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VP debate that the world will watch

world Updated: Oct 12, 2012 01:31 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj

When vice-president Joe Biden walks across the stage for the grip-and-grab handshake with Paul Ryan Thursday night, Democrats will have their lucky charms out and ready.

Much is riding on this debate for them. If Biden tanks, it would be a second for the Democratic ticket. President Barack Obama started the slide with his own dismal show in Denver.

If the vice-president holds, makes no major mistakes or gaffes, which he is not expected to being a seasoned campaigner, the ball is back in Obama's court for a grudge match.

In short: Biden has to be safe, as Ryan in the traditional mould of a challenger comes at him in the same way that his boss did in Denver, going after Biden's boss.

Will Biden deliver? Can he?

"Rarely does 'winning' a vice presidential debate lead to a big uptick in support," said Marc Joseph Hetherington, a Vanderbilt University professor who studie political campaigns. "The thing the candidates need to avoid is "losing" the debate."

Neither is likely to throw the debate. Biden started his career in public life as one of the youngest senators ever, winning his first term at 29. He had been in the senate for 36 years when Obama called.

And the reason Obama called was because Biden had won all the primary debates until then. He joined the Obama ticket and handily defeated his Republican rival Sarah Palin.

But Ryan is not going to be easy. "Sarah Palin was easy," said Allan Louden, who teaches politics at Wake Forest University. "It will be interesting to see how he performs under pressure now."

Ryan also started young, winning his first term as a member of the House of Representatives at the age of 28 in 1998. He is now the chairman of the powerful House budgetary committee.

"He is seen as the charismatic newcomer," said Hetherington. "So more is on the line for him."