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VP debate won't sway Ohio voters

By Amanda Hancock
On October 16, 2012

In their only scheduled meeting this election season, Vice President Joe Biden faced off against Republican candidate, and Miami University alumnus, Paul Ryan, Thursday evening in a heated debate at Centre College, located in Danville, Ky.

Amidst a quirky "Debate Festival," a crowd of political enthusiasts from far and near enjoyed the frenzy of having Biden and Ryan, along with a slew of prominent media outlets such as CNN and USA Today in town.

Nearby an outdoor stage for MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" filmed live shows before and after the debate, locals sold homemade buttons for opposing parties, fire hydrants were adorned with red, white and blue paint and a coffee shop offered "Mint-Romney" and "Obama-Rama" drinks.

The small town charm was no remedy for settling the feisty debate though, starting with the first question from moderator Martha Raddatz about the Sept. 11 death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

As nearly two thousand people sat in lawn chairs in campus's central quad, and viewed the debate on an outdoor screen, yells in favor or opposition of the candidates' points were plentiful.

Biden and Ryan exchanged attacks mainly over the economy and foreign policy, quickly highlighting the divisive nature of the campaign.

Lines were drawn nationwide, however, the V.P. Debate probably didn't push many voters from one side to the other, said Brian Danoff, a political science professor.

According to Danoff, Vice Presidential debates usually have little affect on the outcome of presidential elections. He said Biden and Ryan both put on a strong show for their respective campaigns.

"[Ryan] gave a solid performance that probably helped burnish his image as a rising star in the Republican Party, no matter what happens on November 6," Danoff said.

While Biden was combative from the start, speaking about Mitt Romney's videotaped statement that 47 percent of Americans don't pay taxes, the 1992 Miami graduate defended Romney's remarks and commented that the vice president should know "sometimes words don't come out of your mouth the right way."

"Biden's forceful performance in [the] debate probably helped to re-energize a lot of Democrats who had become despondent after Obama's lackluster performance in the first debate," Danoff said.

Throughout the debate, Biden didn't hesitate to interrupt Ryan, which prompted Ryan to reference President Barack Obama's previous debate performance.

"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground," Ryan said to Biden.

As sophomore Wilson Pittman watched on Thursday, he said he was turned off by the lack of meaningful discourse.

"It was more just each candidate pushing their beliefs on each other," he said. Pittman also found Ryan's behavior to be more tasteful than Biden's.

"I think they both did well, but Biden seemed rude and arrogant especially when he was laughing at Ryan," Pittman said.

Later in the weekend, Ryan made a stop at the Bowling Green State University for the Miami football game tailgate party on Saturday. Banoff said the visit might be a response to recent polls suggesting that Obama still leads in Ohio, but now by a slimmer margin.

"Without Ohio, an electoral college victory becomes very difficult for Romney," Danoff said.

Danoff said some analysts think that Romney is perceived to be out-of-touch with the concerns of ordinary Ohioans, which is why he is down in the swing state.

"By reminding Ohio voters of his Miami University connection, and by showing up at college football games and tailgate parties, Ryan is probably trying to signal that he is part of a presidential ticket that can relate to the lives and concerns of regular folks from Ohio," he said.

Danoff said the Republican campaign is probably playing on Ryan's alma mater to attract young voters.

"The recent image of a youthful Ryan playing cornhole while wearing a North Face jacket may be designed in part to help the Romney-Ryan ticket appeal to college-age voters in Ohio," he said.

Danoff said this type of plan is typical for both parties.

"In some ways, Ryan's appearance at college football games is similar to Obama going on the Daily Show," he said.

Despite the results of debate and the election, political science professor Christopher Kelley said having a Miami graduate on the ticket is a positive step for the university.

"Having one of our own in the mix is huge; Paul Ryan gives us national media attention and excites our students that much more," Kelley said.

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