Election 2012

Four things Paul Ryan must do to win Thursday’s debate

Four things Paul Ryan must do to win Thursday's debate

Editor’s note: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich also comments on the debate, offering the following advice: “What Biden and Ryan should debate: Stagnation to 2018“.

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul D. Ryan shouldn’t have a hard time winning Thursday night’s Danville, Ky. debate against incumbent Joe Biden.

This debate will be a chance for a national audience to see Ryan. He’ll be tempted to wade deeply into the topics that are likely to emerge, such as Medicare, Social Security, and the federal budget. Still, given Biden’s tendency toward broad talk, Ryan will do best to present his facts clearly and not dally among the numbers and figures that aren’t likely to reach viewers.

Between his solid, no nonsense smarts, his popularity among conservative strongholds and the lead his campaign has enjoyed since Mitt Romney won last week’s presidential debate, Ryan just needs to keep four basic principles in mind on what ought to be a cakewalk through Kentucky.

1. Just let Joe be Joe. Biden recently has compromised Obama’s administration and campaign by unilaterally endorsing same-sex marriage, commending the stuff cheerleaders do “on hard wood”, and patronizing African American voters by telling them at a campaign stop that Romney intended to “put y’all back in chains.”

Ryan, meanwhile, has consistently kept his talk to America biting the bullet on balancing the budget and restoring the economic viability of American families and businesses.

It’s likely that Biden will go on the offensive in order to make up for President Barack Obama’s abysmal debate performance last week. All Ryan has to do to here is keep up his usual polite composure and turn the other cheek to what are sure to be tactless jabs at his policy views. Voters will see the contrast, and it’s likely to go a long way.

2. Embrace Peter Suderman’s suggested motto. In 2010, Reason magazine’s senior editor Peter Suderman wrote: “If Ryan displays signs of an overarching philosophy, it might be described as ‘do everything you can, but also do what you must.’” Thursday’s debate is Paul Ryan’s most prominent chance yet to embrace this philosophy before a national audience.

A new Reuters poll shows Romney ahead of Obama on questions relating to the deficit. This suggests, as Ryan has said in the past, that voters know the deficit is a problem and they are ready for the solution he and Romney propose. Ryan should show voters an earnest intention to do everything he can, but also everything he must, to correct the vastly destructive trend government spending has been on. Biden and the Obama reelection campaign can’t compete with this when they’ve been part of the problem and the viewers know it.

3. Stay out of the weeds. Medicare, Social Security, and the budget deficit are all sure to come up at the debate. Ryan is well-versed in all of these–he makes sure of it. But while he’s likely to have Biden hammered on the numbers, a detail-oriented diatribe on the economic situation just won’t make for good television. Perhaps the central failure of Obama’s debate performance last week was his insistently tortuous point-making, in place of answers, with relevant specificity, that viewers could take seriously. Ryan knows the minutiae, and he needs to lean on his aptitude for clear articulation to enlighten listeners and leave Biden speechless.

4. Keep buoying the boss. Kentucky sends a mostly conservative delegation to Congress, including Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand H. Paul, so in this way Ryan is playing on home turf on Thursday. Besides that, Ryan is at a huge advantage coming into this debate after Romney’s resounding performance last week, and this is a wave he needs to ride.

Romney-Ryan supporters love Ryan: when the VP pick spoke at a campaign stop after Romney’s debate win, Ryan asked if the performance didn’t remind supporters of Ronald Reagan. A donor shouted from the crowd, “We were thinking of you.” He has done a great job of channeling to the Romney campaign the positive attention he has gained for himself over the years. Thursday is just another chance to round that out and let a national audience see it for themselves. If Ryan sticks to this and the other three principles, Biden won’t stand a chance.

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