Check out Tim Grieve’s preview of tonight’s debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards.
The vice-presidential debate was always going to be important; now it’s only more so. The Republicans need to stop the bleeding; the Democrats have to hope that the Cheney-Edwards faceoff doesn’t kill their momentum. Pretty John Edwards needs to show he’s more than the Breck Boy; dour Dick Cheney needs to show that the Republicans offer more than annoyance and fear. For the moment, at least, Democrats think they’ve got the better of the deal: You know you’re in trouble, Kerry advisor Joe Lockhart said Monday, when you’ve got to ask Dick Cheney to “cheer up” the voters.
Edwards will never come off as serious as Cheney does, and the format of tonight’s debate may prevent him from being as much of himself as he usually is. Democrats have been gunning for the Cheney-Edwards debate for months. In July, when Kerry announced in an e-mail to supporters that he had chosen Edwards to be his running mate, he said not a word about what a terrific job Edwards might do as vice president. Instead, he said he couldn’t wait “for the day this fall” when Edwards “stands up for our vision and goes toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.”
But Edwards won’t be standing tonight. The Democrats wanted the vice presidential debate to be a town-hall affair. The Republicans demanded a sit-down, interview format; the candidates won’t even walk in and shake hands on camera. “We wanted to stand, and he wanted to sit,” Edwards said in Huber Heights. “They got what they wanted.” The Democrats are using the debate rules as a commentary on Cheney’s pull in the White House; if anyone ever doubted Cheney’s power, Kerry advisor Devine says, just look at who’s doing a town hall — Bush is, on Friday in St. Louis — and who’s not.
The real reason they won’t let Cheney and Edwards walk in and shake hands is because the Republicans are afraid that Edwards might set off Cheney’s defibrilator with a static electric carpet shock:
“Good evening, Mr. Vice President.” (zap!)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that not only will John Edwards blow Dick Cheney away, but this debate will actually make a difference in the election.