Ever since Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan to be his running mate, many on the right have been looking forward to tonight’s debate, all but certain that the silver-tongued Wisconsin Republican will make mincemeat of the gaffe-prone Delaware Democrat. So certain are conservatives of Ryan’s impending triumph that Commentary’s Seth Mandel felt compelled to caution us, asking whether conservatives were overconfident about the Ryan-Biden debate:
Among the chatter heading into tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and current Vice President Joe Biden, it’s easy to pick up on the confidence conservatives have in Ryan and their dismissive attitude toward Biden. Both of those are well founded, since Ryan is a solid debater and in strong command of the facts, while Biden is … Biden.
He reminds us though that he was a better speaker in Charlotte than was Obama and moreover, that he’s “capable of projecting warmth on command.”
Conservatives may be overconfident, but I doubt Paul Ryan himself is. The man is a a Boy Scout. He is always prepared. Note that he
“tapped former U.S. solicitor general Ted Olson to play the role of Vice President Biden in preparations for next month’s debate.” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck called Olson “one of the most skilled, intelligent, and successful litigators in America“. Ryan has begun sparring with Olson nearly a full month before the debate. He’s not taking this debate lightly.
Paul Ryan will be prepared to face a candidate who differs from the conservative caricature.
The real question, however, is how Joe Biden will comport himself. Will he feel it incumbent upon himself to make up for Obama’s bad debate performance. In that case, expect him to stumble and stumble badly. Or the Obama campaign, knowing that the vice president can’t undo the damage the president inflicted upon himself, could insist that Biden play it safe, knowing a gaffe could hurt more than a dull performance; he might come off as wooden and programmed. (That would certainly invite mockery, but likely wouldn’t hurt the campaign.)
Jim Geraghty reminds us that Biden, known for playing fast and loose with the facts, “may… let’s say, misremember some of the finer points of the policies he’s defending or attacking.” Ryan could challenger him on those misrepresentations (as Sarah Palin failed to do four years ago), calling into question not just the vice president’s credibility, but that of the man who tapped him as his number two.
Or, perhaps Biden will offer a foretaste of what the new, improved Barack Obama will look like in the second and third debates later this month.
Methinks Ryan will be prepared, ready to face off with the folksy Biden or to fend off attacks from a more feisty opponent. He will counter Biden’s talking points with facts, coolly contradict the Democrat’s (if past is prologue) many misrepresentations.
Given Ryan’s youth, expect him to make a pointed appeal to voters his generation and younger, those most enamored with Obama in 2008, rapidly losing faith, yet still not prepared to back a Republican. Ace noted that in the most recent FoxNews poll the Democrat led “with young people (under 30), but only attracts 50% support. That doesn’t mean Romney gets the rest; some are undecided.” Expect Ryan to use his charm, command of the facts and concern for their well-being to woo those undecided twentysomethings into the Republican camp.
The fetching fortysomething may prove particularly effective with a demographic often hard for Republicans to reach: single women. And maybe even gay men.