Vice Presidential candidate debates are rarely considered important, but in a race still too close to call, Paul D. Ryan and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the stage with the potential to take the election for their respective tickets.
By the time the dust cleared in what was themed “The Thrill in the ‘Ville” at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, neither man had managed to raise the level of recent divisive discourse to anything like meaningful dialogue.
Biden smirked. Ryan rolled his eyes. Moderator Martha Raddatz’s pointed questions were received like a bell ringing that brought both men out fighting, only to wind up tangled in a clinch that she had to break up like a referee in a ring.
The real winners may be undecided voters. Both Romney and Obama have had to play to the center in terms of defining policy in order to not alienate any undecided voters. Biden and Ryan? Not so much.
Romney has faced some questions this week about how he really feels about laws concerning women’s reproductive rights. Historically, he has maintained a softer edge than the harsh rhetoric of the conservative right that seems intent on overturning Roe v. Wade. This may be the very reason he selected Ryan as a running mate, to mollify the conservatives in his party.
Ryan, who has worked alongside Representative Todd “legitimate rape” Akin to co-sponsor the so-called “personhood” bill, does not make his views on abortion secret. He also as much as said he would be willing to go to war with Iran, keep troops in Afghanistan indefinitely and support tax cuts for the rich in hopes, again, that the “trickle down” philosophy might actually work this time. Ryan is the poster child for conservative Republican policies.
Free from the restraints of decorum Obama carries as president, Biden seethed liberal disdain for Ryan’s conservative dogma. Biden is his most convincing when he goes blue-collar bulldog, and he was off the chain:
“The two budgets the congressman introduced have eviscerated all the things that the middle class cares about...He will knock 19 million people off of Medicare. It will kick 200,000 children off of early education. It will eliminate the tax credit people have to be able to send their children to college. It cuts education by $450 billion. It does -- it does virtually nothing except continue to increase the tax cuts for the very wealthy. And, you know, we've had enough of this.”
Biden sometimes leaves himself open to a shot to the ribs when he waxes socially responsible. Conservatives love to jab at liberals for attempting to solve every problem with a program.
There were no knock-outs. Just punches thrown and punches caught by two skilled athletes in the ring.
What was more telling than the event itself was the experience.
Biden and Ryan sat on a stage at the Norton Center for the Arts, Centre College’s performing arts venue. Security was extremely tight and only those with the proper clearance and badges and tickets were allowed inside.
In a separate venue, press that likely outnumbered the college’s 1300 students were set up in a large media center and in the spin room crowded with lights and cameras to go live as soon as the debate ended. Like big ticket box seats, this venue came with a buffet and drinks. The collected press preened and schmoozed and hurried about self-importantly. There was a dark-glass shrouded Romney campaign quarters just inside the front door of the facility and a black-curtained Obama campaign quarters on the far side of the facility by the bathrooms.
Outside, behind high gates, sat the third faction in attendance. Here thousands of men, women and children sat on the lawn and watched the debate on a large screen TV. These were the actual people the politicians who came to debate are supposed to be representing. Some outside under the stars likely leaned left, others right, but most probably are somewhere closer to the center.
As a whole they were a pretty good looking crowd. Too bad Biden and Ryan were so insulated they couldn’t see them.
Oct. 11, 2012 - Danville, KY, USA - Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, right, shook hands before the Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. (Credit Image: © Mark Cornelison/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com)
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