The question as to weather Vice-presidents matter is probably best based on the Individual. Sarah Palin made a big difference to me in 2008, I really like John McCain but I just couldn’t have Governor Palin just a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Dick Cheney is another good example of a Vice-President that mattered, and a dire warning to us all. They can be silly like Dan Quale, a bit pompous like Al Gore or sometimes a matchless politician like Lyndon Johnson but that’s not a very common occurrence. Come voting time it’s very rare to base your vote on the Vice-presidential candidate.
So when we watch the Vice-presidential debates it’s kind of a “lower contest”, a battle of the second raters and usually not the seconds in command. Although they can suddenly become the commander in chief and you don’t always get a Lyndon Johnson or a Teddy Roosevelt. Still, mostly we don’t like to think about that possibility.
The debate Thursday night was pretty much what I expected. Joe Biden, old time politician slugging it out against the newer style of policy wonk Paul Ryan. Needless to say after more than 20 years at the game Joe Biden can blast away all night at his opponent and they’ll still like him at the end. Biden has the two thousand watt " Screen eating" smile, is very quick on his feet and even though he sometimes says things that are embarrassing, we still like him. He’s like the uncle who’s “had a few” at the party, basically a great guy who sometimes goes a little too far.
Paul Ryan did much better than I expected. He seemed almost “fluid” in foreign policy, which was surprising for someone with so little experience. If his campaign let him reveal just a smidgen of any planned policy he might have stood up a lot better. Instead, he walked right into several tough spots. While going after the Stimulus, Biden hammered him for asking for some himself. On Iran, and later Syria, it would have been much better had he any alternative to offer other than complaints. The worst part was it gave Joe a chance to say “What do you want to do...Start another war?”
But he didn’t get booed, which the members of the AARP treated him to during the summer. He remained cool, calm and collected even though he was out of his depth in that kind of debate. You don’t get a lot of points when you can’t explain how things like the 20% tax cut are going to work. Is that because it’s just too complicated to explain on national TV? He had a very tough job, fighting with very little ammunition against a skilled opponent. With that in mind, I think he did ok.
It still comes down to this: Do we care what the Vice-Presidential candidates think? Democrats do, they want to hear more from Paul Ryan, they think he’s the Republican campaign’s Achilles heel. Republicans want to hear more from Joe Biden as well, always hoping he’ll deliver a really good gaff. But do the real contenders in the race want to hear more from their running mates? I don’t think so.
Joe Biden is out stumping every day but rarely do we hear much about that. Paul Ryan is on the trail as well but a little more quietly and a little farther away. He’s no Sarah Palin but it seems the campaign is keeping his presentation to a more discrete level just in case. Of the two, Biden, an old time campaigner, certainly seems to be trusted little more rope.
Did the Vice-Presidential debate move any voters? Possibly one or two, but as I said it’s fun to watch the second placers because they tend to get a little wilder and it doesn’t matter as much.
Of course, that’s as long as we keep our thoughts away from the possibility that one of these two men could also be the next President.