Obviously my glee at the prospect of watching the debate between the politician who has a political career that totals the years that his opposite number has been breathing air on this earth (42 years) was shared by many on my side. This prospect was also looked at with some concern by liberals and moderate-but-reliable Democrats and understandably so. But in the 2 months that have passed since the Ryan selection, only one side's feelings have changed.
It is Democrats who seem to be cautiously optimistic which could not have been said before their guy coined the phrase "Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!" But since then, and the party conventions that followed, I've gotten the sense that Democrats are not exactly dreading this VP debate much at all. Conversely, Republicans tend to have hardly tempered the enthusiasm for this debate since the Ryan selection was made. Some on the "Professional Right" have definitely started to be less-boisterous about Ryan's rhetorical ability, but "the base" who look upon Ryan with adoration, have not wavered in their
On the right, most believe that Ryan will win easily, as he has been well and truly crowned the best rhetorical orator-for-the-cause member of the Republican Party. The tend to think of Biden as his caricature, which he all to often plays into, and most in the GOP base believe that's the Biden who will be debating their young prince. They, and pretty much the majority on the right are making a grave mistake.
The Joe Biden that will be up on stage with Paul Ryan in Kentucky this week will not be the guy who jokes about ethnic stereotypes, or makes unforced rhetorical errors steeped in ignorance, it will be the Joe Biden that has been "doing this" for the same amount of time Paul Ryan has been alive. In 2008, he wasn't facing any sort of real competition in Sarah Palin, but he managed to show how adequate a politician he is. His years on some of the most esteemed committees in the Senate has built up a resume and a knowledge base that few in this country possess.
What's more is the fact that a debate stage will not "give way" to a Biden gaffe. The "silly" Biden who tends commit gaffes, typically does so when he is either incredibly comfortable in the environment in which he is speaking, or he's trying to relate something serious with something that is not serious. A debate stage brings nerves, but there isn't really another politician with the savvy Biden possesses, and I think that is already advantage Biden. Ryan will most assuredly be nervous, regardless of the amount of preparation he will have done.
So the right needs to be careful, and start thinking about this debate not in terms of how badly Ryan is going to beat the Vice President, but if he can score the rhetorical points we all think he can, while looking Presidential at the same time. The GOP excitable need to tamper their expectations because they are astronomical right now. They need to come down to earth and understand that Joe Biden isn't Joe the Plumber.
Oddly enough, I think the Left has begun to create terribly high expectations for the Vice President in this debate. I follow many of the "Professional Left" on Twitter and their views seem to be summed up in Howard Fineman's piece today. Their expectations have increased not because they think Biden was already up to the task of debating Ryan in a meaningful way, a way that can get to a clear cut victory, but because of the President's terrible debate performance against Mitt Romney last week.
Fineman essentially asserts that it will be Biden's job to erase the gains made by Mitt Romney in his debate against the President. Going as far to pontificate that it will be Biden's job to refute what the GOP Presidential candidate had said during the Presidential Debate. While many on the Left's expectations lack such specificity, that seems to be the general feeling on the Left-Romney's lies in the debate need to be rebutted and it starts with Joe Biden in his debate. While I think it's a good idea to make the case that what Romney said was incorrect politically, it cannot be lost on Team Obama that a debate performance is as much about style as it is substance.
What I mean by that is, if Joe Biden spends the better part of two hours answering questions posed to him or his counter part by talking about the Presidential candidate and not Paul Ryan, people will likely see that as a dodge of some sort or worse, political hackery.
It almost seems as though as the expectations from the left for Joe Biden in this debate have morphed from "We might want to watch through our fingers" all the way to, "Not only does he have to win, he's got to win and make up for the President's terrible performance as well." I'd tell them that the President still has two debates left to right his ship in that regard, Joe Biden will already be putting enough pressure on himself-and I think he thinks he will do well.
To both sides, I'd say we should all just forget expectations. We already saw where big time expectations can lead in the wake of the first debate. Let's watch, then analyze what could have, or should have been said afterwards.