In terms of broadcast time and coverage, the VP debate is afforded the same treatment as the Presidential Debates but it will likely bring in around half the number of viewers. Many Americans will tune in to see what each VP candidate brings to the table but does it actually sway votes?
Time Magazine discussed this topic:
On last weekend’s Saturday Night Live Weekend Update, Seth Meyers said that the biggest winner after the first presidential debate was really the viewing public. “Is there anything more exciting than Joe Biden thinking it’s up to him to get the lead back?” he joked. “There’s like a 50% chance he’s going to come out at the next debate with his shirt off.” But while the first presidential debate appears to have given Mitt Romney his first polling lead in a year, there’s a much smaller chance that whatever happens at the vice presidential debate on Thursday will impact the election.
That’s not to say that the eight televised vice presidential debates in American history have been without effect.
Researchers Diana Carlin and Peter Bicak posited that Lloyd Bentsen’s performance, including his famous dismissal of Dan Quayle as “no Jack Kennedy” in the 1988 debate, may have actually made Bentsen’s Democratic running mate Michael Dukakis look weak by comparison. And James Stockdale’s bad showing, as Ross Perot’s Independent running mate, made the team appear like a sideshow—and Perot a poor decision-maker–according to focus-group research summarized by University of Richmond professor Mari Boor Tonn for a project on the 1992 debates.
In 2008, viewers anticipated Sarah Palin to betray her ignorance or Joe Biden to gaffe it up. But little happened during the debate or in the polls afterward. The Real Clear Politics averages for Obama and McCain were at 49 and 43.3, respectively, on the morning of the vice presidential debate. Five days later, neither average had moved so much as a point. Despite the hype, sometimes debates are just good television. And Thursday’s matchup should, as Meyers notes, at least be entertaining.
I heard a good analogy the other day regarding the VP debate. Consider it a courtroom. Vice President Biden will be President Obama’s attorney and Congressman Paul Ryan will be Governor Romney’s attorney. Both will argue in favor of their client to the American people which make up the jury.
On a side note, The Daily Caller is reporting that the VP debate moderator, Martha Raddatz, has some undisclosed ties to President Obama. Doesn’t sound like it is too serious at this point but the story is continuing to develop so anything can happen in the next 24 hours.
Exit question: How much does the VP debate affect your decision process?