Thursday, October 02, 2008

20 Years Later: Another Quayle-Bentsen Moment?

Right or wrong, I tend to approach presidential elections a lot like I approach pro football. When it starts getting close to the Super Bowl, I start paying attention.

So I plan to watch the vice-presidential debate tonight, much like I'd watch a play-off game. And I hate to admit it, but I'll watch not so I can hear the policy distinctions between the two tickets, but to see if (a) Joe Biden puts his foot in his mouth and/or (b) Sarah Palin gets rattled and says something goofy.

Does that mean I really couldn't care less about policy distinctions? No. It just means that, as I see it, our one-shot, relatively-short VP debates are much more political theater than they are real debates.

Not to mention that recent history suggests that on election day, the vice-presidential candidate is hardly a consideration. Twenty years ago, George H. W. Bush was elected President in spite of the fact that Lloyd Bentsen humiliated Dan Quayle in one of the most infamous slams in television history.

A Republican sympathizer, when I heard Bensten's line (he couldn't wait to get it out) and saw how scared and stiff Quayle looked, I thought to myself, "That's it. The election's over. We'll have to get used to saying 'President Dukakis'." Of course, it didn't happen. In fact, Bush wound up getting 426 electoral votes compared to 111 for Dukakis.

Yes, I think this election is much different than the one in 1988. And I think this one will be a lot closer. But barring a complete meltdown on one side or the other, which is unlikely, I think the debate tonight will hardly make a difference.

What do you think?

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