Slatest PM: Your VP Debate Primer

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 11 2012 5:13 PM

Slatest PM: Your VP Debate Primer

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Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

SHOWTIME: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will take the stage in Kentucky tonight for this year's sole vice presidential debate. Moderator Martha Raddatz will kick things off shortly after 9 p.m. eastern time. What happens next will either completely reshape the race for the White House or be completely forgotten as voters prove once again they care only about the name atop the ticket. OK, fine, we suppose there's some room for nuance between those two extremes if you're going to be a stickler about these things.

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NOT YOUR NORMAL VP DEBATE: Slate's John Dickerson: "Most of us who follow politics say the vice presidential debate is meaningless. ... But in this campaign, where merely the clumsy repetition of a months-old talking point can control a few news cycles, surely the debate performance of the fellow who is one heartbeat away from the presidency has the potential to shake things up. If nothing else, the debate will provide us with language and moments to discuss the existing themes of this election."

AND HOW WOULD THEY DO THAT? More Dickerson: "[I]f they commit a confirming blunder, [that is] a statement or action that underlines the most negative stereotype about the top candidate."

Dem Fears: "If Biden conforms to his own stereotype—loquacious and off point—it may reinforce the notion that the campaign is tired and out of ideas more than anything else."

GOP Fears: "Ryan doesn’t fit [with Romney's newfound moderate image] and might find it hard to know exactly what to emphasize to stay in line with the nuances of his boss. A slip up could bolster the Obama argument that this team is not being honest."

WHAT PEOPLE EXPECT: Pew poll: Forty percent said they expect Ryan do to the better job, compared to 34 percent who said the same of Biden. The party breakdown shows self-identified Republicans are more confident, with 78 percent predicting a Ryan win compared to 62 percent of Democrats who see the same thing in their man's future.

WHY THAT HELPS BIDEN: Slate's David Weigel: "Biden enters the ring underrated, and Ryan enters it as a mystery. That’s obviously good for Biden. Ryan has outmatched mostly hapless Democrats in the eight debates he has competed in for his thoroughly safe House seat. Biden has lost two presidential primaries—one gracefully, one with maximum pain and humiliation—and coasted through some debates for his U.S. Senate seat. After spending some time with the Biden tapes, I’m convinced he’s being undervalued. He has a skill that now evades Barack Obama. He comes off like he actually cares about politics and wants to keep his job." More here.

HAPPY VP DEBATE DAY and welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow the entire team @slatest or your afternoon host @JoshVoorhees, or fill his inbox with your thoughts at josh.voorhees@slate.com.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Assuming this isn't the first time you've been on the Internet today, you've probably gathered from the headlines that there are differently things you should be on the lookout for during tonight's Danville debate. How many things? Five, apparently.

HEY, THAT'S CHEATING! OK, fine, let us make it up for you with a closer look at what the Internet thinks you should be watching for tonight

IN OTHER NEWS: Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in literature today. Slate's David Haglund with more: "Yan, a Chinese novelist sometimes compared by American critics to William Faulkner, became the second Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this morning. He is the first Chinese winner of any Nobel Prize who has remained in the country and is not in prison there. ... Mo is from the city of Gaomi in Shandong province in northeastern China, and, like Faulkner, he has set much of his writing in a fictionalized version of his native region. The literary magazine Granta has published an excerpt from one of his more recent works, and at their website you can also listen to an interview with Mo Yan conducted by their editor, John Freeman, this past spring."

UP TOMORROW: The Peace Prize. You can check out Slate's predictions for who will win that one here.

MENINGITIS UPDATE: Reuters: "Two more people have died from fungal meningitis linked to steroid injections, bringing the total to 14 deaths since the outbreak began last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Thursday.  A total of 170 people have been stricken with a rare fungal meningitis in 11 states since the outbreak began, according to the latest CDC tally, up from 137 listed on Wednesday."

SYRIA UPDATE: Washington Post: "Russia demanded an explanation from Turkey on Thursday for why it intercepted a Syrian passenger plane flying from Moscow to Damascus, the latest instance of spiraling Syrian-Turkish tensions related to Syria’s bloody civil war. Turkey said it used F-16 fighter jets to force the Syrian Airbus to land at Esenboga Airport in Ankara in order to seize equipment that it believes was destined for use by the Syrian military against the armed, anti-government rebels. Thirty passengers were on board the plane, including 17 Russians."

SLATE QUICK HITS—

We'll see you back here tomorrow. But until then, tell your friends to subscribe here, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

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