I’m skeptical that any undecided voter has ever voted for a presidential ticket because of the identity of the vice presidential candidate, or the performance of that candidate in a debate. In this awful election, though, do we think that any rational voter who is dithering about the unfortunate choices presented really would vote for the Trump-Pence ticket because Mike Pence might seem like a reasonable guy in tonight’s VP debate? Who could really think that Pence is going to have some significant voice in determining policy if Donald Trump somehow is elected President, anyway? Or, alternatively, could anyone who is on the fence about whether to pull the lever for Hillary really determine that the balance is tipped in favor of HRC because of Tim Kaine’s riveting mastery of policy details?
Nah! Let’s face it — the Veep debate is a non-starter, and in this star-crossed election of 2026, that’s even more so than it’s ever been. Who cares who is the successor to Richard Nixon, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Spiro Agnew, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney? If you can’t decide who to vote for on the basis of the presidential candidates themselves, you probably shouldn’t be voting, should you?
Yesterday, on our drive home, we listened to the C-SPAN rebroadcast of the vice presidential debate. Being up north and out of TV broadcast range, we hadn’t seen the debate live or heard any of the post-debate spin.
It was odd to hear a political debate rather than to see it, as if we had been hurled 50 years back in time to 1960. And, as legend says was the case for the first Kennedy-Nixon debate that year, the visual TV medium apparently created a different perception of the Biden-Ryan debate than did the aural radio experience. Because we were just listening, we didn’t see Vice President Biden’s facial expressions and physical gestures that have been the subject of so much talk.
We could, however, hear the Vice President’s chuckles, ejaculations, and interruptions. At times the cross-talk made it impossible to understand what anyone was saying. I’m not sure politicians fully appreciate how annoying it is when they try to talk over each other, whether it’s during a debate or on a Sunday morning talk show. It’s not persuasive, either; instead, the interjections make it seem like you believe you can’t afford to let your opponent finish his point. That seems more like weakness than vigorous advocacy. When lawyers present an oral argument, they argue their case, listen to their opponent’s position, and then present a rebuttal — without interruptions or attempts to monopolize the microphone. Why can’t politicians show the same courtesy?
Other than the irksome disruptions, incidentally, I thought the debate seemed evenly matched. Biden showed more passion, Ryan showed more precision, but each side got through their talking points and sounded their themes. My radio review would score the vice-presidential debate a toss-up.
Tonight the second of four national campaign debates takes place. Vice President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Paul Ryan will go at it for 90 minutes.
I know many conservatives have been slavering for this match-up, and I imagine many Democrats are hoping that Biden can right the ship after President Obama’s underwhelming performance during the first presidential debate. The veep debate will cover both domestic and foreign policy issues, and will consist of nine 10-minute segments. The moderator will ask a question, each candidate will have two minutes to respond, and then the moderator will guide the discussion of the issue for the remainder of the time period. Martha Raddatz of ABC News is moderating, and given the uproar about Jim Lehrer’s laid back approach during the first presidential debate, I expect that she is getting lots of free advice about how she should discharge her moderating duties.
Conservatives are looking forward to this match-up because they believe that Ryan is knowledgeable and capable and Biden is a gaffe machine who inevitably will stumble into some blunder. That could happen, of course, but I think it’s equally likely that Biden will more than hold his own. He’s an experienced national figure who’s been through lots of debates before, whereas this will be Ryan’s first time all alone on the big national stage. If the Democratic ticket wants to bounce back from the President’s poor showing in the first debate, Biden needs to deliver a strong performance. I’m sure he’s been very focused on making sure that he is adequately prepared.
In the end, I’m not sure that the vice presidential debate means much of anything. I don’t think anyone votes for a ticket based on the veep — but tonight’s debate should be interesting.