One down, three to go. With Romney closing the gap in the polls -- tied with Obama at an ironic 47% three days after the first debate -- both candidates are expecting much out of their running mates at the Vice Presidential debate this Thursday.
And what exactly have they been told to do? Don't mess up.
Both Biden and Ryan are gaining ground in their respective political parties, yet their potential for future leadership roles (and perhaps a 2016 presidential bid) may come crashing down with just one slip-up in their debate. As Julian Zelizer of CNN reports,
"in several cases, promising stars have been badly harmed by their performances, developing public perceptions that proved hard to shake."
Remember the Biden/Palin debate from four years ago? "Can I call you Joe?" Something like that.
No matter how prepared Biden and Ryan may (or may not) feel, here is a quick list of five debate tips for the two mighty men, or for anyone who may be a potential candidate one day:
1. Don't look like a sketch. (Nixon-Kennedy 1960)
During the first televised presidential debate in US history, Nixon was looking less than swell after recently being discharged from the hospital.
Kennedy, on the other hand, was smashing as usual, sporting a glowing golden tan and a grin to woo masses of women. With a sweaty composure and caked-on makeup leading to a sallow skin tone, Nixon seemed like a nervous crook (cough). On top of that, his eyes wouldn't stop shifting back and forth, narrowly avoiding the camera. Who would vote a sketch into office?
2. Don’t deny facts (Ford-Carter 1976)
When Ford was asked to speak on communism, he infamously replied with “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Really now? That’s like stating that China does not have an inkling of influence in our economy today.
And then, Ford continued to back-up his obvious blunder. So, additional tip: Admit your mistakes – it shows that you’re human. Or, to make it easier, DON’T DENY FACTS. And communism.
3. Don’t compare yourself to someone you’re definitely not (Bentsen-Quayle 1988)
Here's an example of a VP debate that turned sour.
When asked if he was experienced enough to inherit the office of the President, Quayle stated
"... I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency."
"Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy."
Packing a punch! With inexperience comes stupid answers, followed by historical one-line zingers. Especially if you're Dan "Wet Head" Quayle likening yourself to JFK. Nuh-uh. Candidates and running mates should just refrain from comparing themselves to any politician, because it can go bad either way.
4. Don’t be rude (Bush-Clinton-Perot 1992)
An innocent woman steps up to ask the three candidates a question:
Audience Member: "How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives?
Perot: I have lived the American Dream and I want the future generations of the country to live it, too.
Clinton: I see my people lose both their jobs and their government programs., and I know them by name.
Bush: *looks at watch* National debt affects everybody...interest rates...something something...my grandkids?
He might as well yawned and asked for a nap -- Bush blew it. Don't be rude. Pay attention to the people who are talking to you. You're their public servant, after all.
5. Don't forget your policy ideas (Republican Candidates 2011)
Please, please, please do not pull a Rick Perry and forget which agency you'll cut on national television. "Oops" moments don't cut it at this stage in the game -- heck, this wouldn't fly at a high school SGA meeting.
So, Mr. Biden, Mr. Ryan -- will your debate go well? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, we wish you luck. Tip of the hat. No pressure. Just don't mess up.