The number 2’s step up
After a more confident performance in the first presidential debate by Mitt Romney, the vice presidential debate showed a more competitive stance from the democrats, thankfully for Barack Obama. Now you might think this debate doesn’t matter so much when compared with the battle between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but to the contrary, they tend to show more about the candidates than they would care to admit. They are important members in the race, with John McCain’s decision to select Sarah Palin as his running mate proving disastrous to his chances in the last election.
Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, debated well but seemed to lack the experience of his adversary. He found it harder to attack Obama’s term in power, which Mitt Romney himself had found so easy in the previous debate. He gave clear answers to why he thought the current administration had gone wrong in their foreign and economic policy, but perhaps struggled when confronted with clear questions about his budget and various policies from both Joe Biden and Martha Raddatz. He also struggled when asked the controversial question on Abortion, where his answers conflicted with his previous views on what exemptions there should be (rape etc). But at the end he concluded that America should vote for Mitt Romney and himself because of their honesty, clearly making an effort to point to Barack Obama’s unfulfilled promises. This was a big statement to make and perhaps deserves different answers for both men. Mitt Romney has flip flopped between different polices so much it is hard to figure out what he will do when he is in office, with his biggest skill being his ability to remain convincing yet vague. Paul Ryan on the other hand has expressed his views more openly; with a budget plan to build on, an alternative Medicare reform plan (controversial yet detailed) and his personal views expressed (openly admitting his aversion to abortion). The People of America may not agree with such ideas, but at least they gain an idea of what they would be voting for, the same cannot be said for Mitt Romney.
Barack Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, showed his experience in the political world (as a state senator for over 30 years and vice president for nearly 4 years) and attacked Paul Ryan regularly on controversial topics. At times this showed his confidence and ability, but at other times it showed his arrogance, while his condescending laughs during Mr Ryan’s answers seemed inappropriate as a Vice President. Less of the patronizing tone would have probably won Joe Biden more voters, but after Mr Obama’s more conserved performance in the first debate, it was probably needed to regain the offensive in this election. He regained his control in the last stages of the debate to deliver a favourable answer to the abortion question, as he openly stated how he wouldn’t let his catholic religion impact on his role as Vice president and opted for the choice to be with the women facing the decision. He helped regain a footing for the democrats and pursued more aggressively the weaknesses in the Republicans policies that Mr Obama failed to do. His hounding of Paul Ryan to come up with the numbers for his budget plan to work (with the admirable help of Martha Raddatz) was a key moment of the debate as his opponent was left with no answer for the American people.
Joe Biden laughing during Paul Ryan’s answers could cost him popularity.
With the debate clearly not as popular as the presidential debate, I believe it still has great importance. Firstly, the American people have to decide if they can see these running mates taking over in the slight chance of the President dying, a test Sarah Palin spectacularly failed. For Joe Biden it wasn’t such a big moment, he had already been Vice President for nearly 4 years. But for Paul Ryan the public had to decide if he was sane enough to be considered the second choice. His conserved manner and respectable answers seemed good enough for most, and perhaps was a reason why he didn’t go on the offensive straight away, as he didn’t want to scare voters off seeing him as a second choice.
Secondly it showed a glimpse into policies of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Neither presidential candidate have faced many foreign policy questions on Iran and Syria yet, so this debate showed a preview of what we can expect. The Democrats seem assured of their record as of now (with the killing of Osama Bin Laden a crowning moment for them to boast) while Mitt Romney seems set to attack them on their inaction in Iran and Syria, the drifting away from Israel and the mistakes made in Libya. On economic policy, both attacked Mr Obama on America’s slow growth and consistently high unemployment, with Paul Ryan the man with the numbers and Mitt Romney providing the charisma to back it up. Together they can be formidable, but apart in these debates Mitt Romney has lacked detail and Paul Ryan the charm to convince the audience what his statistics mean. For the Democrats, Joe Biden seemed ready to defend their economic record by championing the Automobile industry that Obama bailed out and attacked the Republicans in general for the mess they left behind with George Bush. Barack Obama surprisingly failed to do this in his debate, allowing Mitt Romney to take control with his accusations of poor economic mismanagement. In the next debates it should be assumed Barack Obama will argue these points more to help win the economic argument that is so evenly balance right now between the two candidates.
A formidable team, but weaker when split up.
Overall, both running mates did a fine job in proving their worth and fighting their candidate’s corners. Joe Biden edged this debate with his experience and charisma, though the result itself will not have a big impact on the election. The real importance was the detail it gave in the two party’s policies and exclusively what weakness can be picked up on.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3roG09O6T4 - The debate in full.