The expectations for the vice presidential debate are exactly as high as the expectations for the presidential debate weren’t.
Joe Biden can save the ENTIRE CAMPAIGN! Paul Ryan is going to MOP THE FLOOR!
The invitations have gone out to the numerous people who might be interested in showing up: Real Joe Biden, the affable if occasionally gaffe-prone second-in-command; Onion Joe Biden, the Trans-Am-washing, banned-from-Dave&Busters buffoon. Then there’s the several Paul Ryans — the serious-minded budget wonk of so many glowing long-form profiles; the constantly mendacious intellectual charlatan who has lately gained traction in some corners of the Internet, and several who fall somewhere in between, better intentioned than the latter and less capable of walking on water than the former.
Both sides of the aisle have been touting their own versions. No expectations game this time. In fact, it’s the opposite of last time. Last time, the goal was to deflate. This time, it’s all about pumping up.
“Joe Biden is going to be crushed like a bug! A bug that has just had The Fountainhead dropped on it from a great height!”
“Oh yeah? Well, by the time Joe Biden is done with him, Paul Ryan will need a multiple-payer health plan!”
“That’s... is that even a thing?”
“Oh yeah? Well, by the time Joe Biden is done with him, the Ryan Plan will be to curl up in a corner and cry.”
“Paul Ryan is going to cut Joe Biden as aggressively and thoughtfully as he won’t cut entitlements!”
“Which one of us is insulting whom now?”
But how much does it matter?
The vice presidency is a strange beast. You are the person we hope will be largely decorative.
You are to plead ardently in another’s cause.
It’s the official Myles Standish, designated to draw attention away from yourself. If we think it’s about you, you’ve failed. Even if what we expect you to do is swat several asteroids away from the earth and avert ultimate crisis, it’s still not about you. If this were ice skating, the VPs would be the ones making the toss and the catch, not the ones in the air. You get to wear a sparkly ensemble, but the focus isn’t on you. Unless you mess up.
So the expectations are high. And they’re wildly different.
I don’t know if wave-Biden or particle-Biden is going to show up.
What makes the debate so potentially exciting is that so many have been invited but only two can come. Only one Biden and only one Ryan are going to walk through the door. But as usual, a great deal depends on how you see it. Later the wave function will collapse and they’ll electrocute a cat.