Dick Cheney Wins Vice Presidential Debate
In the only vice presidential debate of the campaign Vice President Dick Cheney faced off against democratic senator and John Kerry running mate John Edwards on both foreign and domestic issues. The backdrop for this debate was the presumed momentum that the Kerry campaign had gained following the first presidential debate, John Edwards’ task was to do his best to help sustain that momentum and Vice President Cheney’s task was to neutralize any damage to the President stemming from that first debate while attacking the Kerry record. On Monday I had written an article presenting my views on the first presidential debate and also gave my opinion on how I thought this vice presidential debate would turn out and although my sense was that Vice President Cheney would win, I would not have predicted such a decisive win on both style and substance. Senator Edwards by all accounts has a very sharp mind and although the Vice President is known as having unquestionable ability, the sense by many was that he was increasingly becoming a liability to the ticket. Mr. Cheney has always been steadfast in his views and the fact that he never admitted to any wrong doing in pushing for the war, the fact that he has these ties to Halliburton, and the fact that he always suggested a link between 9-11 and Saddam Hussein has infuriated many. Tuesday night however Dick Cheney left no doubt as to why he is arguably the most powerful Vice President ever: he’s a hawk. The main reason I believe that Dick Cheney’s win was more significant than John Kerry’s win on Thursday is because of the presumed caliber of the opponent. George Bush never suffers from high expectations when he enters a debate because everyone knows him to be a plain thinker whereas John Edwards is seen as a bright star whose charisma and intelligence helps build John Kerry’s credentials as a viable alternative to Bush. Objectively it would have been reasonable to expect a draw in the vice presidential debate but John Edwards, who made no errors, was simply outclassed. Vice President Cheney was quick and precise when presenting his arguments and when he was confronted with an issue that had the potential to be problematic for him, he either sidestepped the issue or refocused the attention on John Kerry, as was his job. Vice presidential debates are almost always inconsequential in the final outcome of a presidential election however what Tuesday night’s encounter may have done was paint John Edwards as a lightweight thereby putting all of the hopes of the Kerry campaign squarely on John Kerry’s shoulders.
Friday’s second presidential debate will focus on domestic policy and the conventional wisdom says that John Kerry will more likely be in his element and that George Bush will have great difficulty in defending his domestic record. All that George Bush can really take credit for is pushing through the large tax cut however all of his other initiatives have problems, from the No Child Left Behind initiative to his restriction of stem cell research, his domestic record is very suspect. Fortunately for him John Kerry’s legislative record is even more suspect. There is no such thing as the Kerry bill let alone the Kerry law and that is something the senator cannot run away from. So here’s my prediction, President Bush will actually look sharp tonight because he will have prepared better for tonight’s debate while senator Kerry will attack the President from a limited set of talking points that will make him seem repetitive (as Bush was last week) and unoriginal. When the senator will propose his own ideas he won’t be able to explain how he will pay for his projects without raising taxes- and suggesting a raise in taxes has always been poison for a candidate. The Bush tax cut was skewed heavily to favor the rich but Kerry will not be able to convince people that he’ll only raise taxes for the rich. Although senator Kerry has had much experience with town hall meetings because he did that all along the primaries, President Bush, perhaps the only stylistic advantage he has is that he seems to operate more naturally among people, will look more natural in this setting. In this town hall meeting format Kerry can easily suck himself into a confusing monologue instead of simply showing empathy and understanding for people’s problems. Because President Bush always gives short answers, he’ll be able to spend more time appearing to empathize. The truth is the president of the United States can’t cure all ills (or any ills for that matter) but the American public likes to think that he (and perhaps one day “she”) can, that’s why the election almost always goes to the candidate the people like more. In short, Bush wins round two and levels within a week will have a 10-point lead in the polls. A bold prediction I’ll admit but not farfetched. Well that’s all for now, have a great weekend folks!