The Cycle | October 11, 2012
>>> i'm crystal ball live in danville, kentucky . joe biden and paul ryan are here. it's fight night for the vice presidential candidates, expect both of them to come out swinging.
>> i'm steve kerr knack ki. new battleground poles are out. did the debate do damage to his campaign.
>>> this is so completely wrong. mitt romney 's got an image problem. literally. maybe it's google.
>> imtorre. now you can play president with the click of a mouse.
>>> live coverage of debate night in kentucky kicks off right now on "the cycle" for thursday, october 11th .
>>> we are laying out the vp debate fight live here at center college in danville, kentucky . today the shoe is on the other food for obama / biden and romney / ryan . last week it was the president's team facing high expectations. this week it is paul ryan who is expected to perform well. last week the stakes were monumental for the romney team who desperately needed a strong performance to overcome weeks of mistakes, bad polls and republican hand wringing. this week it is team obama facing high stakes to stop the bleeding and quiet the lamenting of freaked out democrats who were disappointed with last week's apathetic performance. the stylistic shoe may be on the other foot as well. ryan like obama can come across as cerebral and distant. the pressure is on for biden , a lot is at stake for ryan too. while he is well known by inside the belt way crowd, the national audience is just getting to know ryan . his unnecessary bending of the truth sullied his reputation. this is take two for ryan to make a favorable impression and to preserve his own future regardless of whether the romney ryan ticket. this is happening in kentucky , a state known for derby, bourbon and one of the greatest fighters, muhammad ali . we'll have the vp debate here. the timing of this one makes it feel like a main event . q famed ring announcer michael buffer .
>> ladies and gentlemen , let's get ready to rumble !
>> and to show you we aren't done with all of this foolish boxing stuff, i want to bring in a veteran corner man.
>> i can't open my eye.
>> come on.
>> get me.
>> no, not burgess meredith , but howard fineman . howard , take us through, what are you expecting for this debate tonight?
>> well, what i'm expecting is vice president biden to come out and repair some of the damage that the ticket took on last week in denver. i think the vice president knows that he has to answer some of the accusations that the president didn't a week ago and that joe biden has to attack on points that the president didn't do very effectively or specifically including what deductions, what end of tax credits do you want paul ryan and more important mitt romney and what about medicare? what does your plan really amount to? i think the vice president needs to be specific. he needs to focus and he will and he needs to remember that nobody votes based on the vice presidential candidates themselves. joe biden 's target tonight in the end is not really paul ryan , it's mitt romney and it's the mitt romney that the president didn't successfully attack last week.
>> and, howard , to that point, has romney in some ways made paul ryan 's job more difficult, not only by laying out a tax plan that fundamentally doesn't add up but also with his comments this week about abortion, first coming out saying there was no legislation that he was aware of that he would support banning abortion or curtailing abortion and then coming back and saying, i will be a pro life president and i want to defund planned parenthood ? has he laid out a difficult challenge for paul ryan himself?
>> i think he's laid out a difficult challenge for paul ryan on abortion, for sure. that's an issue that the democrats need to stress because of their desire to pick up still undecided female voters. it's a very interesting thing, crystal. this is the first context, i'm pretty sure it's the first in a national presidential debate where you have two people of the roman catholic faith going up against each other. joe biden is ardently pro choice and paul ryan once said there's nobody more pro life than me. i think to the extent that joe biden highlights those differences they will be aiming at undecided female swing voters in places like ohio. that's a crucial constituency.
>> howard , you say nobody goes out and votes on the basis of the vice presidential debates and that's certainly true. it seems like there's a real danger for democrats . because of what happened last week in denver, we've seen for the first time the media narrative that defines this race has turned against obama , been favorable to romney . the perception is, hey, wow, the democrats are 2-0, the republicans are 0-2. there's a risk of a loser's narrative for obama and a lot more excitement among republicans. do you see that?
>> yes. absolutely. what i meant was that nobody really votes on the personality and the record of the advice presidential candidate per se . i agree with you totally, steve . i must agree with you because that's what i wrote on the " huffington post " so i must agree with it, it's a very important debate. everybody says vice presidential debates aren't important. i say history is bunk to quote henry ford . this one really matters for the reason that you say. as crystal said, there are a lot of freaked out democrats . they need some good news. the democrat spirits are not going to be turned around by registration numbers in various states. the obama campaign put out a memo about that today. that's great for the junk kiss. that's not great or helpful to the spirit of the volunteers and so forth. joe biden needs to be seen as the winner tonight for the very reason you're talking about, the media narrative, which could be crushing if they go 0-2.
>> howard , as the romney team likes to point out. joe biden has done a lot of debates. by my count, 749. no, closer to 23, but he did 14 in the last year, in 2008 alone.
>> on the other hand, he's also been vice president for the last four years. i think everyone knows that vice president's don't really get pressed a lot in those four years, you know, when something goes wrong. when something goes wrong, give me the vice president i have some serious questions for him. so i'm wondering if you think the four years of not really having to answer too many tough questions makes him a little rusty despite his years of debate experience?
>> well, it made the president rusty. i think it could do the same to joe biden . although he has been working very hard. at the convention he had put in 60 hours of debate prep. what he's been paid for for the last four years comes down to this moment tonight. biden , his mind is not an orderly one all the time, shall we say, but he's -- but he'll be tough. he's going to be defending an entire tradition and history of the democratic party because really what paul ryan is saying is to use the phrase that mitt romney use the in the debate last week, trickle down government. they're trying to discredit something they called trickle down government. it's up to joe biden tonight to begin to rebuild and to remind people that government is a cooperative exercise. people voted for social security , they voted for medicare, they voted for the people who built the modern state that we have. that's a big technical order and i think biden will be up to it. ryan has a much easier task in many ways. he can stand there and point to every negative economic statistic that's still out there, and there are plenty of them, and just repeat them over and over and over again. he's got a much easier strategic menu than joe biden does. biden 's got to do a million things at once which is, frankly, not very easy.
>> howard once back in the '80s robert downey jr . was on "saturday night live" doing a sketch playing a movie critic , i'll never forget, i saw this movie, it changed my life. i saw it again and it changed it back. if this race is kind of like that to where the whole movie, the whole night changed in one night it could change back in one more night too, right?
>> there's no question. i wrote a piece the other day in which i quoted a wonderful late political consultant for the democrats named paul tuly. he was an absolute genius. he told me over probably too many drinks in boston, howard , there's no such thing as straight line extrapolations in politics. you can't take two data points and draw a straight line . it's a curved interactive universe. three weeks is still a lifetime in politics. there's every possibility the polarities will cross one more time if not more before we get to election day .
>> howard fineman , thanks for joining us.
>> thank you.
>> we use lots of polls. who's up and who's down. what do they all mean? apparently even john stewart can appreciate a little poll wonkiness from the experts including our very own steve kornaki. i give you two nats and a steve .
>> how the [ bleep ] are these polls so divergent, useless yet accurate and quotable? i think we all know what we need. nerds.
>> so when you see obama gaining in today's gallup tracking polls that means obama 's interviews were better.
>> he fwrent three ahead to five ahead in their track today.
>> this next round of polls from nbc marist and other polls show the swing states tied then democrats will be appropriate for them to panic.
>> nobody understands these things but you guys.
>> steve , you are one of the superstar nerds. i love that.
>> it's a compliment.
>> you guys are so good with numbers but none of you can tie a tie. what's up with that?
>> let me say this. when you're sitting home at 11:30 and you start getting texts and tweets and said john stewart mentioned you in a show.
>> you get nervous.
>> it could have been a lot worse than that.
>> imagine the feeling when you get texts and tweets saying you're on "saturday night live."
>> i'm with you. it could have been a lot worse. huge sigh of relief.
>> i'm feeling a little left out, tuore.
>> you're in esquire. you're a woman we love in esqui esquire. what are you talking about?
>> now i'm blushing.
>> all of those gentlemen have been on "the cycle." we have nate cohn scheduled to be on "the cycle." lots of nerds. up next, more polls. the new numbers out of three states that could decide it all. good thing we have the steve of nate of nate and steve right here on "the cycle" for october 11th , 2012 . welcome