Okay, this Thursday, at 9 p.m., is another "debate." Vice President Joe Biden will debate U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for V.P. The location of the debate is Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. The moderator is Martha Raddatz, ABC senior foreign affairs correspondent. The topics are all things foreign and domestic. After all, this is the only Veep debate.
I shall return to my formula for how to score debates as used for last week’s "first" presidential round.
As I said last week, in high school and college debate, ballots had six areas, each awarded five points, for a total of 30 points possible per speaker. I heard a commentator on John Fugelsang’s show suggest these "debates" should use college format. I doubt, however, that most people in the television audience would want to hear people speak at a pace of 200-220 words per minute (to squeeze as many arguments as possible into a 10-minute speech; it’s called "spread" in debate).
Here are the areas by which I will judge.
Delivery: Both men seem to have decent deliveries, no doubt from years of public speaking. I will look for hesitations and audible pauses. This might seem technical, but it is an aspect of how the message is conveyed. If someone cannot be understood, the message is impaired. Also, when a speaker slips into what she or he believes is a down-home drawl or attempts to employ street language—cringe! Gag!
Responsiveness to questions: This, again, is the "duck" factor. Every time one of the candidates answers a question with a non-answer, that is a duck. A person does not answer a question when that person simply tries to spin it into his or her talking points. Usually candidates waddle into and out of "debates," so we will see how this goes. Ryan had a big mallard last about 10 days ago when he said the math on his budget would take too much time to explain.
Evidence: Let’s hear facts, not anecdotes. Joe O’Biden (the Sarah Palin form of the Vice President’s name) usually is chock-full of anecdotes. I shall wince at each use of an anecdote and score downward accordingly.
Demeanor: Ronald Reagan (whom I usually do not quote for a positive statement, but for this, okay, I’ll paraphrase) said TV is a mostly appearance, some sound, and a little content. This is a "debate" between candidates for Vice President. They do not have to look so much "presidential" as avoid the appearance of hatchet men.
Organization: Again, this is not a college debate round, in which we used flow sheets to chart our opponents’ arguments. Still, organization is important. President Obama rambled last week. (I think he might have had to deal with a wife who was pissed off that he had scheduled a debate on their anniversary, and she was sitting on the front row. "You’re the President. You couldn’t get this one lousy debate set on another day?")
Gaffes: Biden’s known for these. However, Ryan can step in the cow pile once in a while, too. If you notice each man has a string tied to one finger—Staff reminder: no gaffes—do not be surprised. Each of these men will focus so much on the jugular vein of the other, we might not hear any gaffes. Gaffes largely are products of an idle, rambling mind. These two guys will be out for blood. Biden wants to re-capture points Obama lost. Ryan wants to make sure people know him for him, not as Number Two. (Interpret the Number Two bit however you wish.)
The big factor in last week’s debate was the failure of one candidate—President Obama—to hit the weak points of his opponent. I may be wrong in my assessment (after all, I am a Cubs fan), but failure to focus on targets should not be a problem this week. Each of these two men, at times, displays the characteristics of a rabid wolverine. Each will sniff for the other’s rhetorical blood and pounce.
My prediction: Biden has the experience. Ryan is a frat boy (so was I) who has gotten by on a captive audience. He is adored by the right wing people who dominate his audiences. I think we shall witness forensic carnage. My pick: Biden by 7 ½. Of course, I picked the President by 5 ½. Maybe that dooms Biden. We shall see.