Cheney, Edwards square off in vice presidential debate tonight

One of the most contentious election in recent memory heats up tonight with the vice presidential debate. The Democratic VP nominee, North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and Vice President Dick Cheney will attempt to win votes for their respective campaigns in what may be the most vital state in the election besides Florida: Ohio.

“Ohio can be a good predictor of how other states will vote,” said J. Edwin Benton, a USF political science professor.

Ohio is seen as a microcosm of the country and, because the economic downturn has resulted in thousands of job losses, the state is the perfect battleground to discuss the struggling economy, Benton said.

“Unfortunately, Ohio may have lost more jobs than any other state the last four years,” Benton said. “If the Kerry-Edwards campaign can appeal to the discontent of losing jobs, then it could go well for them.”

The Buckeye State is important for many reasons: Ohioans have voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1964. According to Case Western Reserve University political experts, whoever wins Ohio’s 20 electoral votes may benefit from the domino effect on the remaining midwestern battleground states. The debate will be broadcast live from Cleveland’s Case University.

Benton said that four years ago, Cheney held his own against Joe Lieberman, proving he is a good debater. However, Edwards may be just as good without the proven track record.

“I think they will reiterate some of the same issues from the presidential debate,” Benton said. “But Cheney could appeal to voters from President Bush’s father’s administration and bring them back” — an overlooked issue Benton believes is important.

Benton also said he is looking forward to watching the two discuss the economy of Ohio, which he said “symbolically, is a state of economic misery.”

“The Race at Case” will be moderated by Gwen Ilfill, senior correspondent of The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and airs at 9 p.m.

The second of three presidential debates will be Friday as President George W. Bush and Democratic nominee John Kerry meet in St. Louis in a town hall-style discussion.