David Frum

10.09.12

How Do You Win the VP Debate?

Vice President Biden's best strategic plan for the debate with Paul Ryan is obvious: attack the Ryan plans for Medicare and Medicaid. Biden will press Ryan to defend his plans. He will hope to extract some damaging quote from Ryan; failing that, at least to tie the Ryan plan as closely to Romney as possible.

Paul Ryan's best strategic plan should be equally obvious: do not cooperate with the vice president. Do not be drawn into a prolonged discussion of Medicare and Medicaid. Instead, remember that President Obama also has a record - and that Biden was the man who executed one of the most important and most unsatisfactory pieces of that record: the stimulus plan.

Think like a fencer: parry on Medicare; lunge at the stimulus.

"Mr. Vice President, it's true that I've advanced ideas about how to deal with our debt crisis. When your administration abdicated responsibility, we in Congress stepped up. But I'm the running mate, not the candidate. Governor Romney has made clear that he has his own plan to address the deficit. His plan is different from the plan that passed the House.

"And as vice president, of course I'll implement the president's ideas - the way you implemented President Obama's stimulus ideas. You and he asked for and got more than $800 billion to create jobs. But you baited and switched. You took job-creation money and used it for your own big government agenda. The jobless are still looking for work, and the taxpayers face almost as big a debt as we racked up to win World War II."

Like that.

As Nick Lemann observes, President Obama's biggest political success this cycle has been to blur the fact that he's the incumbent. Paul Ryan's mission: don't let Biden get away with it.