I have cautioned Republicans that we shouldn’t get too excited about Thursday’s VP debate. Yes, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has forgotten more about the federal budget than Joe Biden ever knew. But, sometimes, having too much knowledge can trip you up in a debate. More troubling, Biden has a habit of just making stuff up on the fly. Its hard to debate crazy. That said, the real pressure is on the Vice President. If he whiffs this debate, Democrats will start running away from the Obama ticket.
If I had to make a bet, I would wager that Paul Ryan will do very well in the VP debate. As I have noted, though, I don’t think its the slam-dunk many people think and, given Biden’s tendencies to just make shit up, there is no telling how the debate will go. I fully expect, at some point in the debate, Ryan will be forced to give a WTF look at the moderator because of something “Grandpa Joe” says.
That said, the pressure on Biden is enormous. Last week, President Obama gave the worst debate performance in history. A Gallup poll of adults, which provides some institutional bias for Democrats, found that Romney beat Obama on the question of who won the debate by a 52-point margin. It was the biggest victory margin in history.
Its another week until Romney and Obama face off again. Since the first debate, Romney is surging in virtually every poll. He is confident and steady on the campaign trail. Even if Obama can pick up his game in the next debate, that is a week away. Another week of “Romney crushed Obama in the debate” would be a terrible blow to Obama’s reelection. So, all eyes are on the VP debate.
Biden needs to go beyond his tendency to misspeak and make gaffes and nail a coherent vision for Obama’s second term. If he doesn’t, down-ballot Dems running for the Senate or the House will start to aggressively move away from the national ticket. Obama may do a better job in the debate next week, but without a powerful assist from Biden on Thursday, many Dems won’t be able to wait that long.
Polling margins in many high-profile races are narrowing in the wake of Romney’s epic debate performance. There is clearly nothing coming from the Obama campaign until next week, when he tries to undo his disastrous debate. So, it all settles on Biden. If he doesn’t clearly beat Ryan, Democrat candidates will likely try to strike out on their own path for November. At the end of the day, a political career trumps political parties.
It is now all on Joe Biden. Make of that what you will.