If nothing else (and certainly there were other lasting impressions) Thursday’s debate between the vice presidential candidates teed it up for Tuesday’s second face-off between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
The fact that Thursday’s event had more “show-biz” quality and some genuine testiness — as opposed to the first presidential debate that featured a lethargic, punching-bag Obama — helps to stoke enthusiasm from partisans that the next round might be “must-see” viewing.
By most accounts, the VP debate itself was more or less a draw. Neither candidate significantly messed up and neither scored a knockout. In its wake, Vice President Joe Biden’s smirking, Cheshire Cat grins continue to provide water-cooler and social media comments about the meeting with Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican Congressman who has the No. 2 spot on the GOP ticket. Biden’s animation was one feature (positive or negative, depending upon your party affiliation) that stays top-of-mind in the wake of the 90-minute session.
The debate aside, another memorable point is the setup itself, which featured the two men and moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News seated at a table. The arrangement seemed to provide a more cosy and intimate setting for a serious discussion. Ryan seemed comfortable in it and by all accounts acquitted himself well. It was a relief from the dueling podiums that have been standard in past debates, and needs to be considered for the future.
And Raddatz, whatever you might think of her attachment to the Obama camp, wasn’t the nonexistent “moderator” that Jim Lehrer proved to be in this year’s first meeting of the presidential aspirants. Raddatz jumped in with follow-up questions and made a solid effort to keep the candidates on point. She also kept things moving.
Tuesday brings another moderator and another style to the candidates’ confrontations. The session at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., will be moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN News. Crowley, Lawrencians will recall, recently was in our community to receive the William Allen White Award from Kansas University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
The Tuesday confrontation will be a “town meeting” in which undecided voters picked by the Gallup Organization will be allowed to ask the candidates questions. The arrangement is intended to let the candidates have two minutes to answer and then Crowley will have another minute to guide further discussion.
Perhaps it will actually help viewers decide which man would make the better leader for our country, instead of leaving behind less substantive impressions about a grin, a table and a moderator’s style.