5 Things to Look For in the VP Debate

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Ever since last Thursday morning, Democrats have been looking toward tonight’s Vice Presidential debate as a chance for Joe Biden to finish the job, after President Obama’s decidedly reserved performance with GOP contender Mitt Romney. But what a difference a week makes. Romney emerged out of last Wednesday’s debate with President Obama with some renewed confidence, so much so that he’s made some bold and quite controversial statements in the past few days.

Tonight’s event will focus on both domestic and foreign policy, giving moderator Martha Raddatz a chance to ask a wide berth of questions to both Biden and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

Oct. 10, 2012 - Danville, KY, USA - The media hall is ready for the media on the Centre College campus in Danville, Ky., Wednesday, October 10, 2012. The vice presidential debate between Democratic incumbent Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan will be held Thursday night in the Norton Center for the Arts on the Centre campus. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff (Credit Image: © Lexington Herald-Leader/ZUMAPRESS.com)

Here are some topics to expect in the Vice Presidential debate

Medicare What Paul Ryan is probably best known for is his proposal to phase out Medicare and replace it with a voucher system with much lower ceilings than the current plan.

At the Denver debate, President Obama missed a chance to call out Romney on his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare, and the claims that Obamacare would take away billions of dollars from healthcare for senior citizens. Will Biden rebut those allegations—as well as touting the Affordable Care Act?

Benghazi Did the Obama administration miss warning signs leading up to the September attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens? On Monday, Romney made some extremely controversial speech about foreign policy at the Virginia Military Institute: blaming the Obama administration for the unrest in Syria and hinting at future troubles with Israel, and proposing tough policies that are already in place – such as vowing to put Iran “on notice” should it seek nuclear arms. Expect Biden to roll out his catchphrase, “Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive!”

Abortion Why was there no discussion about women’s health issues during the Denver debate? When asked this question at a post-debate press conference last week, Obama strategists answered that they’ve already made their position clear during this campaign. Apparently the Obama campaign thought they had this demographic in a lock, but Romney seems to be going after women voters who care about reproductive rights. Just a few days ago, Mitt Romney told the Des Moines Register that “there is no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda."

Paul Ryan was co-author of a personhood bill with Rep. Todd Akin -- the same act of legislation that introduced the term "legitimate rape". It will also be interesting to see whether a female moderator will bring a different sensibility to this subject, and whether Biden will press Ryan to pin down exactly what is the Republican ticket’s stance on regulating abortion.

Taxes The names Simpson and Bowles were mentioned over and over during last week’s debates, causing many viewer’s eyes to glaze over faster than Jim Lehrer’s. In case you’re not familiar, Simpson-Bowles was a bipartisan bill to balance the federal budget. Paul Ryan was one of the committee members who voted it down.

Wild Cards (Okay, that's six) Will there be an empty chair or a Big Bird of this debate? Romney’s remarks about cutting funding for PBS turned out to be the most memorable (if not very productive) points of the first presidential debate. Don’t expect the Democrats to trot out any Sesame Street lines, as Sesame Workshop has asked the Obama campaign to remove the character from their ads.

Paul Ryan is no Mitt Romney. And Joe Biden is no Barack Obama, either. And October is not even halfway over yet. There's still time for another surprise -- or two.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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