The last time vice presidential candidates debated at Centre College in Danville, Ky., it was obvious that someone with a sense of humor came up with the slogan—“Thrill in the ’Ville”—for there weren’t many thrills in that 2000 showdown.
But when Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan bring the national spotlight back to the tiny Kentucky campus on Thursday, there will be a twist that just may make the sequel more memorable.
Starring will be the almost-70-year-old Biden and his 42-year-old challenger. The nearly 28-year age gap is the largest in the history of vice presidential debates. That is why this debate is so promising.
With one candidate who remembers a past without Medicare and another candidate who can see a future without Medicare unless revolutionary change is made, there is a good chance that Medicare will dominate the discussion. For them, it is a reflection of their very different life experiences, and it reflects the reality that they grew up in Americas that were starkly different.
The differences between these two candidates and their generations are so sharp that the Kentucky debate has a chance to be remembered for more than zingers or gaffes. Of course, being remembered at all is a challenge for a vice presidential debate. The previous nine showdowns between running mates were mere blips.
This time—thanks to a generationally influenced and deep-seated difference on Medicare—there just may be a serious discussion on a critical issue. For those in the ’Ville or watching at home, that’s about as big of a thrill as they can hope for.
—George E. Condon Jr.
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRESIDENTIAL RACE REPORT
A Great Poll for Romney, in Perspective
[FiveThirtyEight, 10/8/12] Romney’s chances of winning in Nate Silver’s model jumped to 25.2 percent on Monday from 21.6 percent the previous day. Before the debate the, his chances had been just 13.9 percent.
Obama Shifts Tone on Stump
[Wall Street Journal, 10/9/12] Following his poor debate showing, Obama has dropped the defensiveness and returned an optimistic tone more reminiscent of his 2008 campaign. “I need your help to finish what we started,” he told supporters in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Romney Edges Obama in Presidential Optics
[National Journal, 10/8/12] Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech, during which he cast President Obama as weak and pledged to be strong, gained resonance because of its timing. As NJ’s Jill Lawrence writes, it was easier to believe in the wake of Romney’s commanding debate performance, during which he pounded and in some cases distorted Obama’s record for 90 minutes and barely elicited a response.
Inside the Campaign: The Romney Rebellion
[Politico, 10/9/12] When the history of this campaign is written, Romney’s family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the saga. Just ahead of the debate, with polls showing Romney falling behind in key swing states, the biggest change was the more assertive role of Tagg Romney, who has been making sure that his dad is relaxed, and not over-programmed.
Sesame Street to Obama: Take Down Big Bird Ad
[National Journal, 10/9/12] After Romney said in last week's debate that he would cut funding to PBS, despite saying how much he loved Big Bird, the Obama campaign has been on the attack, using Big Bird’s name in a new attack ad released on Tuesday. But hours after the ad’s release, Sesame Street asked that the show and its characters be left out of all political advertising.
Obama Rakes in $9.5 Million on California Swing
[Politico, 10/8/12] In a fundraising swing through California this weekend, Obama made six stops in just two days—raising $9.5 million. At one fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama told supporters that now is the time for them to get “almost obsessive.”
Poll: Pennsylvania the Newest Battleground State?
[National Journal, 10/9/12] In a new poll conducted both before and after last Wednesday’s presidential debate, Pennsylvania may have moved from leaning toward President Obama to a battleground. A new survey, conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 5, shows Obama’s lead there down to just three percentage points.
On the Trail: The Obama Who Cried Wolf
[National Journal, 10/8/12] Democrats bemoaning a crushing tide of Republican spending -- like the Obama campaign’s latest e-mails soliciting donation --might not merit a pants-on-fire, NJ’s Reid Wilson writes, but at the very least the dire warnings are proving mostly false.
Ryan: Dem Strategy is to 'Call us Liars'
[Talking Points Memo, 10/9/12] On Monday, Paul Ryan said that Democrats' strategy through the election is "to call us liars for a month." In the aftermath of last Wednesday’s debate, the Obama campaign released an ad saying Romney was not telling the truth.
Is There Life After Mitt?
[New York Times, 10/9/12] Recent history would suggest that a second straight presidential defeat would prompt a serious rethinking of the GOP agenda. But what’s likely to happen instead is that the attention will instantly shift toward the new generation of potential messengers who will face the same trap as Romney: Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal.
Ryan Visits Metro Detroit to Raise Money, GOP Hopes
[Detroit Free Press, 10/9/12] Ryan played to a hometown crowd at a big-ticket fundraiser by trumpeting a healthy auto industry, and at another event said he and his running mate would focus on restoring lost manufacturing jobs and helping unemployed people gain the skills they need to find work.
Is the VP Debate a Sideshow or Something More?
[NPR, 10/9/12] How much of a difference is Biden vs. Ryan expected to make? NPR’s Ken Rudin takes a look at the history of the veep debates, from Bob Dole vs. Walter Mondale in 1976 to Lloyd Bentsen’s memorable “You’re no Jack Kennedy” line to Dan Quayle in 1988.
Goldman Turns Tables on Obama Campaign
[Wall Street Journal, 10/9/12] Prompted by what they call regulatory attacks on their business and personal attacks on their character, executives and employees of Goldman Sachs have largely abandoned Obama and are now the top sources of money to Romney and the GOP.
Romney's Tuesday Iowa Visit Focused on Farm Policy
[Des Moines Register, 10/9/12] In part of a stepped-up effort to win over rural voters who supported Obama in 2008, Romney will tell Iowa farmers that he favors policies that allow them to farm without overregulation, have access to world markets, pass down a farm to children without losing its value to taxes, and keep their energy costs affordable.
Lehrer Says He Got the Candidates Talking
[Associated Press, 10/9/12] After taking some heavy criticism for his light hand during the debate, former PBS anchor Jim Lehrer says last week's confrontation will be remembered as a watershed moment because it was a real debate instead of simultaneous interviews of the candidates.
In Registration Fraud, It’s Not Mickey Mouse You Have to Worry About
[Tampa Bay Times, 10/9/12] It’s not blatant fraud like submitting the names of dead people or Mickey Mouse that has elections experts worried about possible voting mayhem in November. Rather, it’s the reregistration of voters, where personal information could have been changed without a person’s knowledge. This type of fraud could turn away eligible voters, suppressing turnout.