There seems to be little consensus on the future outcome of Thursday’s one-and-only vice presidential debate. The Ryan and Biden face off appears to have no player with a clear advantage and, thus far, each competitor has remained very amicable to the other. One thing that is agreed upon is that the current vice president must remain firm on challenging Ryan to substantiate all his remarks, something that Obama failed to do in his first debate with Romney.
Biden has over four decades of experience in public service, including having gone through two presidential campaigns, and has maintained a long-standing role in policy making. Despite Biden’s a past of media-hyped, politically gaffe statements, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus recently said of Biden, “Joe Biden is a gifted orator. He is very good at rhetoric, and I think he is very relatable.”
Biden has been at the helm of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act since its inception in 2009, focusing on “college affordability and American manufacturing growth." Biden should highlight the successes of the ARRA, which was urged by President Obama, in both qualitative and quantitative terms. If Biden allows Ryan to stick him with his recent statement about the middle class being “buried” for the last four years, Biden could easily find himself backed into a corner.
Ryan is known for his strong, conservative stance on fiscal issues and is currently serving as House Budget Committee Chairman. His controversial budget proposals were even (briefly) called “right-wing social engineering” by conservative colleague Newt Gingrich. Ryan’s plan includes an overhaul of Medicare, a topic surely to be addressed during Thursday’s debate. It will be on domestic fiscal issues that Biden will have to ensure maximum preparedness.
In a February press release that followed Obama’s request for the 2013 Budget, Ryan had remarked, “Our families, seniors, children and grandchildren deserve better than this reckless budget and this dismal failure of leadership. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues – from both parties where possible – to advance bold solutions that lift our crushing burden of debt and ensure a future of opportunity, growth and prosperity.” Ryan is quick and straightforward, and can make a strong rhetorical appeal to the American family and its traditional values. This will require Biden’s utmost sharpness.
However, Darrell M. West, the Vice President of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute, notes that there should not be so much worry surrounding the vice president’s performance. West remarked that he “doesn’t have to be very tough on Ryan. He just has to point out how the Romney/Ryan policies will affect women, seniors, young people, and minorities.”
It will most likely be a more complex game than that, but Biden will have a chance to hit heavy on foreign policy. After Romney’s foreign policy speech in Vermont on Monday, Ryan spoke in near identical terms on those issues, giving Biden a rather clear view of the GOP team’s foreign policy strategy.
While the spotlight is almost always on the presidential nominees, the vice presidential debate is an interesting step back that offers a wide-angled look at campaign platforms. Vice presidents, after all, serve as close advisers to their president. Additionally, the debate serves as the first official confrontation that addresses both domestic and foreign policy. This could give the presidential candidates a picture of their opponent’s strategy over the next few weeks and help determine their famous last words on the campaign trail.