When Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night (Oct. 11), it will mark the first showdown of its kind between the first Catholics ever to oppose each other on the major party tickets.
A â€œCatholic Thrilla in Manilaâ€ as a Washington Post headline put it, recalling the famous 1975 Ali-Frazier heavyweight bout in the Philippines. Store window signs in the host city of Danville, Ky., prefer the â€œThrill in the Ville.â€
Whatever it is called, expectations among Catholics are as high as the stakes for both campaigns.
Joseph Cella, who leads Catholic outreach for the Romney-Ryan campaign in Michigan, where the GOP ticket has nearly closed a 10-point gap, said the campaign is organizing debate-watching parties nationwide.
â€œI donÂ¹t see how Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan could avoid discussing principles of importance to Catholics,â€ said Cella, a veteran conservative activist.
â€œI donÂ¹t think their faith will dominate the debate, but it will be an important component, and will offer sharp illustrations of the differences between the Obama administration and Gov. Romney.â€
Still, while both Ryan and Biden speak proudly and often about their Catholic faith, and are quick to explain how it informs their policy positions, itâ€™s not clear either will try to use those religious bona fides to gain an advantage. [more]