Rumble in Danville: The Media Eye the Debate
On Thursday night, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will go toe-to-toe in a debate that has the national media suddenly paying attention to an event usually assumed to be ho-hum at worst, and not-quite-so-ho-hum at best.
CNN’s lede graf on Monday got it right: “A former senator vs. a congressman. A Catholic vs. a Catholic. A policy wonk vs. an experienced speaker. The elements are in place for an interesting debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan.”
On the face of it, the debate contenders have solid strengths as well as potentially deflating weaknesses. Dan Balz, writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, suggests Biden’s years in the well of the Senate, refining his oratorical punches and counter punches may nonetheless be self-blunted by his legendary tendency to swing outside his scripts, leaving him vulnerable to a round-losing jab by an alert and fast-hitting Ryan. No one questions Biden’s enthusiasm for the fight—he’s been a scrapper all his life–but he has to keep his mouth guard in place.
For his part, Ryan’s gloves-off economic athleticism makes him capable of landing punishing body blows against Biden’s defense of the Obama fiscal record and future plans. But where Ryan has power, he also has weakness: he’s an admitted numbers wonk, and if he can’t bring focus to his fact-and-figure punches, he risks boring the auditorium and losing the energy of credibility.
To take the economy and tax rounds, Ryan needs to hold off battle-toughened Biden’s relentless shots to Romney’s still-undeveloped promises for a better tomorrow, and Biden will have to successfully parry Ryan’s uppercuts to Obama’s not-quite-moribund recovery. As Rosaline Phillips puts it in Examiner.com’s debate profiles, Biden “…will also need to be able to prove to voters that the democrats have a plan to build a stronger economy,” while “Ryan will need to prove republicans have a plan that will work best at building a better and stronger economy without negatively affecting the middle class.”
But Thursday’s Biden-Ryan battle won’t just be a slugfest over the economy. There will have to be some substantial ball-carrying to score big for their respective party’s foreign and domestic policies, defense posture, social issues, jobs, immigration, governance and more. Every topic will present an opportunity to score or be sacked.
Newsmax’s David Patten summed up the stakes: “If …Joe Biden can prevail in his 90-minute face-off against …Paul Ryan, it could turn the media narrative and help repair some of the damage incurred by the weak Obama showing on Oct. 3. But the savvy Ryan, who gobbles up dense budgetary reports as if they were dime novels, will try to replicate the political jiu-jitsu Romney performed against Obama. If he succeeds, it could go a long way toward convincing swing-state independent voters not to wait to see what four more years under Obama would bring.
Joe Biden is going to have to bring his A-game like he did in high school, at Archmere Academy, when he helped pull his football team out of a slump and into an undefeated season. The pressure is mounting again. His side’s been penalized at least four points for delay of interest at the Presidential debate; he’s going to have to go long and get that ball into the end zone.
Not to say Paul Ryan is going to just let Biden pull off a Hail Mary. Ryan is tough in the trenches, a high-school varsity soccer player unafraid to face a more experienced line, and a political powerhouse eager to press every advantage he can muster to gain ground and win the game.
Despite my mixed analogies, both men are ready to rumble in Danville. The fans are taking their seats, the media are settling down in the press box, but the question remains: how rough could it get? Take a look at Danville’s Civic Alerts page—they’re hiding the garbage cans!
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