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Biden, Palin ramp up for VP debate

By Foon Rhee
Globe Staff / October 2, 2008
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The Showdown in the Show Me state is almost here.

The vice presidential candidates, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, will debate tonight for 90 minutes at Washington University in St. Louis, beginning at 9 p.m.

The bottom-line challenges for the candidates:

For Palin, can she give specific answers and reassure voters whose misgivings have been growing, ever since her GOP convention speech, after one flub after another in unscripted interviews and appearances?

For Biden, can he avoid a gaffe that would be endlessly replayed and that would undercut his claim to steady experience?

Their political personas couldn't be more different.

Palin, 44, has been governor of Alaska for less than two years, and before that was mayor of the small town of Wasilla and a self-described "hockey mom." Biden, 65, has been in the US Senate since 1972, has run for president twice, and has been a fixture on national TV as a committee chairman.

It is the most-anticipated vice presidential debate in years, with some predicting a record audience. Of course, the same predictions were made about the first presidential debate last Friday, and it ended up not even cracking the top 10, though typical light TV viewership on Friday nights likely kept the numbers down.

The most-watched veep face-off so far was George H.W. Bush vs. Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 with 56.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 2004 version between Dick Cheney and John Edwards drew an audience of 43.6 million.

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