Rob Horowitz: 5 Things to Watch in the Vice Presidential Debate
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Mitt Romney’s decisive victory over President Obama in last week’s Presidential debate has produced at least a short-term bump in the polls for the Republican ticket and created more interest in this week’s Vice-Presidential debate, which will be held Thursday night at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Here are five things to watch for during the debate:
Any memorable sound bites: Memorable one-liners or sound bites, when they occur, often serve as frames for the next several days’ media coverage of the debate. Since a good percentage of voters do not watch the debates, this post-debate news coverage is often at least as important as the debate itself. For example, in the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate, Lloyd Bentsen’s response to Dan Quayle saying he had as much Congressional experience as Jack Kennedy when Kennedy was elected President, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. And your no Jack Kennedy”, dominated the post-debate media coverage. In last week’s Presidential debate, there were no memorable lines. Watch to see whether either Biden or Ryan produce one.
A Biden gaffe: Given Vice-President Biden’s history of gaffes, it will be interesting to see if he makes one during the course of the debate. Probably the most famous gaffe in a Presidential debate was President Ford in 1976 declaring that Poland was free, when it was still under Soviet domination.
Ryan on the Romney tax proposal: In the Presidential debate, Mitt Romney insisted that his 20% income tax cut would not be a $5 trillion windfall for the wealthiest Americans, because it would be accompanied by eliminating tax deductions and closing loopholes. While Romney did mention some possibilities such as the approach outlined in Simpson-Bowles, he still refused to provide specifics. Does Representative Paul Ryan(R-1,Wisconsin), who is known for his command of details and substance fill in any of the blanks or does he stick to the ‘just trust us’ approach? Is Vice-President Biden able to score points attacking the lack of specificity and the questionable math---deficiencies highlighted by a number of independent economic analysts?
Biden on Middle East unrest: Vice-President Biden’s expertise is in the area of foreign policy. How he handles anticipated attacks from Paul Ryan on the Libyan embassy or on supposed American weakness emboldening our enemies in the Middle East and around the world will serve as a preview of the final Presidential debate, which is devoted to foreign policy. It will be interesting to see if Biden goes after any Romney flip-flops on questionable statements about foreign policy.
- Raddatz reaction to the Lehrer debacle: This debate will be moderated by Martha Raddatz, Chief ABC News Foreign Correspondent. Given all the criticism Jim Lehrer, last week’s moderator, received for losing control of the debate will Raddatz over-compensate and inject herself too heavily into the proceedings? How will she handle the difficult job of moderator?
Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.
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