden vs. Ryan: What to Watch for in the Debate

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Mandel NGAN / Nicholas KAMM / AFP / Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden, left, at the White House on April 12, 2011; Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan in Washington on April 5, 2011

Generally speaking, it takes a political junkie to get excited about a vice-presidential debate. Sure, showdowns between candidates can be interesting, and occasionally they become truly significant after the fact if some defining moment — “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” — ricochets around the media. But if anyone can find a voter who changes his or her mind based on which No. 2 argued better, make that person an exhibit at the Smithsonian.

That said, in Danville, Ky., on Thursday night, Joe Biden will participate in the second vice-presidential debate in a row to draw an unusual amount of interest. Four years ago, the ratings for Biden’s showdown with Sarah Palin were higher than those for any of the presidential debates. (The night is perhaps best remembered for Palin’s repeated winks at the camera.) This time, interest is running higher than normal thanks to the sense that Mitt Romney’s thumping of Barack Obama in the first presidential debate blew a hole in the Obama campaign’s hull. Suddenly, one debate seems capable of reshaping the race, and suddenly the Obama team needs a shift in momentum. And while Paul Ryan may be no Sarah Palin, he is among the more polarizing running mates in history, sure to draw a surplus of both admirers and haters.

(PHOTOS: Notes from the Campaign Trail with Paul Ryan)

So, what to expect? Here are four key themes to watch for:

Ryan plan vs. Obama record. Count on Biden going hard after the Ryan plan, the House budget document for which his opponent is famous (Obama once said it contains a vision of “social Darwinism”). During a recent campaign swing to Florida, Biden warned seniors that the Medicare-reform component of the Ryan plan, which Romney has adopted, would “fundamentally change Medicare. They’d turn it into a voucher program.” (Biden usually doesn’t note that, under the plan, seniors can remain in traditional Medicare if they want.) We’re likely to hear the same on Thursday night. He’ll try to pin down Ryan — more effectively than Obama did Romney — on the elusive details of the Romney-Ryan tax-reform plan. And he may repeat past assaults on Ryan for votes he cast in Congress that increased the national debt.

For his part, Ryan will parry on Medicare by noting Obamacare’s $716 billion in cuts to the program. Then he will light into the Obama Administration’s jobs record and the growing national debt. (Ryan’s campaign events often feature a large digital debt clock ticking away above the stage.) He’s likely to taunt Biden for recently turning $1 trillion in new taxes on the wealthy into an applause line. And on foreign policy, Ryan seems primed to make Biden squirm over new revelations about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and to make the larger argument that U.S. foreign policy is “unraveling” worldwide.

Does experience matter? If Ryan goes after Biden on foreign policy, he’ll be staging an assault on the Vice President’s turf. Biden is a true foreign policy expert who, if only by dint of experience, could likely talk circles around his 42-year-old budget-focused foe. Biden will want to show off the depth of his knowledge — and put Ryan on the spot if possible — without seeming to talk down to his opponent. (The debate moderator, ABC News national-security reporter Martha Raddatz, is also likely to ask tough foreign policy questions.) Ryan, on the other hand, might turn Biden’s experience against him, noting that Biden has been in Washington 26 years longer than Ryan, presenting himself as a tribune of fresh, new ideas. And if Biden leans heavily on the killing of Osama bin Laden, Ryan might remind Biden that he advised Obama against undertaking that mission.

(MORE: Do Vice-Presidential Debates Matter?)

Working-class heroes. Biden and Ryan will compete to be the true champion of blue collar America. Biden takes special pride in his Scranton, Pa., Catholic roots — and he can lyricize about the working man better than almost anyone else in American politics. (How many of those hard-working stiffs will be tuned in to this debate instead of the baseball playoffs is another matter.) Biden is likely to deliver a rousing account of Obama’s auto-industry bailout, for instance. But Ryan will fight for the same piece of turf. On the stump, he has been playing up his small-town Wisconsin roots and cultural conservatism (he tries not to spotlight the fact that he’s also a millionaire). Ryan likes to remind voters of Obama’s 2008 riff about voters who “cling to guns or religion,” then declare, “I’m a Catholic deer hunter — guilty as charged.” By many accounts, Palin managed to out-populist Biden in 2008.

The gaffe factor. No discussion of a Joe Biden appearance could be complete without noting that there’s no telling what might happen anytime the man speaks extemporaneously for an extended period of time. Democrats can take comfort, however, in the memory that his debate with Palin as well as his many 2008 Democratic primary debates were largely Bidenism-free. As for Ryan, he’s a far more disciplined speaker, though we’ve seen recently that he can founder under pressure. And as Dan Quayle learned, you can lose a vice-presidential debate simply by being on the receiving end of a great zinger. Biden’s got some of those too. Which could make things entertaining for whoever is actually watching the debate undercard.

MORE: Let There Be Joe Biden

129 comments
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Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

I just read Halperin's comments about the Veep debates. I do not think a draw will cut it. I want Biden to "slaughter" Ryan. I hope he does expose Ryan. Ryan has been practicing yes, but he is a FAKE and unwonky bottom of the ticket LIAR. I want him pounded by Biden. Biden is consistent, and I know he can deliver. 

In addition, I want to know why MSNBC is having Schmidt on the panel. He started the panic over Obama performance in the last debate. I wish someone else could take his place. 

superlogi
superlogi

I hope last night's performance by the manic depressive won't make you one, because you obviously didn't get your wish.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Biden chewed and spat out Ryan. Ryan was exposed. Did I get mt wish. HE*** YEAH!

superlogi
superlogi

Yet, CNN and HufPo, both bastions of conservative thought, say it was just the opposite.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

Reading Halperin is not conducive to gaining knowledge.

Benevolent_Lawyer
Benevolent_Lawyer

 In some ways, tonight's debate is at least

as important as the debates between the presidential candidates. For

the first time in history, a catholic christer is debating a catholic

christer....on some very touchy christer issues. This is not a small

thing, considering the enormous number of catholic christers in the

country. If they play their cards right, this could be a VERY

interesting evening.

paulejb
paulejb

Benevolent_Lawyer,

Good evening, Besch. How's it going? 

On this end, it's hard to keep up with your name changes.

Grant MacDonald
Grant MacDonald

Roman

Catholic; Baptist amp; Mormon churches who were involved in Proposition 8;

against the gay community – should be shut down immediately and/or have their

tax exemption status revoked!

Church

manses; mansions; corporate jets and Christian college campuses … should face

taxes or be shut down -- based on corruption and/or being involved in cultism!

 

Mormons are nothing more than homophobic bigots and

lustful religious lunatics; who harvested women … attempting to scrutinize themselves;

into eternity – without success!

Romney as

President; would mean the darkest amp; meanest period in the United States of

America’s history.  Homophobic --

witchcraft would rule the government from Rome amp; Salt Lake City …!

Grant MacDonald
Grant MacDonald

Religious Republican

zombies are coming out of the woodwork -- descending on America! Scary or what?

Romney;

would be the equivalent to the Taliban -- in his treatment to the gay community

-- with his extreme cultist attitude … if ever elected!

Religion; is the biggest bully on the block!

IRS

codes prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates!

The

IRS … should immediately tax churches -- that break that rule!

Churches

-- are opposing gay rights -- based on a cult! Tax them or shut them down!

Roman

Catholic; Baptist amp; Mormon churches who were involved in Proposition 8;

against the gay community – should be shut down immediately and/or have their

tax exemption status revoked!

Church

manses; mansions; corporate jets and Christian college campuses … should face

taxes or be shut down -- based on corruption and/or being involved in cultism!

 

Mormons are nothing more than homophobic bigots and

lustful religious lunatics; who harvested women … attempting to scrutinize themselves;

into eternity – without success!

Romney as

President; would mean the darkest amp; meanest period in the United States of

America’s history.  Homophobic --

witchcraft would rule the government from Rome amp; Salt Lake City …!

 

 

Grant MacDonald
Grant MacDonald

Being black, left-handed or

being gay is just as natural.  It is a

sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart

and be loved in return ... it is something that should be celebrated!   If it’s between two guys or two girls -- all

the better.  It takes even more courage

to defend that LOVE!

 

The evil writings in

Leviticus 18:22 … against gays – depict: “P” … “priestly rules” amp; expanded

by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds … to attack the gay community and

never meant to apply to the public -- but to priests. Leviticus was written

long after Moses -- 600BC.

 

There is no scientific evidence to prove any of the

cross related bogus elements of christianity and other religions. Our early

human ancestors; on this earth … go back more than 6 million years … 5,996,000

years before the Greeks, Romans and the Jews. 

Christianity is basically a 2012 year old fictional cult.

In the year 300 AD when Emperor Constantine, who to

some was the first pope; went on to fabricate amp; market Christianity!

Christianity is a fantasy; which turned out to be

one of the most hateful amp; evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world.  

 

It

is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked

fantasy.  To

see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is

shameful. 

 

The pope and churches fully

aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies to priests only … refuse to remove this

stigma … maliciously persecuting gays.  Kids are being bullied into

suicide …! 

Johnny Scar
Johnny Scar

Always with the Kennedy snap.  How about Romney/Obama debate when Romney said " I have been in business for 25 years.  I don't know what you're talking about".  Now that is a kick in the nuts!

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 The kick in the nuts is that some people in this country are actually dumb enough to go back to the same Republican policies and expect a different outcome.

Harry Kuheim
Harry Kuheim

Joe's Secrete Mathematical proof of Obama's success...Hope+ Change+Tax Payer Money=:-)

SiDevilIam
SiDevilIam

 Biden-Ryan Debate: Pflop pflop pfizz bizz.. oh what a relief it is!@mysistermarilynmonroe:disqus .org

Bid Farewell to Biden@mysistereileen:disqus .com

...and I am Sid Harth@gosumercogito.blogspot.com

Erik Meyer
Erik Meyer

Why does the image of Ryan look so horrible? I mean, it looks as if work has been done (bad lighting like what happened to McCain) compared to Biden?  It looks as if he lit from directly overhead which causes shadows under the eyes and more menacing look like OJ's famous picture.  The image also appears to have the clarity turned way up which brings out every single pore in the face.  As with Biden he looks more youthful for his age than Ryan who is nearly 20 years younger. 

There are better pictures you could have used Time:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl...

Drew Bowler
Drew Bowler

Ryan will spank that aged commie frat boy's @$$...  Of course it will be with facts, which Biden has no knowledge of.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 Thanks for illustrating the depth of Republican ignorance in one easy to follow post.

paulejb
paulejb

MrObvious,

"They're not really notorious but it is a important meme for people who don't know."

===================================

Not notorious? Only if you live on another planet.

"Joe Biden Can't Count"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Then there is Joe Biden the faith healer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

MrObvious
MrObvious

No, not really. I mean they're notorious for you, but no more 'special' than say what Akin said and other politicians.

Take Sarah Palin, she was a talking points factory (and still is) but she illustrated her notoriousness not just by what she said (says) but also through imagery - like notes on the palm of her hand.

So thanks, but you are as always full of it.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

At least he's not guilty of outing CIA agents or war crimes.

paulejb
paulejb

DonQuixotic,

No one is guilty of outing a CIA agent. It was not a crime.

The neglect of security at Benghazi was criminal

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

 or tax evasion via UBS bank

paulejb
paulejb

mantisdragon91,

26 days and counting, Bugs. Better get a move on.

SC
SC

Here we go. Another political debate. VP vs VP contender. After the no-show by President Obama in his debate, this will probably be the most watched VP debate in American history. But will it be Biden against Ryan or Biden against Biden? Can Ryan back off because Biden is self-checked? Some say they prepared Biden by telling him that if he gets through without putting his foot in his mouth, he should just try to hold the ball and let the clock run out.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

I'm pretty sure the most watched VP debate in American history will remain the Palin debate, and we all know how well that went for her.

SC
SC

Perhaps you're right but this one will be close. Biden's gaffes are notorious and some can be overlooked (also true of Palin). But Biden's latest: “put y’all back in chains” was it for me. Disgraceful, divisive, dishonest, deceptive, etc...

sacredh
sacredh

SC, nothing I have said is a theory. They are facts. Ryan has talked extensively about them. I don't watch MSNBC btw. I don't watch Fox either. Ryan has spent the last couple of years talking about his tax cuts and his proposed changes to Medicare in his budget. His own proposals are theories and not what he believes and tries to sell? What are they then?

.

Ryan did co-sponsor with Todd Akin legislation that didn't provide exceptions for incest or rape. Ryan has distanced himself from Akin, not the legislation he co-sponsored. Ryan provides his own talking points. he calls them his ideas. I'm sure you are fully aware of his proposals though.

SC
SC

Sacredh,

I respect that you've chosen to believe these theories about Ryan but honestly, these sound like talking points from MSNBC - the ultimate place for the politics of arrogance and intolerance.

MrObvious
MrObvious

Or, infamous, egregious, outrageous, arrant, flagrant, disreputable. Consider the top ten for starters. One can only imagine what is not recorded!

Really, how many outside the punditry class or people who are into politics knows about anything Biden says? I mean the myth is that Biden says these things but I bet there are few that can name one of the things.

On the other side ask any senior about Paul Ryan.

That is the differense.Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012...

MrObvious
MrObvious

I hear you Sacrech, Biden's verbal trips makes people laugh (and some cringe) but they don't imply anything policy wise. Unlike the idiotic stuff that Akin said, that Sarah Palin said and what Paul Ryans wants to do.

And that's the differense; there's not one single policy born out of the stuff Bidens says. There's plenty that is legislated or tried to become legislation based on the moronic slime coming from others.

sacredh
sacredh

Biden's gaffes may not be as damaging as Ryan's truths. Is Ryan going to be honest about how badly his budget would screw over seniors? Is Ryan going to be honest and admit that he co-sponsored with Todd Akin legislation that would outlaw abortion with no exception for incest or rape? Will Ryan be honest and admit that his tax cuts for the wealthy would burden the middle and lower classes? Will Ryan be honest and admit that his proposal for medicare vouchers will cost seniors thousands?

.

The truth doesn't always set you free. Sometimes it can lose a debate.

SC
SC

Perhaps "widely and unfavorably known" Or, infamous, egregious, outrageous, arrant, flagrant, disreputable. Consider the top ten for starters. One can only imagine what is not recorded! http://blog.chron.com/txpotoma...

MrObvious
MrObvious

They're not really notorious but it is a important meme for people who don't know.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Reagan had the ex CIA guy,  Bush the elder,  essentially run the WH while Ronnie smiled and was given avuncular stories to tell the gullible public as he sank into senility. Bush the dumber had what people referred to as "the most powerful VP in history' -  translated-  the shadow Pres., Cheney.

 The  money boys foisted Ryan upon Willard, so they can have their own WH Trojan Horse to do their bidding, as they eviserate the social safety net. By now this has become a GOP tradition.

anon76returns
anon76returns

Honestly, I don't see the parallel.  As little respect as I have for Romney, I have to admit that Romney:Ryan>Reagan:HWBush, and sure as heck is >WBush:Cheney.  I seriously doubt Ryan would be calling the shots in a Romney White House.  The problem is that after 6 years of campaigning, I still have no idea what shots Romney would call in a Romney White House.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Willard will do what he's told - whether it's by Norquist, Cantor, Ryan, McConnell,Adelson or the Kochs. Remember the man is an empty vessel, as was Reagan and Bush 2.

bobell
bobell

I'm sorry, but I'll take Reagan/Bush over any Republican ticket since.  Reagan, for all his rhetoric, was a practical politician who left women's rights alone, raised taxes when necessary, and beat it out of Lebanon when it became unbearable.  I wish he were running today, and boy does that say a lot about my view of Romney.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

 Who is this Whitehousecover clown, for crying out loud?? Look here buddy, you might be on the wrong site. For conspiracy theories, you might want to meet with with Jack Welch, Trump or even Palin. This is not the best place to hawk aluminum hats either. Jeesh!!

  Eva  Russell
Eva Russell

@MediaCoverUpExposedHere:disqus A record of going after America's enemies and actually succeeding.  Mary answered I'm in shock that any one can earn $958O in 4 weeks on the network. did you look at this...NDOQESB.Tk

GovernmentCoverUpClickHere
GovernmentCoverUpClickHere

Vote out Obama and put an end to his commie-unity organizing agenda...

New World Order leaders have been exposed

Obama Osama

Biden BI nla DEN

Americans are waking up to the truth and the media cover up....