By Teresa Welsh |
Honestly, I don't think vice presidential debates have much impact on races for the White House. With the notable exception of Sarah Palin, I don't even think the vice presidential candidates matter that much. Vice presidential debates are just extra opportunities for presidential candidates to get their message across with surrogates.
In that context, I thought Vice President Joe Biden did a better job of communicating the Obama message than Rep. Paul Ryan did making the case for Mitt Romney. In fact, Joe Biden did a better job sending voters a Barack Obama message than Barack Obama did.
The Obama campaign has focused on three issues: the economy, social issues, and foreign policy. The Obama campaign wants to convince voters that the numbers in the Romney/Ryan budget just don't add up. On the international scene, the president's campaign is making the case that the lack of any national security background on the GOP ticket would be a threat to American security in a very dangerous world. Democrats also want to make sure that suburban moderates understand the GOP would severely limit a woman's right to make decisions about her own body. Biden did his job Thursday night on all three fronts.
Abortion represented the social issues at the debate and Ryan is clearly uncomfortable discussing it. Ryan failed to assure moderate female voters that the GOP wouldn't tell women what they can and can't do medically with their own bodies. Ryan's position on abortion is basically government run healthcare, which I thought Republicans opposed. Ryan cosponsored a bill with Rep. Todd Akin early in 2011 which would only allow abortions in cases of "forcible rape." Force and rape are as close to each other as the two candidates on the Republican ticket. I would love to hear Ryan explain the difference between forced and unforced rape. Good luck with that, congressman.
Ryan sounded very awkward when he tried to discuss Afghanistan. He didn't seem to know much about the war that killed thousands of brave young Americans. This is not surprising since Ryan, like his running mate, has no foreign policy experience. When they were elected in 2008, both Democratic candidates were serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama for four years and Biden forever. Biden clearly made the point that this is not the time for leaders untested on the international stage.
The discussion of their federal budget was the stand-in for the debate on the economy. This is where Biden really shined. Pressed by Biden and moderator Martha Raddatz, Ryan didn't do a good job of defending his own budget because the numbers just don't add up. Americans don't believe Romney and Ryan can balance the budget by cutting taxes for rich Americans and preserving the federal tax freebies for the oil companies and other corporate giants. Romney and Ryan also want to reverse cuts in the military budget that Ryan voted for last year. Romney has also said on the campaign trail that he would not cut federal funding for education. The only way of balancing the Ryan budget is to raise taxes on working families.
My New England Patriots win games by forcing their opponents to turn over the ball and get Tom Brady back on the field. The vice president forced the congressmen into errors during the debate and it's time to Barack Obama to get back on the field.
About Brad Bannon President of Bannon Communications Research
Jamal Simmons Principal at The Raben Group
Jamie Chandler Political Scientist at Hunter College