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Election up for grabs

A race that looked two weeks ago like Obama’s to lose is now anybody’s to win.

Amazing.

Debates matter and Romney put on a staggering show in Denver. He. Was. Good.

Where it looked not long ago like this election would result in a relative thumping of Romney — tantamount to John McCain in 2008 — we may now be on the verge of Florida 2000. With lawyers waiting in the wings, it could get ugly. If the race were held today, Romney would win the popular vote; Obama would carry the Electoral College.

At a time when the race is the closest it has been at any time during the campaign — a statistical dead heat at 47.3 to 47.3 by national polling average — this is the most crucial week of the election and momentum will shift, likely for the final time, based on who won the second of three presidential debates (last night).

No doubt, the VP debate was quite a display. Did Biden win? Yes. But it wasn’t pretty. The inexplicable body language — the smiling, smirking and sneering — detracted vastly from the efficacy of his language. Biden toed the liberal line and attacked where Obama seemed to acquiesce. He was aggressive, he was assertive and man, was he awkward. Rude, really. And I have long been a Biden fan.

Agree with him or not, Paul Ryan is legitimate. He is a substantive guy with serious ideas. One way or the other, he will be back on the ballot in 2016. Biden’s task was to defeat him, not demean him. The impact of the latter undermined his success on the former.

Don’t get me wrong: Ryan performed well. He wisely questioned if folks in Scranton, Biden’s birthplace, are better off today than they were four years ago, what with unemployment over 10 percent. And Ryan adroitly pointed out that there are not enough small business owners and millionaires to TAX to pay for all of the rampant and unprecedented Obama/Biden spending. He landed some blows.

But Biden has something few do in the arena —— presence. It is one thing for Ryan to allude to what Ronald Reagan did with Tip O’Neill back in the proverbial day by way of compromise; quite another for Biden to be able to come back with: “I know, I was in the room.”

Biden made some persuasive direct appeals to seniors with regard to health care “cuts” Romney and Ryan are allegedly pushing and spoke to the sentiment of a solid majority of Americans — of all political persuasions — with his claim that the LAST thing this country needs is another ground war in the Middle East … in rebutting Ryan’s Iran bluster.

There is a stark contrast between prepared and rehearsed. Biden was prepared while Ryan sounded a bit rehearsed. He was not emotional — he was clinical. Again, it was a tall order for the young congressman from Wisconsin. But he held his own and took a step forward in national viability that Sarah Palin proved unable to take four years ago.

The VP debate will not move the needle nationally, but Biden’s performance likely stopped the bleeding from a reeling Obama camp that has clearly suffered in the wake of the first debate.

Ben Clarke spent 10 years working as a speech writer and political consultant in Washington, D.C. He is now based back in his hometown of Greenfield, where he works for a global political, corporate and entertainment communications firm. You can comment on a piece by sending an email to benclarkeopinion@gmail.com.

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