(LIN) — It’s an election year and even Big Bird has noticed that there’s plenty of dirt to go around.
While many expect the presidential candidates at the center of the discussion, lately that popularity contest has been shared with their running mates.
After the vice presidential debate, every other story focused on Vice President Joe Biden’s seemingly lighthearted approach to tough questions. Dozens of screenshots show Biden smirking, smiling, even laughing at Rep. Paul Ryan’s responses.
Some sided with Biden, claiming Ryan’s claims were worthy of laughter because they were preposterous. Others thought Biden showed a degree of arrogance, laughing even when serious topics of Libya and the economy were discussed.
Regardless what side was taken, the headlines were teeming with Biden’s name.
While Biden did do a good job of taking some of the news focus away from President Barack Obama’s first debate performance, he didn’t exactly improve it. Obama still preformed the same way during the first debate, so it’s hard to say if Biden really improved the situation.
Also in the headlines this week is Ryan, who some news outlets claim participated in a fake photo shoot at a soup kitchen.
WKBN.com reports that the head of a Youngstown, Ohio, soup kitchen said Ryan’s aides asked if he could serve food or talk with soup kitchen’s clients on Tuesday.
When aides were told breakfast would be over by the time the Ryan finished his town hall forum at Youngstown State University, Ryan’s aides asked if volunteers at the soup kitchen could save a few dishes for him to wash in front of cameras.
The soup kitchen head said Ryan washed a few dirty dishes, despite national reports that claimed Ryan pretended to wash clean dishes.
Since the kitchen didn’t need his help, headlines are making a mockery of Ryan’s phony photo shoot for “good PR.”
In both of these cases, Biden and Ryan took the focus away from their running mates. While Obama and GOP contender Mitt Romney have been busy preparing for the next rounds of debates, Biden and Ryan did their best to shine their running mates in a good light.
The problem: It really wasn’t necessary.
The public is stuck with the vice presidential candidate on the ticket. They do not vote for vice president as much as they do the president.
In the unfortunate event that the president cannot fulfill his duty anymore, the vice president’s responsibility becomes clear. If that ever happens, the public is stuck with the vice president – they don’t get to vote again.
In an election year, sometimes the best thing a vice president can do is keep his or her head low and minimize the need for damage control later.
Sometimes, distractions are a good thing.
When those distractions just add more slop to the mudslinging contest, it’s hard to say those distractions are anything short of destructive.
What the Veep is a bi-weekly feature about the office of the vice president. Jessica O. Swink is a contributing editor to onPolitix . Join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter .