Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Democrats and Republicans, the throwdown to end all throwdowns is coming on Thursday night.
For the first and only time, Vice President Joe Biden will take on Congressman and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in a battle of wits and words over the heart of the American public. That’s right, everybody, it’s time for the vice presidential debate.
Before the U.S.A. Tag Team title match on Nov. 6, the two Capitol Hill veterans will square off on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 11 at Centre College in Danville, Ken. in a battle over domestic and foreign policy.
The defending heavyweight champion is former senator Joe Biden, a.k.a. “The Scranton Scream Machine.” Biden represented the great state of Delaware in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before he ran for the 2008 democratic presidential nomination. Barack “Insane” Obama took him down, but the two joined forces to defeat Sen. John “Ol’ Cardboard” McCain and Gov. “Rogue” Sarah Palin in the 2008 Tag Team Championship.
With steely blue eyes and enough charisma to fill the holes in Mitt Romney’s platform, Biden has been a fan favorite for almost four decades, even though he’s been known to make a verbal gaffe or nine every so often.
His challenger is Rep. Paul “Bowhunter” Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman well known for his ultra-conservative economic and social platforms and his intense training regimen: P90X.
The widow-maker with the widow’s peak was popular amongst fans for a long time, but recently made a heel-turn after several organizations, including a group of nuns, thought his policies were a little too harsh. Ryan has an incredibly devoting following, however, and has excited the Republican base with his no-holds-barred tactics against President Obama.
So what’s the match going to come down to?
After Romney walloped Obama in the previous debate, which went awry after the two teamed up to knock out referee Jim Lehrer, Ryan has the momentum of his tag team partner behind him. And if we’ve learned anything from the last debate, it’s that success doesn’t lie in the content of what’s said; it lies in the conviction with which the candidate says it.
The total truthfulness of what both Romney and Obama said during their tet-a-tet was disputed by fact checkers, but Romney drew the ire of several liberal writers, like Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson and The New York Times' Paul Krugman, who both scolded Romney for misleading the American public.
But when the debate was over, it was still Romney who emerged victorious in the polls and the arena of public opinion, solely because Obama appeared to be disinterested and unprepared at worst, tired and uneloquent at best. His opponent on the other hand looked polished, well-spoken, lively and impressive. In a word: presidential.
There is no question that image plays an inescapably large role in American politics, but what does the complete and total triumph of style over substance mean for the vice presidential debate?
Barely anything new or extreme is ever revealed or exposed in debates, so it's hard to imagine Biden choking Ryan into submission with a hidden clause in the Romney healthcare plan that bans flu vaccines for poor people. Nor will Ryan smash Biden over the head with a missing page of Obama's budget plan that imposes an 85 percent income tax on the upper class.
What both combatants must do, however, is take the same points their camps have been making for the past year and frame them in new ways that convince undecided or uninterested voters, while still making their opponent seem incompetant.
"No crap, that's the point of a debate," you must be thinking. But what Romney did so well and what Obama failed to do in their match is what Biden's and Ryan's success hinges upon: making yourself look good even if what you're saying isn't.
Like WWE wrestling, this debate isn’t a matter of pure substance or strength, but rather a battle of style, eloquence and perception – what looks and sounds good is good, even if it isn’t actually true. Even though Obama won for substance, Romney was the clear victor of style and which candidate received the bounce in the polls after the debate? Romney.
Biden must prove to voters that Ryan is an overly conservative ideolauge with a faulty budget, extreme social doctrine and skewed sense of what is right and wrong in the world. Ryan must paint Biden and his boss as incompetent, idealistic fools that have slowed the recovery of the American economy, burdened future generations with piles of debt and an ineffective healthcare system tied together with red tape and disregarded the basic laws that the Founding Fathers set forth in the Constitution.
Is either caricature realistic? Not completely. But if the rules of the first presidential debate hold true for the vice presidential debate, don’t expect either combatant to pin the other with truth or logic. Both Biden and Ryan are going for knockout blow, because after all, those make for the most memorable matches.
Now, who’s ready to rumble?