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Experts: VP Debate Likely Won't Change Minds

Although Paul Ryan will face off against a man who was sparring over public policy since the congressman was learning to talk, experts say it's a toss-up on who will win this debate.

With little more than 24 hours before the vice presidential debate, political experts say it's a true toss-up who will win, even after what many called a "lackluster" performance by President Barack Obama last week. It's not exactly a "Rumble in the Jungle," but the vice presidential debate Thursday does have the potential to be good theater.

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan will face off against incumbent Vice President Joe Biden at 7 p.m. Thursday in Danville, KY. This is the second of four scheduled debates before the election and is the only debate between the vice-presidential hopefuls.

Across the country there's speculation that Biden will have to clean up the mess left behind by Obama's uneven performance during the first presidential debate, but election expert Michael Wagner from University of Wisconsin-Madison said it's routine for incumbents to "take it on the chin."

"It's important to remember that incumbents are thought to lose the first debate," he said. "The last few we’ve had, the other guy had a better day. John Kerry in 2004 had the better debate. In 1992, George W. Bush didn’t have as good of a debate as Bill Clinton. Incumbents usually take it on the chin a bit."

And historically, these debates really don't change votes all that much, Wagner said. In a 2008 Gallup poll, since the 1960 debate with President John F. Kennedy, actual voting numbers changed only slightly after the debates regardless of who won.

Young ideas vs. experience

While Biden is generally recognized for his years of experience, Ryan has been described as the young hope of the Republican Party. But Amber Wichowsky, an assistant professor of political science at Marquette University, said that Ryan's inexperience will put him in a defensive position for this debate.

"Overall, I expect that Biden will go more on the offensive to get Ryan to discuss specifics," Wichowsky said, particularly about Ryan's budget proposals, Mitt Romney's tax plan and the details on Medicaid and Medicare changes.

Watch the vice presidential debate at Patch's free viewing party on Thursday

In preparation, Ryan has been seen lugging two, thick briefing books as he travels the country studying and prepping himself to debate against a man who was "sparring over public policy since the Wisconsin congressman was learning how to talk," The Seattle Times reported.

Wichowsky also anticipates Biden will make note of the Friday jobs report that highlighted 24 months of steady job growth, with September showing an additional 114,000 jobs and a dip in unemployment to 7.8 percent.

But that isn't to say this will be an easy win for Biden.

'Clinging to guns and religion'

Biden has been known to be quite the gaffe machine. In August, he visited southern Virginia and to a mixed-race crowd, told voters Mitt Romney wanted to put them "back in chains." Just last month, Biden was seen cozying up to a biker babe in southern Ohio, maybe a little too close, as the two men with her look at each other questioningly. Very quickly, that photo went viral.

And while Ryan has had fewer faux pas come under media scrutiny, he isn't completely without a few mishaps of his own. NPR has a healthy debate surrounding Ryan's statement that his marathon time was under three hours, when actually, it was documented at more than four hours.  But Ryan has intentionally revived some of Obama's old gaffes, most recently at a Pennsylvania steel plant according to The Hill:

"Remember this other time when he (Obama) said people want to cling to their guns and religion?" Ryan said. "Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter, I'm happy to be clinging to my guns and religion."

But even with the possible mishaps either candidate could mutter, Biden has debated on the national stage plenty of times before and holds years of experience on Ryan.

"Short of Biden criticizing President Obama," Wagner said, "or swearing, or saying something that is just fundamentally not true, it’s not very likely the debate will affect the results too much."

Bernard Forand October 12, 2012 at 05:08 PM
@ Dave Koven; Bernie replies; Agree; Old adage “believe ½ of what you see and nothing of what you hear” My preference is to observe the present and research the past and then extrapolate if they are walking the walk that they are talking the talk. These debates are nothing more than oral test. We all know how that goes from our school days. Some days your in the pink other days not so good. History of actions is more accurate. With that said. Obama all the way! Democrats all the way! Time to send a message loud and clear to republicans to shape up or ship out.
Bernard Forand October 12, 2012 at 05:11 PM
@ Dave Koven Bernie replies; Not a complete blowout. All Ryan had for a sandwich was full of baloney.
Bernard Forand October 13, 2012 at 01:20 AM
@ Cow Dung; Agree it is a half truth. Your original comment post it as not true. Which is incorrect. Your second post agrees with Half Truth as I do. Now that said lets try another one. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/05/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-says-barack-obama-has-doubled-deficit/ Double the deficit? Don’t think so Romney..False
Bernard Forand October 13, 2012 at 01:31 AM
@CowDung 11:33 am on Friday, October 12, 2012 Bren specifically cited Palin's lack of time in office as a disqualifying quality. Obama had a similar lack of time that was not held against him. Bren is a hypocrite. Bernie replies; Bren being a hypocrite. That would be mostly false. There are similarities in one arena of experience as there is other arenas you have failed to mention that gives the edge to Obama being the higher probability for success in vital issues involving the president’s office in the executive branch of our Democracy. That said how about Romney’s statement on pre existing conditions that he said his health care plan covers it. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/oct/05/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-says-his-health-care-plan-covers-pre-e/ Romney on preexisting conditions covered. Mostly false
Bernard Forand October 13, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Regulations, Regulation. Is What Strikes fear in the corrupt and criminal. Republicans see us on the Brink as democrat see opportunity. Could this explain why, there is such a diverse view of the same equation? Republicans see a dwindling ability to extract social welfare payments from the bottom of the Pyramid scheme’s they have designed. Democrats’ see opportunity for our society by cutting welfare payments to the elitist and returning the Pyramid back to its proper position. Three decades of low wages, to the 90%, with a growth of 15%. Earnings increase to the 1% have been cruising at 150% increases as to the 0.1% are racing at 300% Greater acceleration of wealth accumulation has affected the wealth at the bottom. “ By wiping out the middle classes and separating society into two classes of the property - less on the one hand and the rich speculators on the other, [inflation] paved the way for fascism and communism on the continent of Europe. It is a destroyer almost as evil as war itself. In the eyes of those that want to destroy democracy and capitalistic institutions, it is a cheap way of achieving their collapse” Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois on the Senate floor, February 22, 1951. Frank Dodd, Elizabeth Warren and Obama, got the Volcker Rule passed, that DOES once again regulates banks from derivatives. May 2010. Exactly the regulations the Romney and the Bankers seek to overturn.

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