This Is the V.P. Debate That Will Finally Matter, Again

 Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) speaks during the vice presidential debate at the Field House of Washington University's Athletic Complex on October 2, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri. The highly anticipated showdown between the two vice-presidential candidates will be their only debate before the election.
Joe Biden says something in 2008's unimportant vice-presidential debate. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Anyone will tell you that vice-presidential debates are never important factors in presidential elections. But this year's V.P. debate? Totally different story, as Politico reported yesterday

"Vice presidential debates typically matter as much as vice presidential picks — which is to say not a lot — but a convergence of factors is raising the stakes on this week’s faceoff between Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden."

And Reuters concurs:

U.S. vice presidential debates usually don't matter much, but the October 11 showdown between Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan could be an exception.

The Los Angeles Times had the same take ... four years ago:

With Wall Street gyrating and voter interest skyrocketing, tonight's televised contest stands as an oddity: a vice presidential debate that could actually matter.

As did the Christian Science Monitor:

Normally, vice presidential debates don’t matter much. Not so this year, when the two candidates take the stage in St. Louis Thursday night.

And the AP:

Vice presidential candidates seldom decide elections; people vote for who's at the top of the ticket. But in a contest as close as this one between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, a misstep could set back either campaign in the final weeks before Election Day.

The Charlotte Observer set similar expectations in 2004:

Vice presidential debates have always been considered sideshows, with even the most memorable ones - remember "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" in 1988? - having little or no effect on Election Day. But tonight's face-off between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards on the campus of Case Western Reserve University is shaping up as a possible exception.

As did the Baltimore Sun:

Vice presidential debates rarely mean much, but this one may be more important than most.

And USA Today:

Tightening polls after last week's first presidential debate could make tonight's showdown between John Edwards and Dick Cheney a historic first: a vice presidential debate that plays a pivotal role in who becomes president.

You get the idea. So could Thursday's vice-presidential debate be the one that finally makes a huge difference? Of course! Anything could happen, especially when Joe Biden is involved. But, despite what you hear beforehand, it probably won't.