For the third time in as many presidential election cycles, the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night will showcase two candidates who came of age — both personally and politically — in different eras.
The generational gap between 69-year-old Joe Biden and 42-year-old Paul Ryan may not be at the forefront of either campaign’s debate practice sessions, but it is could have an impact on “perception battle” from the moment that the two men take the stage.
In the 2004 VP debate, the age difference between John Edwards and Dick Cheney was a relatively modest 12 years, but the physical distinctions between the youthful, energetic Democrat and the dour, white-haired Republican could hardly have been more striking.
Going into that contest in Cleveland, Edwards — a charismatic former trial lawyer — was widely expected to outshine the incumbent with a history of heart problems and a reputation for being proudly cantankerous.
Instead, Cheney more than held his own in a seated format that suited him well. He was able to draw attention to Edwards’ status as a relative newcomer on the national political scene via a rehearsed line intended to highlight his opponent’s poor Senate attendance record.
“The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight,” Cheney said to Edwards in one of the debate’s most memorable moments.