I know, I know. I said this before the first presidential debate, and how did that turn out? At the risk of a repeat performance, I’m here to remind you that tonight’s V.P. debate is not likely to impact the presidential race very much. Democrats, of course, are hoping a strong performance by Joe Biden will blunt some of the momentum Romney acquired coming out of the first presidential debate. A quick look at the RealClearPolitics composite poll suggests Romney netted 4% as a result of his strong performance last Wednesday, and that gain has boosted Romney to varying degrees in all the battleground states t as well.
I don’t see tonight’s “winner” gaining nearly as much in the polls. But then, when it comes to assessing the winners, there’s not much polling data regarding past vice presidential debates. In 2008, a CBS poll of uncommitted voters indicated that most of them thought Joe Biden had “won” his debate with Sarah Palin, but most of those polled remained uncommitted. Gallup has this table showing the impact of debates on voters’ party preferences.
As you can see, the VP debates haven’t been very consequential, at least by this measure.
So, I certainly don’t expect Biden to regain all that lost polling territory tonight. But he may be able to lay down some markers that will serve him and the President well on the stump, and during the next presidential debates. In this sense the debate is probably better viewed as a preview for next Tuesday’s rematch between the President and Mitt.
I won’t bother providing any pre-debates “what to look for” insights since there’s plenty of that elsewhere (see here and here). You know the drill by now – both sides want to stick to their talking points, hammer home their dominant campaign themes, and paint the opposition into a corner. If you saw Biden debate Palin in 2008, you know he’s good at this format, despite his reputation for dropping Bidenisms into his off-the-cuff remarks. Ryan has less of a track record that I know of in this format, so I have less to go on. However, the Onion indicates that he’s been taking his preparation to extremes (hat tip to Jeff Cason)! The one wrinkle is that foreign policy is on the table, and the moderator is Martha Raddatz, the chief foreign correspondent for ABC. So I expect some foreign policy discussion, including efforts by Ryan to capitalize on the unfolding Benghazi security story. It will also be interesting to see how Ryan reacts to the inevitable efforts by Biden to tie Ryan’s budget around Mitt’s neck. Keep in mind that this debate is not between Ryan and Biden – it’s between surrogates for Romney and Obama.
I’ll be live blogging tonight with a new format that, I am told, will make it easier for you to comment. So join in the fun – I’ll be back on at about 8:45.