Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vice Presidential Debate

Apologies for my absence from the blog over the past few days - I have been busy with some other work.

Tonight will see the first and only 2012 Vice-Presidential debate. The meeting between Biden and Ryan should bring some compelling insights concerning the state of the campaign and the divergent benefits (and costs) that Biden and Ryan bring to their respective running mates.

There will be a number of dyanmics at play tonight.

1) In the aftermath of the President's debate performance last week, the Obama campaign will be looking to Biden to make a strong showing. The Obama campaign team understand that if Ryan wins convincingly against Biden, the political consequences will likely be profound. Having Romney and Ryan comfortably win the first two debates would most certainly fuel further negative media attention on the incumbent ticket. In addition, a clear Ryan win would move more independents into the Republican bracket. Both these outcomes would dramatically increase pressure on Obama's re-election prospects.

2) There will be an interesting 'contest of style' tonight. In a similar manner to the first Presidential debate in which Romney tried to claim the mantle of a less-populist, more-CEO style leader, Ryan will seek to assert that narrative even further. Ryan will be focused on appearing as a determined, passionate policy wonk. The Romney campaign are wagering (I believe correctly) that because of the economy, voters are far more interested in politicians who offer policy solutions, rather than warm populism. In contrast to Ryan, Biden will want to come across as a literal 'average joe'. Biden's greatest political talent is his ability to appeal to the instinctive emotions of voters. Biden will want to make people feel good about him and by association, also feel good about the President. The Obama campaign remain convinced that increased enthusiasm from their base will go along way to helping them achieve re-election. It will be interesting to see how these two styles interact.

3) The policy debate tonight will probably center on three issues - Medicare, tax reform and the Benghazi intelligence scandal (that Obama's foreign policy is weak and struggles with the truth). Biden will attempt to launch an emotionally charged attack on the Romney-Ryan medicare and tax reform proposals. Expect Biden to bring out lines like this one (I have made this up) - 'In the midst of an economy in which middle class families across America are suffering, Romney and Ryan want to cut taxes on millionaires and turn medicare into a voucher system where seniors have to fight for the medical care they are owed.' In contrast, Ryan will attempt to counter Biden with the logical argument that Medicare is going bankrupt and that America's national leadership owe voters serious solutions rather than populist games. Expect Ryan to blow holes in the absurd Obama-Biden argument that the rich can pay down the national debt. Ryan will also make the case that tax reform is crucial to American economic growth and effective revenue generation. I expect these policy debates will become heated. 

What do I think will happen? While I don't expect a win on the scale of Romney's last week, I do feel that Ryan will win tonight's debate. With the exception of foreign policy, I don't believe that Biden has the policy-wonk strength to seriously debate Ryan on the issues. Ryan's passion for the Romney-Ryan proposals and crucially, Ryan's ability to articulate the seriousness of the issues at stake will be clear to voters. I believe that Biden will struggle to defend an Administration lacking in serious policy solutions for the great challenges of our time.

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