Vice Presidential Debate Could Make or Break the Election, UB Expert Says

Release Date: October 4, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Vice presidential debates are not usually viewed as important in changing electoral outcomes, but according to a University at Buffalo political scientist, Tuesday's vice presidential debate has taken on greater importance because of the closeness of the race between President Bush and John Kerry.

"The razor-thin margin that separates the two tickets means that factors such as VP debates, which typically have only a marginal influence on voting decisions, begin to loom more important because it is just such marginal influences that could make or break the election for one side or the other," says Nathan Kelly, UB assistant professor of political science.

"Dick Cheney's goal is to stop or reverse the momentum swing toward Kerry that has been in operation since last Thursday's presidential debate," Kelly adds. "I suspect that he will be more aggressive than he was during the 2000 debate against Joseph Lieberman.

"My guess is that Edwards will start to talk a bit more about domestic issues, but will take any opportunity to criticize the decision-making with regard to Iraq."

Kelly -- an expert on election-year politics, telephone polling and Latino voting trends -- is available as a source for media covering Tuesday's debate or the second Bush-Kerry debate on Friday.

"George Bush surely feels that he must put on the performance of his life (Friday) to turn around the recent momentum swing," Kelly speculates. "Bush has been effective in previous town-hall style debates. He is very adept at connecting with audience members.

"Kerry likely will start to take the initiative on domestic issues, where he should have an advantage. He likely will show inconsistencies in Bush's domestic positions and agenda. With regard to many domestic issues, Bush actually is open to the same kind of attack that he has used against Kerry on the Iraq war: 'flip-flopping.'"

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