I'll start with the usual expectations management caveat: don't overestimate our guy; don't underestimate their guy. In that spirit, let's get a little more concrete. The format is a good one for Edwards and I expect him to do well, but I'm not going to dismiss Cheney. Besides being a black-hearted old bastard, Cheney is pretty canny and street smart. He's a gutter fighter and he is very well motivated.
The motto of the Republican Party of the last ten years-the party of Cheney, Bush, Gingrich, DeLay, Rove, and Luntz-is "win at all costs." On top of that general atmosphere, party bigwigs will have been pressuring Cheney for the last five days to make up for the hideous performance of his titular boss. But if neither of those if enough motivation, Cheney must be aware of the fact that he is one of the administration officials most likely to do jail time if all of the facts of the last four years ever see the light of day.
Last year during a car trip to visit Mom, my wife and I categorized the members of the administration using a variation of the old "stupid or evil" question. The categories we used were fanatical or corrupt. Which ones are actually true believing ideologues and which are just old fashioned political crooks? Cheney came out as the model and very definition of crook in our eyes. In these days of scary fanatics like Ashcroft and Wolfowitz, a good old Nixonian crook is almost comforting. "He reminds me of Agnew," I said, wiping away a nostalgic tear.
Now, at this time I have no solid evidence of wrongdoing by Cheney that would hold up in court. If the modern Republican Party stays in power, I never will. I expect Cheney understands that his continued freedom might be at stake in this election. So, expect him to be very well motivated tonight.
That's not to say he will be in full attack-dog mode. That doesn't play very well outside the faithful. He will probably do his "gruff but lovable" act (well, lovable to some). Depending on the questions, he might also try a sentimental "conflicted father" act ("I love my daughter, but I love the perks of powere more. Therefore, though I support her right to make her own adult choices, I'd provide the gas and marshmallows for a good old which burning if that would get us re-elcted.").
Edwards, meanwhile, will be elequent, intelligent, homey, and charming. I also expect he will use every question to build a case against the administration.
For those of you in the audience playing "Hi, Bob," my nomination for drinking phrase is "trial lawyer."