WASHINGTON – The vice presidential debate may have been considered somewhat of a sideshow in previous US campaigns, but the recent upset in polls – following the first presidential debate – has both the Democrats and the Republicans on edge.
US President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney's Denver debate last week, which drew 67.2 million TV viewers, was the game-changer the Republicans hoped for: Polls held afterwards gave Romney, for the first time since the campaign began, a 4-point lead.
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Vice President Joe Biden, 69, and Romney's running mate Congressman Paul Ryan, 41, will meet in Danville, Kentucky on Thursday, for a debate focusing on foreign and domestic policy.
The Democrats, which often criticize Biden for his off-the-cuff remarks, now hope that the former Delaware senator can help his president bounce back in the polls.
In 2008, Biden went up against former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, then-Republican presidential hopeful John McCain's running mate. Many believe that four years ago Biden was forced to tread lightly so not to be dubbed a chauvinist; but facing Ryan, the Democrats are fully expecting the proverbial gloves to come off.
Biden is expected to slam Ryan's ultra-conservative positions and challenge him over Romney's "zigzagging" on the major issues.
While Ryan is considered a rising star in the GOP, his relative inexperience vis-à-vis the seasoned VP is likely to show.
Faceoff. Biden and Ryan (Photos: Reuters, AP)
Thursday's debate will be the first time the Wisconsin congressman is required to make his mark on a national level and essentially prove to the American public that if need be – he would be able to step in for Romney as president of the United States.
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Political analysts in the US said both men face great pressure from their parties: The Democrats need Biden to perform damage control over Obama's poor performance in the debate; while the Republicans expect Ryan to maximize – or at the very least maintain – the leverage achieved by Romney in Colorado.
Biden has the advantage of experience. He is the veteran of various party primaries and he has known to outperform even Obama in debates. His extensive knowledge of foreign affairs, especially concerning the Middle East, ensures he will have plenty to say.
Ryan, who has often been criticized for still being "wet behind the ears," especially when it comes to foreign policy, will have to come charging out of the gate and attack what the Republicans see as the Obama administration's lack of leadership on international affairs as well as domestic policy.
Regardless of the outcome, Obama and Romney are set to face off in two additional presidential debates, for a total of three. The second debate is scheduled to be held on October 16, in Hempstead, New York; and the third debate is set for October 22, in Boca Raton, Florida.
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