The Veep Debate Preview

I don’t have much of an idea what to expect tonight, other than Joe Biden exhibiting all the stylistic qualities Barack Obama failed to exhibit last week in Denver, and Paul Ryan trying to maintain the Safe Change rap despite his radical record.

Based on Ezra Klein’s highly educated evaluation of Ryan-the-Debater, I’d figure he will retreat deep into the weeds of numbers and conservative studies if pressed on his budget proposals. Anything to avoid the impression that he’d like to kill off the New Deal and Great Society legacies, though that’s the basis of his movement conservative street cred. He’s enough of a conservative hero, and adept enough at dog whistles, that he’s got a lot more running room than Romney had.

The aspect of the debate that has been vastly under-discussed is that half the time is supposed to be spent on foreign policy. This could help Ryan with the expectations game; if he holds his own in this area, he’ll get props for that even if he just parrots neocon talking points and/or echoes the congressional GOP claims that Obama’s weakness led to the killings in Benghazi.

Biden’s performance is hard to predict. He’s an accomplished debater, and for all the overwritten stuff about his gaffes, he can be an amazing talker. I’ll never forget happening upon him on CSPAN in 1992, when that year’s big Crime Bill was on the floor, and sitting there transfixed for more than an hour as he veered from very wonky discussion of every detail of crime policy to hilarious comments about “Moses” (Charlton Heston, speaking for the NRA) misstating the statistics of the community policing initiative.

It could get wild and wooly.

Back with live-blogging at 9:00 EDT.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.