How Important Is The Veep Debate?

Oct 11 2012 @ 11:42am

Very, according to John Cassidy: 

A strong performance by the Vice-President won’t repair all of the damage that Obama did last week—only Obama himself can do that. But it would help to stabilize things for the Democrats, and to quell the near panic that has broken out in some quarters. Conversely, if Paul Ryan gets the better of Biden, and particularly if Biden provides the media with some sort of gaffe to feed upon, the Democrats will have to endure another week of negative headlines and self-flagellation. By the time Obama gets onstage in Hempstead next [Tuesday], his campaign could be in serious trouble.

It's already in serious trouble. And I'd say one core reason is that Obama obliviously kicked his own supporters in the gut last week and they're demoralized. A lot of the polling shift comes from a new enthusiasm gap created by the president's historically unprecedented forfeiture of a debate. What Joe has to do is to get Obama supporters' heads back in the game, to remind them of how they felt when Bill Clinton ripped a gaping hole in Romney's hooey, if you'll pardon the expression. Ed Morrissey disagrees:

Voters don't choose presidents on the basis of the bottom of the ticket. That point was made quite clearly in 1984, when Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as the first woman on a major-party ticket, a move that generated mountains of praise — while Mondale went on to win only Minnesota in Ronald Reagan's re-election landslide. Four years later, Lloyd Bentsen humiliated Dan Quayle in a debate, and George H.W. Bush went on to thump Bentsen's running mate, Michael Dukakis, by 315 electoral votes. Sarah Palin briefly re-energized John McCain's campaign in 2008 and held her own against Biden in the debate, but Obama sailed to victory nonetheless.

That means Team Obama may get an opportunity to finally stop talking about the last debate, but they almost certainly won't win much from Thursday's, either.

Ambers is on the same page. There's no solid evidence that veep debates matter. But we've never seen a sitting president implode as badly as Obama did last week. So we are in new territory. I suspect tonight will matter for all the reasons Cassidy does too.