DANVILLE – With the Republicans grabbing the momentum in a shifting White House race, Vice President Joe Biden will look to recover some ground and ease Democratic worries today in a high-stakes debate against Republican challenger Paul Ryan.
Mitt Romney’s steady climb in polls since President Barack Obama’s poor performance in last week’s first debate has raised the importance of the vice presidential showdown, which is rarely a critical event in White House campaigns.
This time it comes at a critical juncture, with Romney enjoying one of his best weeks of the campaign and Obama suffering the fallout from his passive performance four weeks before the November 6 election.
“This has turned into a legitimate high-stakes debate because the ground has shifted so profoundly on the Democrats,” said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Texas.
“Biden at least has to hold his own so panic doesn’t set in for Democrats,” he said. “They don’t want to lose two in a row.”
Biden and Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, meet at 9 p.m. EDT in the nationally televised debate from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
Romney and Republicans have been on a roll since last week’s first debate, which came just as Obama appeared to be taking command of the race. A Reuters/Ipsos online poll yesterday showed Romney taking his first lead over Obama in more than a month, 45 per cent to 44 per cent.
It was one of several national polls showing the debate helped Romney significantly improve his personal image and his standing on key issues like handling the economy, as well as bolster his standing in key swing states that will decide the election.
Democrats have accused Romney of shifting or misrepresenting his positions on issues during and after the debate. Biden is expected to be more confrontational than Obama in an encounter that will include both domestic and foreign policy issues.
“He’s going to have to be on his toes,” Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said of Biden on MSBNC.
“My guess is you’re going to see what Mitt Romney tried to do, which is Paul Ryan … walk away from the positions that he’s held during this campaign and give a much much different, softer image for the American people,” he said. (Reuters)