Vice presidential debate to face heightened importance

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 8:33 p.m. CDT; updated 7:47 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — Thursday's debate between the vice presidential nominees, which airs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. CDT across all major news networks, looks to draw as much attention as last week's presidential debate, which was was the second-most viewed debate in television history.

Incumbent Vice President Joe Biden will debate Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee, who is a U.S. representative from Wisconsin. ABC News chief foreign correspondent Martha Raddatz will be the moderator. The debate will cover both foreign and domestic issues split into nine 10-minute segments.

Since it is the only vice presidential debate of election season, expectations are high, according to a release from the MU News Bureau.

Mitchell McKinney, associate professor of communication, is a scholar of presidential debates. McKinney said momentum is important in different ways for both candidates.

"Can Biden shift the momentum back to the Democrats, or will Ryan keep it going for the Romney/Ryan ticket?" McKinney said.

The pressure will also be on Ryan, who is "new to the national scene" to show he is "qualified and ready to serve as president, should that happen," McKinney said.

Since the presidential debate, a new poll by the Pew Research Center has shown that Romney's performance has helped decrease Obama's lead. Those results make this vice presidential debate even more important, McKinney said.

"There is a greater interest now because of the first debate," McKinney said. "Look for a more aggressive debate."

Although Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for academic affairs at Columbia College, said the vice presidential candidates haven't affected an outcome since the 1960 election, a dramatic night could change that. 

"While Biden needs to defend his administration, Ryan is controversial politically," Smith said.

Smith expects the moderator to challenge both candidates, while they try to exploit the other's vulnerabilities.

Tigers Against Partisan Politics, a new MU group that hosted a watch party for the first presidential debate, will be hosting another party at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on Thursday.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

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