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VP Debate: What the Candidates Must Do to Win

Debate goals are markedly different for Ryan, Biden


Paul Ryan

I also have three bits of advice for Ryan as he prepares for the Kentucky debate: don’t stumble, attack the stimulus and look out for yourself.

Don’t make a big mistake

Representative Ryan will arrive at this debate with a bit of wind at his back. This may be a double-edged sword, however. After Romney’s stellar performance last week in Denver, expectations have been raised for the campaign. Observers of the VP debate will be watching for a major stumble from Ryan. (Perhaps unfairly, the press and the public seem so used to Biden gaffes that they may be inoculated from them.) So the first thing Ryan needs to try to do is avoid making a big error that will suck up news coverage. He has never debated on the national stage before and it is hard to predict how he will handle the pressure of such an event.

Attack the Obama record generally and the stimulus specifically

When the Obama administration passed the stimulus package back in 2009, they gave Joe Biden the task of policing it — tracking the money and ensuring it was not being wasted. Regardless of the actual effect of the stimulus, which was positive, according to most economists, the public largely soured against it. Ryan should remind voters how much they hated the stimulus, how it didn’t work and that Biden was in charge of it.

Ryan will likely spend much of his time attacking the Obama administration but can peg the stimulus specifically to Biden.

Preserve your own political future

Joe Biden will likely be focusing on the controversial Ryan budget. Ryan needs to remind voters that Romney is the top of the ticket, not him. This should achieve dual purposes of deflecting attention from his more conservative agenda and avoid locking Ryan into positions he may regret later. Paul Ryan is a young and ambitious career politician. If he and Romney go down to defeat come November, the young congressman from Wisconsin will want to have preserved his brand.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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