12 Oct 2012

Vice presidents clash in generation game debate

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Veep debate last night. It was a clash of generations, ideas and tempers from two men who come from the same religious and social background: Irish, Catholic Americans from gritty neighbourhoods born with wooden spoons in their mouth.

And yet watching them joust was like seeing a father and son having a bust up at the Thanksgiving table.

Joe Biden, the old man, sharp of tongue, perhaps looking a little tipsy and ready to maul his offspring for his errant ways. Biden grinned, guffawed and chortled so much that I wondered if he was secretly listening to stand up comedy on his iPod.

But when Joe got serious, lowered his voice and scowled it made you sit up and listen. Paul Ryan started off looking and sounding too young and fresh, especially on foreign policy. But he found his footing, stuck to his guns, made his points and ploughed on respectfully yet forcefully.

Biden harked back to an era when ‘new deal’ Democrats still roamed America. Ryan came up with the radical ideas on how to get the American economy growing, lower taxes and plug the giant budget hole.

Democrats, including Biden, dismiss this as voodoo economics. They argue that “the math just doesn’t add up”. Perhaps. But the administration has so far failed to outline a plan that tackles the drastic housekeeping challenges head on and Americans are desperate for a plausible plan.

Final score: a draw

The post-debate opinion polls indicate that this debate was a draw. Both sides were pleased with their man’s performance. Biden achieved his main objective, which was to stop the bleeding in the Obama campaign after the president’s woeful performance last week in Denver.

Ryan, who is 27 years younger than the vice president, did not embarrass himself or his boss on foreign policy and was robust on his strong subject – the economy. The congressman kept Mitt Romney‘s momentum going.

Ask me who of the two Veeps I would rather see one heartbeat away from the presidency and the answer is probably the older, more experienced one. But the hearts beating inside Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are, by all accounts, in great shape, and despite last night’s entertaining and illuminating fireworks this debate will barely move the needle.

That will be up to Messrs Obama and Romney next week.

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