Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

The Consultant President

Mitt Romney, October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Mitt Romney speaking at the Values Voter Summit (Omni Shoreham Hotel) in Washington D.C. on October 7, 2011. Photo by Gage Skidmore. CC-SA.

Tony Lucadamo, Senior Editor at the Virginia Policy Review, contributes today's guest post, which explores whether Mitt Romney represents a new generation of consultancy leaders.

If you have not already, I encourage you to watch a recent PBS Frontline special on the Presidents entitled, “The Choice 2012.” The show’s season premiere takes an in-depth look at the backgrounds of both Presidential nominees. The most interesting point was this. Nicholas Lemann of the New Yorker remarked:

It’s a little bit like a consulting engagement. You go in. You figure out what the problems are. You fix things. You make things more organized. Then you go on to the next challenge.

Romney’s senior advisors essentially concur in later statements. Their narrative runs like a private equity assignment. He presented a product – the socially liberal, fiscally conservative Governor -- which he thought would meet demand. He then did what he could given a Democratic-controlled State legislature. In particular, he picked the issue of healthcare and made it the main issue of his four years in office.

Yet, in many ways, this alternate method is nothing new. Certainly, populism has been around for a long time. Governor Romney's Profile is perhaps an evolution of the executive-centered, efficiency-minded values that took root in the Progressive Era combined with a populism gleaned through the lens of modern business. The service sector constitutes an increasing proportion of U.S. GDP with each passing year. In that case, it should come as no surprise that this new generation of leaders is upon us. Men and women who have built their careers in private equity and consulting may increasingly seek to transfer their skills into politics. There is equal fodder for both pessimists and optimists in that case.

Continue reading this post at the Virginia Policy Review.

 

The Agony of Victory: Behind the Scenes on Election Night

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters.

President Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1964 presidential election night with reporters. The president shows the Victory-Sign following his landslide election victory against republican candidate Barry Goldwater. November 3, 1964. Photo by Cecil Stoughton, PD.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney have campaigned formally for the better part of a year. When this election is over, the total amount spent by their campaigns or on their behalf will approach $2 billion. They have traveled with few reprieves, been coached for debates, and endured attacks from television advertising (which has been 87% negative overall). And, once it is finished, Obama or Romney will have to move past it—and presumably, govern.

With Election Day just one week away, we wondered how previous candidates have reacted and felt to the culmination of the campaign season. We dug into our archives here at the Miller Center and found phone conversations that provide a glimpse of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon on the eve of victory. Given the years LBJ and Nixon would endure following their success on election night, we are reminded that being up on the mountain and riding the tiger are each their own agony. Impending victory did not bring instant relief for Johnson and Nixon. Instead, election night conversations centered on the nerve of the opponent, the absence of complete victory, and one “sore hip.” This profoundly humanizing fact sheds light on the impending winner of November 6th, 2012.

Responder-in-Chief: Presidential Leadership and Disaster Politics

President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses members of the press while deplaning in New Orleans.

President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses members of the press while deplaning in New Orleans to survey damage done by Hurricane Betsy. September 10, 1965. Photo by Yoichi R. Okamoto. Courtesy LBJ Library, PD.

Hurricane Sandy is threatening millions on the East Coast and dominating the headlines and airwaves. With just eight days until the election, Sandy is also impacting the presidential campaign. Both presidential campaigns have canceled planned stops and are urging people in affected states to take precautions. Some may find the change in tone, even if forced by disaster, a relief. Rather than bashing each other non-stop, the candidates are more focused on demonstrating leadership in the face of a disaster, showing concern and empathizing with those in harm’s way. Hurricane Sandy is no doubt a test of leadership for both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. However, as the head of government, the President will be particularly challenged with the responsibility for how the government responds. However, the President has not always held the role of “Responder-in-Chief.”

The greater transformation of the public’s expectation for presidential response to disasters is rooted more broadly in the development of the permanent campaign. Amidst the height of the presidential campaign in 1972, Richard Nixon was criticized for his response to Hurricane Agnes that affected the Atlantic states, especially Pennsylvania, New York and Northern Virginia. Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Milton Shapp, Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern and others seized on the opportunity to sharply criticize Nixon for what they called the government’s incompetent response. Nixon moved quickly to mitigate the damage, but was only able to do so when he took the reins and choreographed the government’s response from the White House. If not for the campaign season and the politicization of the government’s response, we may not have seen a broader expansion of the President’s role of “Responder-in-Chief.”

Friday Round-Up 10/26: The Final Stage

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

  1. The most recent Rasmussen poll has the number of undecided voters at 2%. Setting aside Saturday Night Live’s recent parody of those few remaining, who are those undecideds? What are their common characteristics? Katharine Seelye of the New York Times offers a picture of the “waitress Mom” voter: a woman who voted for President Obama in 2008, who is dissatisfied with his first term, and equally dissatisfied with the Republican alternative. Colloquially, she is no longer a “soccer mom,” to reflect a general decline in her quality of life since the late 1990s. As Jen Doll of The Atlantic notes, Seelye’s piece offers a picture of a particular kind of woman, and is not all inclusive of the female swing vote--which underscores the fact that labels like “soccer mom” have less meaning as the female electorate fragments, defying simple categorization and the phenomenon of single-issue voting.
  2. In an originally “off the record” interview with the Des Moines Register, President Obama said that in his second term he would attempt to work out a “grand bargain” with Republicans to address issues like immigration and the national debt. Obama’s ambiguous second-term agenda has been a source of criticism throughout the campaign. NPR’s Alan Greenblatt asks the simple, most direct question regarding the issue: “What would President Obama do with a second term?” In a piece that compares Obama to Woodrow Wilson, Michael Barone makes the point that the lack of specifics frees Obama’s agenda of constraints--a source of potential unease. The Des Moines interview also showed a rare glimpse of the President talking shop about the campaign: “Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win [...] is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
  3. The Wesleyan Media Project found that the number of aired political ads this election cycle has increased 44% since 2008 (from 637,000 to 915,000). The total campaign expenditure on television advertising may reach $2 billion. Kantar Media CMAG found that 87% of ads this time around have a negative tone. NPR notes that it is unclear how cost-effective the ads are at actually persuading voters, but “as long as there is one more voter out there to be persuaded, the ad wars [...] will continue.”
  4. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball predicted as of yesterday that Republicans would maintain control of the House, despite losing a few seats. The prediction ended with the claim that Democratic control of the House was no longer among the possible scenarios worth considering--a further sign that the field of possible outcomes is narrowing as the race enters its final stage.
  5. President Obama received two high-profile endorsements this past week. Colin Powell endorsed Obama on CBS Thursday morning. In 2008, Powell famously broke partisan ranks and endorsed Obama--when asked if he was still a Republican, he answered in the affirmative, adding that moderates like him were a “dying breed.” Ken Burns, who criticized Romney after the first debate for his stance on public broadcasting, formally endorsed Obama, writing, “Like FDR, Obama has walked us back from the brink.”

Miller Center Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis

President Kennedy meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the Oval Office.

President Kennedy meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the Oval Office. The President knows but does not reveal that he is now aware of the missile build-up. October 18, 1962. Photo courtesy of The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, PD.

On Monday, the Miller Center hosted a Forum to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Heather Michon blogged about the panel on Knowing Charlottesville. The panel revealed that the Cuban Missile Crisis was much more than a stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the opening of Soviet and Cuban archives has revealed that President John F. Kennedy was much more willing to negotiate than previously understood by the public. As Marc Selverstone put it, “Diplomacy, not force, turned the tide.” Castro was also kept in dark about back channel negotiations between the U.S. and Soviet Union. While Americans moved on from the terror of the crisis fairly quickly, the shadow of those October days lingered over Cuban-Soviet relations for decades.

Read on for Heather’s full summary of the Forum.

“Foreign Policy” Debate Roundup

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the foreign policy presidential debate. October 22, 2012. Photo by Irina Lagunina, courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

The final presidential debate, intended to be on the subject of foreign policy, was held last evening at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Below are some highlights and lowlights from the debate.

Snap polls say? According to a CNN-ORC snap poll, 48 percent of voters said President Obama won, while 40 percent said Mitt Romney did. In the CBS snap poll of uncommitted voters, 53 percent said Obama won, 24 percent said Romney did, and another 24 percent called it a tie. A Google snap poll gave Obama a ten percent advantage. However, as Nate Silver points out, Obama is not likely to get as much of a bounce because voters have more information now than they did before the first debate and because most people were watching Monday Night Football and baseball games. That being said, in such a close election, even a small bounce could help the President.

Oh, snap! When Romney repeated his previously used line that the Navy is smaller now than at any time since World War I, Obama was prepared with a sarcastic retort: “Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.” Google searches for the term “bayonets” spiked 7215% during the debate. Fact check: the U.S. Army still uses bayonets.

Didn’t take the bait. Although the first debate question raised the September 11 terrorist attacks in Libya, Romney preferred to forego the opportunity to attack President Obama’s handling of the situation. This came as a surprise to many in the commentariat who had anticipated that the issue would be rehashed once again. I personally was relieved that the candidates found other foreign policy issues to discuss, even though I was disappointed they didn’t address important issues and countries such as multilateralism, NATO, Europe, countries other than China in East Asia, and India.

Moving Beyond Benghazi Moment

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Tonight’s final presidential debate could come down to one topic: Libya.

Those who watched the town hall-style presidential debate on Ocotber 16 saw the preamble. The question posed was this:

This question actually comes from a brain trust of my friends at Global Telecom Supply in Mineola yesterday. We were sitting around talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

In short, the questioner (Kerry Ladka of Mineola, NY) wanted to know who made the decision to forego additional security measures prior to the recent terrorist attack. And, as the Washington Post rightly points out, the President essentially ducked the question.

President Obama first rallied to the defense of his diplomats, going so far as to say he knew their families. Next, he refocused the subject to highlight a questionable Republican rush to accuse in the fallout.

Friday Round-up: Party Bosses

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

  1. Polling Week: The most up-to-date RealClearAverage of polls gives Romney a slight edge (2.6%). The most recent Rasmussen Poll, conducted during the three days since the debate, shows a national 48-48 tie, with 2% undecided. This differs from Gallup’s most recent poll, which was conducted over a week-long period, and shows Romney ahead 52-45. Could the Rasmussen poll be an early sign of the effect of the debate? Another Rasmussen poll reports that Romney has “hit the 50% mark in Virginia.” Despite gains in other battleground states, the national polls could be a misleading indicator of outcome, given that Romney has gained significant ground in states he is unlikely to win, like California. Additionally, the validity of the polls continue to be questioned--statistician Nate Silver, for example, pointed out that when Gallup is the outlier, it has often performed poorly. Silver’s FiveThirtyEight forecast, which aggregates national polls, still gives Obama a slight edge in the Electoral College and a 71.6% chance to win the election.  In a memo, the Obama campaign also challenged Gallup’s poll indicating a tie between the candidates among women voters in battleground states.
  2. Labor statistics in battleground states released today reveal mixed trends of continuity and change.

 

Battleground State

April

Unemployment

August Unemployment

September Unemployment

Colorado

7.9%

8.2%

8.0%

Florida

8.7%

8.8%

8.7%

Iowa

5.1%

5.5%

5.2%

New Hampshire

5.0%

5.7%

5.7%

Nevada

11.7%

12.1%

11.8%

North Carolina

9.4%

9.7%

9.6%

Ohio

7.4%

7.2%

7.0%

Virginia

5.6%

5.9%

5.9%

Of these battleground states, only four had an unemployment rate below the national average of 7.8% (Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia); while five came in above the national average (Colorado, Florida, Nevada and North Carolina). Nevada has the highest unemployment rate of all 50 states. However, all of the swing states except Virginia saw a drop in unemployment, which has the possibility of contributing to more positive evaluations of the direction of the economy. As we’ve argued previously, it’s important to pay close attention to economic indicators, as well as to job approval and favorability ratings in these key states leading up to the election. While state-by-state information is not yet available, Real Clear Politics average shows Obama’s national approval rating is up, at 49.4%. On favorability, recent polls show Romney has gained quite a bit of ground. According to a Gallup Poll this week, voters are equally favorable to both candidates. A Pew Research Center poll from last week shows Romney is ahead of Obama by a point, 50 percent to 49 percent (for comparison, a March 2012 Pew poll found Obama had a 55% favorability rating compared to 29% for Romney).

Highlights and Lowlights from the Second Presidential Debate

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Last night President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in a town hall style debate with 100 undecided voters selected by Gallup. Below are some highlights and lowlights of the evening.

  1. Survey says? According to a CNN/ORC poll of registered voters, 46 percent thought Obama won, while 36 percent thought Romney won. A CBS News poll of undecided voters found 37 percent thought Obama won, while 30 percent said Romney did and 33 percent thought it was a tie. A Google Consumer Surveys poll of registered voters found 48 percent of registered voters saying Obama won, compared to 31 percent who said Romney won.
  2. The feistiness that marked the debate began before it even started when Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested in a failed attempt to attend the debate. Even though the Green Party candidates will be on an estimated 85 percent of ballots this election year, the Commission on Presidential Debates sets the bar at 15 percent in the polls for third party candidates to participate.
  3. In an attempt to close the gender gap and reach out to women, Mitt Romney likely accomplished the opposite when he uttered the buzz phrase of the evening –  “Binders full of women.” Romney said:

We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our Cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks.’ And they brought us whole binders full of women.

The phrase has given birth to memes galore. Expect to see a lot of talk show jokes and Halloween costumes in the coming days.

The (Imperfect) Value of the Debates

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

On Sunday, October 14, a special edition of ABC’s This Week, produced with the Miller Center, focused on the question, "Do presidential debates change elections?" Today’s guest post provides a scholarly response to the question.        

The September 26, 1960, edition of the Washington Post did not even mention that night’s scheduled debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, and Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee.  The three broadcast networks’ evening news programs barely mentioned the event.

            Surprise: the audience for the first Kennedy-Nixon debate—the first debate in history between two candidates for president—was the largest for a political event in human history up to that time.  More than 60 million saw it on television and millions more heard it on the radio.  About 100 million saw or heard at least one of the four debates.

            And then . . . nothing.  No debates when President Lyndon B. Johnson ran against Arizona senator Barry Goldwater in 1964.  None when Nixon faced Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and an independent candidate, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, in 1968.  Or when Nixon ran for reelection against Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota in 1972.

            Only in 1976 did the stars align once again and debates occur.  The main reason: for the first time since 1960, both candidates—President Gerald Ford, who was trailing in the polls, and Gov. Jimmy Carter, who like all challengers wanted a stage on which he could face the incumbent as an equal—saw an advantage in debating.  Nineteen seventy-six also brought an innovation: the debate between Ford’s running mate, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, and Carter’s vice presidential nominee, Minnesota senator Walter Mondale.  Not a bad idea, considering that fourteen vice presidents—nearly one third of them—have gone on to become president.

No-bama Drama: Putting the Denver Debate in Historical Context

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon during the first televised U.S. presidential debate in 1960.

Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon during the first televised U.S. presidential debate in 1960. Credit: National Park Service. PD.

On Sunday, October 14, a special edition of ABC’s This Week, produced with the Miller Center, focused on the question, "Do presidential debates change elections?" Today’s guest post provides a scholarly response to the question.  

            Traveling for a lecture trip on the night of Election 2012’s first presidential debate, I wasn’t among the nearly 70 million viewers of the event.  But as I raced through the Charlotte airport, I glimpsed a gaggle of fellow travelers gathered around a restaurant television.  Pausing for a few minutes, I noticed that President Obama looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable, with his eyes turned downward toward the podium, while on the split screen Governor Romney animatedly presented his case.  Little did I realize that my instant analysis of the debate’s image would become the accepted postmortem.  Whereas the president had earned the moniker “No Drama Obama” for his unflappable campaign persona in 2008, four years later opponents and supporters alike concluded that he was missing in action on the Denver stage: No Obama had become the drama.

            It remains to be seen whether that lackluster performance will contribute to his loss of a second term, but the odds in his favor have lowered, along with his standing in the polls, since his Rocky Mountain breakdown.  In 2008 the young senator had been compared favorably with John F. Kennedy and had received endorsements from both JFK’s daughter Caroline and his brother Teddy.  For the first debate in 2012’s contest, Obama could have used the support of parents like Rose and Joe Kennedy.  Jack’s devoutly Catholic mother prayed the entire day of Jack’s first presidential debate in hopes that her intercessions would boost her son over Richard Nixon, the more experienced debater.  She was thrilled when her prayers were answered!  After his victorious performance, JFK phoned his father who gave him a rave review.  Jack turned to his alter-ego, Ted Sorensen, and explained, “If I had slipped and fallen flat on the floor, my dad would have said, ‘The way you picked yourself up was terrific!’”

The Perils of Life Above the Fray

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on stage at the first presidential debate. October 4, 2012. Photo courtesy of Voice of America, PD.

Today’s post by Tony Lucadamo inaugurates a new partnership between Riding the Tiger and the Virginia Policy Review.

In watching CNN’s documentary, “Obama Revealed: The Man, The President,” one word continually recurred throughout: cool. On the program, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about how cool the President is under pressure. Secretary of State Clinton discusses how cool her former adversary was in the run-up to Bin Laden’s assassination.

Yet, over the course of the program the word takes on a new connotation. Is the President perhaps, too cool? Has he grown overly aloof in his first term in office? Is he too professorial for his own good? Perhaps there is no longer a place for great mediators in the rough and tumble of today’s political environment.

Certainly, that was not the case four years ago. Lofty rhetoric shot then-Senator Obama from obscurity into prominence. Once in the running, his coolness helped unseat the vaunted Clinton machine. Candidate Obama spoke of hope and change while aides readied daggers behind their collective cloaks. Conversely, Hillary Clinton waited too long to go negative. When she did, it mostly came from her husband. It thus sounded disjointed and did not connect with the electorate.

That was part of Obama’s genius in the 2008 election. In an age of adversarial politics, candidate Obama kept his reputation squeaky clean. It confounded the opposition. If they attacked him they appeared petty. When they sat still, Obama’s soaring rhetoric lifted him higher and higher in the polls.

Election of 2012: A New Gilded Age Election

Cartoon portraying U.S. President James Garfield as a farmer cutting down corruption with a scythe.

Cartoon portraying Guilded Age President James Garfield as a farmer cutting down corruption with a scythe. James Garfield Poster, Library of Congress, PD.

This post is adapted from remarks delivered at a special GAGE Colloquium on “The 2012 Presidential Election in Historical Context.”

The 1873 satirical novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, gave a name to the post-Civil War decades of free-wheeling political corruption and greed accompanied by unprecedented economic inequality. The United States is now experiencing a New Gilded Age, marked by a high degree of social and economic inequality comparable to the first Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century. Indeed, several other points of comparison between the two eras exist in politics, and thus the election of 2012 can be called a New Gilded Age Election.

The degree of inequality in wealth and income now prevailing in the United States, to a greater extent than in most developed and non-authoritarian countries, needs no demonstration. Indeed, as the Census Bureau reported in September, as median income for most Americans fell in 2011 the wealth gap between the richest 20 percent and everyone else increased.

The increasing economic and social inequality has created greater political inequality, and a great gulf between the financial and corporate elite and the middle and lower classes in their exercise of voice vis-à-vis their elected representatives and in relative ability to influence government policy. In the first Gilded Age, as now, the Senate consisted of a “millionaire’s club,” and the Supreme Court devoted itself to protecting corporations and “the money power” over the public interest and ordinary citizens. Then too lobbyists for big business, industrial corporations, and special interests literally bought state legislators and Congressmen. Now big contributors to representatives’ campaigns gain “access,” they say, with the difference between access and a bought vote apparent only to those involved in the exchange of money and votes.

Like the old Gilded Age, too, this is an era of very close elections. The 2008 election proved an exception, but pollsters predict that 2012 will be very close. Polls show that most of the voters who have already decided are evenly split and that the number of undecided is far smaller than usual. Moreover, Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s selection of the far-right wing Republican Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate indicates that—at least on the Republican side—2012 is shaping up as a “battle of the bases.” Admittedly, this has been more true of the Republican-Romney campaign than that of President Obama’s. And the Republicans are not only concentrating on rallying their base, but also have acted to diminish the Democratic base.

Friday Feature: Riding the Vice Tiger

Biden photos courtesy Talk Radio News Service, Ryan photos courtesy Talk Radio News Service and Gage Skidmore

Today's Friday Feature is a dedication to the Veep—who rides a tiger all his own.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Roundup: Biden Strikes Back

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

Obama Vs Romney. Photo Courtsesy Malwack, CC BY-SA.

  1. Pre-Debate Hype. The first presidential debate injected what may have been an anomalous vitality into last night’s vice-presidential debate. The RCP’s national average showed a swing of roughly 4 points (Obama -3, Romney +1), which caused commentators like Andrew Sullivan to lament and the Obama campaign to rally supporters. Both the Huffington Post and Daily Beast published articles that charged Biden with the task of settling the score.
  2. Two facts worth mentioning about the VP debate: [1] The word “CROSSTALK” appears in the debate transcript 49 times, a marked increase from last week. [2] Joe Biden spoke for a little over a minute more than Paul Ryan. What about the generational gap? Scott Conroy of RCP points out that several of the past VP debates have featured candidates with an age gap (Biden is 69, Ryan is 42, and Sarah Palin was 44). To put this into cultural context, when Paul Ryan turned 16, number one songs on the radio featured the likes of Lionel Richtie, Prince, and Genesis, for Biden, it was the Everly Bros., the Champs, and Elvis.
  3. Prior to the debate (in part because of the perceived ineffectualness of Jim Lehrer in the first presidential debate) there was an unusual focus on the VP debate moderator, Martha Raddatz. In an interview after the debate, she said that she was surprised by the number of follow-up questions she was able to ask. Josh Barro notably criticized Raddatz’ performance for failing to bring up important topics such as immigration, monetary policy, housing policy, unwinding the fiscal cliff, and for focusing too narrowly on foreign policy while neglecting China, Latin America and Europe.