Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

A landslide victory for the 'invisible candidate' in Algeria's Presidential polls

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 18 April 2014 (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Presidential adviser resigns over "shoe-shine scandal"

Read more

#THE 51%

Breaking stereotypes

Read more

#TECH 24

Galaxy S5 v. HTC One (M8): Which is the right one for you?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

New PM Manuel Valls outlines priorities

Read more

FASHION

Jean-Marc Loubier, bags and shoes.

Read more

ENCORE!

Hip-hop musician Beat Assailant on mixing the sounds of the city

Read more

  • Freed French journalists arrive home after Syria ordeal

    Read more

  • French journalist tells of release from captivity in Syria

    Read more

  • Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken South Korean ferry

    Read more

  • Syria’s Assad visits recaptured Christian town at Easter

    Read more

  • UK’s Hamilton cruises to victory at Chinese Grand Prix

    Read more

  • ‘Deadly clashes’ at Eastern Ukraine checkpoint

    Read more

  • In pictures: French kite festival takes flight

    Read more

  • Militants kill Algerian soldiers in deadly ambush

    Read more

  • Scores killed in South Sudan cattle raid

    Read more

  • PSG clinch fourth League Cup title after beating Lyon

    Read more

  • Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics

    Read more

  • VIDEO: Anti-Semitic leaflets in Eastern Ukraine condemned

    Read more

  • In pictures: Good Friday celebrated across the globe

    Read more

  • Bouteflika, the ghost president

    Read more

  • Does Valls’ upcoming Vatican trip violate French secularism?

    Read more

  • Ukraine separatists say ‘not bound’ by Geneva deal

    Read more

  • Abel Ferrara’s hotly awaited DSK film to premiere on web

    Read more

  • Obama signs bill to block controversial Iran diplomat from UN post

    Read more

  • Astronomers discover Earth-like planet that could support life

    Read more

  • Indian election: Votes for sale

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • West African Ebola outbreak caused by new strain of virus

    Read more

Americas

Can Biden boost stumbling Obama at VP debate?

©

Video by Josh Vardey

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2012-10-11

After President Barack Obama’s shaky debate performance last week allowed Mitt Romney to surge in the polls, Democrats are counting on Vice President Joe Biden to come out swinging in his debate against Republican VP nominee Paul Ryan.

US vice presidential debates generally provide more in the way of entertainment value than real impact on the state of the race.

But the face-off between the famously feisty and loquacious Vice President Joe Biden and Mitt Romney’s telegenic, staunchly conservative running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, could be an exception to the rule.

The stakes and suspense surrounding the Biden/Ryan match-up, to take place in Kentucky on Thursday night (9pm Eastern time, 1am GMT), are indeed considerably heightened since President Barack Obama’s shaky debate performance last week all but erased his lead in polls.

With Romney’s team confident for the first time in weeks, and the Obama camp fretting that the president has endangered his re-election chances, the pressure is on Biden to help his boss regain the momentum he had in September.

To accomplish that mission, he will have to do what the president himself did not in the first debate: go on the attack.

“Obama’s poor showing in last week’s debate means Biden has to be aggressive in pointing out policy differences between the two parties,” said Darrell West, a political analyst at left-leaning think tank The Brookings Institution. “The vice president will not allow Ryan to reinvent himself the way Romney did in last week’s debate.”

Biden to aim for attacks, without gaffes

Biden will likely take the Republican vice presidential nominee to task over Romney’s controversial “47 percent” comment, his opposition to Obama’s auto industry bailout, and his proposal to reform the popular Medicare programme [government-subsidized healthcare for the elderly] by offering senior citizens vouchers for private insurance companies.

He may also press Ryan to clarify the Republican ticket's intentions on issues relating to women's reproductive health; on Wednesday, Romney said he had no plans to push "legislation with regards to abortion", sowing confusion and prompting the candidate's campaign to reassure conservatives that "Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president".

And with last week’s report showing a surprising dip in the unemployment rate, Biden will argue that the president’s economic strategy has put the country on the right track – and that Romney and Ryan would take the US back to the Bush-era policies widely blamed for the crisis.

INTERACTIVE FEATURE

Holed up in a hotel over the last few days, Biden is reportedly trying to master his rival’s past positions and proclamations; he has been watching Ryan’s convention speech, his TV interviews, and reading “Young Guns”, a book Ryan co-wrote with other up-and-coming US conservatives.

If Ryan tries to portray himself as a moderate, like Romney was seen as doing in last week’s debate, Biden could pounce with what he will say is evidence to the contrary.

“[Ryan’s] vulnerability is past positions that are more extreme than those of the typical voter,” West offered. “Biden will try to make Ryan look like he’s outside the political mainstream.”

In 2008, Biden debated another fresh-faced Republican opponent – Sarah Palin – and was careful not to appear as if he were bullying a younger woman.

This time, the gloves may come off.

“I expect the vice president to come at me like a cannonball,” Ryan told conservative magazine The Weekly Standard. Biden is indeed reported to be rehearsing the kind of hard-hitting one-liners that Obama failed to produce during his debate.

But while he can be sharp-tongued, the 69-year-old Biden is also known for his warmth and “folksy manner” -- one of his greatest strengths, according to West. “He connects with average voters,” the analyst said.

On the other hand, Biden’s propensity for off-the-cuff commentary and improvised wisecracks has sometimes got him in trouble – as when he told an audience full of African-Americans in August that Romney and Ryan wanted to put them “back in chains” (interpreted by some as a clumsy reference to slavery).

“He has to be careful not to make a gaffe or say something that distracts from his central message,” West noted.

Ryan’s big moment

Ryan, a 42-year-old representative from Wisconsin, has had a substantial Congressional career (he was first elected in 1999), but little national exposure. A budget hawk known for his golden-boy aura and good looks, Ryan will “have to show he belongs on the same stage as Biden,” explained John Fortier, a right-leaning political scientist at Washington-based think tank Bipartisan Policy Center. “There will be some drama to see [him] in action for the first time.”

Ryan’s main goal will be to prevent Biden from reclaiming the upper hand from the Republican ticket. If he holds his own, Romney may be able to continue riding what looks like a comeback after several weeks of highly publicised missteps and disappointing poll numbers.

Ryan has reportedly spent several days studying footage of Biden going back to the 2008 Democratic primary debates. Pundits across the political spectrum are therefore expecting the Republican to show up prepared, and also to flaunt his much-noted fluency in fiscal policy. “Ryan is not very experienced in national discussions, but he is smart and articulate and good at explaining complex issues in a way voters can understand,” West said.

Ryan will likely hit Biden hard on the economy, citing statistics that point to a sluggish recovery and arguing that Americans should expect better – and can trust a seasoned businessman like Romney.

Foreign policy, on the other hand, is considered a challenge for him at this stage -- especially in comparison to Biden, who was formerly chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and is said to have been integral in helping Obama map out strategies for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Despite their dramatically different politics and nearly 30-year age difference, Ryan and Biden have some notable things in common. They are both practising Catholics (it is the first time in US history that Catholics figure on both presidential tickets). They are both frequently dispatched to win over white working-class voters who remain wary of the more refined-seeming, Ivy League-bred Romney and Obama. And they are both avowed fans of the Green Bay Packers, a Wisconsin professional football team.

Anyone expecting much in the way of bipartisan bonding or back-slapping on Thursday night, however, will likely want to change the channel.
 

Date created : 2012-10-10

  • US ELECTION 2012

    Romney leads Obama in post-debate Pew poll

    Read more

  • US ELECTIONS 2012

    Romney aggressive, Obama subdued in first debate

    Read more

  • US ELECTIONS 2012

    An ‘Obama effect’ for African-American politicians?

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)