FINAL UPDATE: As predicted, this debate won’t end up mattering very much. Each base will be pleased with its candidate and bewildered anyone could think much of the other guy, but I can’t imagine undecideds picking Obama or Romney based on tonight.
UPDATE at 9:50: The story of this debate so far is Biden’s rude and erratic behavior — interrupting Ryan repeatedly and weirdly laughing throughout Ryan’s remarks. As I said before, the obvious strategy is to portray Ryan, and by extension Romney, as untrustworthy. But there’s enough in his own remarks — his claim that no Democrats support Medicare premium support, for example — that should be howled down by the fact checkers that it isn’t going to work.
It will be interesting to see how well Ryan’s barrage of data and statistics goes over. Biden has stuck with one or two figures per answer; even though they’ve often been wrong, out of date, or misleading, the simplicity might work better. We shall see.
UPDATE at 9:20: Biden is doubling down on the idea the GOP candidates don’t tell the truth: “malarkey” and “incredible” are the words he uses to open his initial responses to Ryan’s comments. But it seems to me he left himself very much open to the fact checkers with his comment that there were no requests for additional security in Benghazi — there’s already been sworn testimony to the contrary before Congress.
That’s about all Biden said about Libya, as he quickly changed the subject to Iraq and bin Laden. Compared to Ryan’s detailed breakdown of what went wrong in Benghazi, I’m guessing that didn’t go over well with viewers.
I’ll be updating this post periodically during tonight’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and his would-be successor, Paul Ryan. I’ll also be tweeting my thoughts, and I encourage you to follow them, too.
On Monday, I wrote about the expectations factor in last week’s first presidential debate. I think that could play out the opposite way tonight: Republicans, in particular, are positively giddy about the prospect the well-spoken Ryan will tear the gaffe-prone Biden to shreds. But this ignores the fact Biden has more experience in this type of setting and a demeanor that could translate well to the viewership. Ryan is an unknown quality as far as debates go, though he’s proven to be effective at retail politics.
And there’s the question of how much tonight will matter, anyway. Who remembers the Dick Cheney-John Edwards debate in 2004? The Cheney-Lieberman debate in 2000? Lloyd Bentsen tore Dan Quayle a new one in 1988, while Quayle performed better than expected against Al Gore in 1992 — and yet neither Michael Dukakis nor George H.W. Bush won their respective races.
A Ryan win could keep momentum on the GOP’s side, while a Biden win could be used to spark an “Obama comeback” story. Would either development outlive next Tuesday’s Round 2 between President Obama and Mitt Romney? I doubt it.
But hey: It will, no doubt, be fun to watch and discuss.
– By Kyle Wingfield