New polling shows former Gov. Mitt Romney's numbers rising in key battleground states in the wake of his strong debate performance last week in Denver. An election that was beginning to look like an easy victory for President Obama is now an open contest. This week, the focus shifts to the running mates, who will debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. The vice presidential debate is unlikely to have as much of an impact on the election as last week's contest. Nonetheless,the Romney campaign needs Congressman Ryan to keep their momentum going, while the Obama campaign is hoping Vice President Biden will be able to slow them down by forcing Ryan to defend his controversial Medicare plan in front of a national audience. If nothing else the debate promises an entertaining contrast in personality: Biden the liberal bulldog versus Ryan the preening budget hawk. Let's not be surprised if this week's zingers surpass Romney’s now-infamous "fire Big Bird" line.
The debate will run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Martha Raddatz of ABC News will moderate.
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UPDATE: 8:15 PM Tonight's VP debate starts in 45 min. Check back in for more updates.
UPDATE: 8:31 PM
I think Erick Erickson might be right, at least about the second part. I doubt this debate is going to change anything. Any other predictions out there?
UPDATE: 8:41 PM Paul Ryan's debate tonight hasn't stopped Romney from continuing on the offensive on Libya:
UPDATE: 8:48 PM Something to keep in mind going into this debate (from FiveThirtyEight):
Obama: blue. Romney: red.
Romney has experienced a serious bounce (21 percent!) since the first debate in Denver, but is still only about half as likely to win as Obama.
UPDATE: 8:55 PM Live Video of the Debate
UPDATE: 9:03 PM Debate's starting, Joe Biden will speak first. Martha Raddatz starts off with a question on Libya.
UPDATE: 9:04 Biden admits that the administration's handling of the Benghazi attack was a mistake, but immediately shifts focus to Obama's accomplishments: drawdown in Iraq, killing Osama bin Laden, etc.
UPDATE: 9:08 Paul Ryan is hitting back hard, pointing out that unlike even the US ambassador in Paris, the late Amb. Chris Stevens had none in Libya.
UPDATE: 9:09 Classic Joe Biden: "everything you just said is malarkey." Points out that Ryan voted to cut diplomatic security in Congress.
UPDATE: 9:11 On Ryan's claim about the Paris ambassador:
UPDATE: 9:13 So far Raddatz is doing waaay better than Lehrer. Maybe because she is sitting at eye level with the candidates?
UPDATE: 9:16 Ryan echoes refrain of Romney campaign: Romney/Ryan will have more credibility on foreign policy/national security thanks to tough talk. Substantively, they don't seem to differ at all, as Biden just pointed out.
UPDATE: 9:20 Biden went from "malarkey" to "stuff." Quickly running out of words...
UPDATE: 9:21 Not sure if Biden's aggressiveness is going to help him or hurt him. Possibly overkill.
UPDATE: 9:24 Raddatz asks a pointed question on the economy. We're entering more familiar territory for Congressman Ryan.
UPDATE: 9:25 Biden wastes no time in bringing up the 47% comment. Is it too late to revisit that issue?
UPDATE: 9:28 Ryan's speaking more comfortably and more slowly on economic issues. Not sure if Mitt Romney's being a car guy makes up for "let Detroit go bankrupt."
UPDATE: 9:32 $90 billion for green energy vs. $800 billion on war and $1 trillion in tax cuts, doesn't seem like much of comeback from Ryan.
UPDATE: 9:35 Ryan doesn't respond to Biden's pointing out that Ryan himself requested stimulus funds for his home district. That's gonna hurt.
UPDATE: 9:37 At this point Biden is spitting flames. Somehow he just managed to compare Ryan to Sarah Palin. Ryan's starting to look flustered.
This is a fair point. Biden might be coming off a little too strong.
UPDATE: 9:46 The topic is shifting to taxes. Biden's response is numbers-heavy. Seems like he's trying to channel Bill Clinton, but as always, sounds like he's talking through a megaphone.
Worth checking out.
UPDATE: 9:57 Biden is being tough, but I seriously doubt it's going to endear him (or Obama) to voters. Biden's points, which have been good, are getting lost in the bluster.
UPDATE: 10:02 Romney/Ryan don't want to stay in Afghanistan. Again, the differences between them and Obama/Biden on defense are almost nonexistent, yet Ryan makes it sound like Obama is inviting a full-scale invasion of the U.S.
UPDATE: 10:15 Great Picture.
UPDATE: 10:18 Focus has switched to social issues. Raddatz pointed out that both candidates are Catholic. Ryan, unsurprisingly, brought up abortion issues. Biden does a nice job of making the distinction between personal religious beliefs and public policy.
UPDATE: 10:23 Great question from Raddatz on whether the campaign has become too negative.
UPDATE 9:32 Biden's closing remarks were a little weak compared to the rest of his arguments. Sounded a bit like The Godfather, which might be a good thing if it weren't in a vice presidential debate. Still, his use of people from his own life as examples was powerful.
UPDATE 9:34 Ryan looked, um... vice presidential in his closing remarks, but came across a bit stilted. Mostly platitudes.