There are a lot of questions circulating about tonight's debate: Will Joe Biden manage to get people fired up about the Obama campaign again? Will Paul Ryan be as memorable as Mitt? And with the nation watching, will Joe "put y'all back in chains" Biden gaffe?
There is more on the line tonight than there is at most vice presidential face-offs. As Americans, and the media, continue to angst over every poll the performances at this debate will be scrutinized under a U.S.-sized magnifying glass. And after last week's Obama melt-down, Democrats are putting an extra amount of faith into ol' Joe.
Going into the evening, Republican Paul Ryan has the edge. According to Pew Research Center Ryan's favorability trumps Biden's 44% to 39%. The name of the game tonight for Biden will be to try to win America's favor by proving himself to be more than Obama's foot-in-mouth sidekick.
No matter who emerges from the ring as the media-determined victor, both candidates are expected to have their kitten gloves off. It all gets going at 9 p.m. tonight. Let's get ready to rumble.
A live stream of the debate can be found here:
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10:32 pm: Ryan: "This is not what a real recovery looks like, you deserve better."
10:29 pm: Biden: "My record stands for itself. I never say anything I don't mean ... my whole life has been devoted to leveling the playing field for middle class people ... look at my record, it's been all about the middle class."
10:29 pm: Ryan's reply is that he will put ideas on the table and then execute them.
10:28 pm: Closing statements.
10:27 pm: Biden says that Romney's cuts have "eviscerated" the things that middle class people care about. It does "virtually nothing accept increase the tax cuts for the very wealthy."
10:27 pm: Ryan: "That's what we're getting with this administraion, speeches." We're, "not getting leadership."
10:23 pm: Ryan: "If you don't have a good record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone to run from." This answer feeling very stump-speechy, he was prepared for this one. Listing a string of Obama faulty "promises."
10:20 pm: Closing question: "Are you ever embarrassed by the tone" of this campaign?
10:18 pm: Biden: "With regard to abortion, I accept my church's opinion on abortion ... I accept it in my personal life ... I just refuse to impose that on others."
"I do not believe that we can tell women what to do with their body. It is a decision between them and their doctor."
10:16 pm: Ryan says he is pro life because of "reason and science." Talks personally about his first born child being nicknamed Bean because of the bean-shape she had on the ultra sound.
10:15 pm: Raddatz "How has your religion played in your own personal issue on abortion?" Both candidates are Catholic.
Ryan: "Our faith informs us and everything we do."
10:10 pm: Ryan looking a little more serene now, just letting Biden speak.
Ryan: "Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria. American troops."
10:09 pm: 2014.
10:05 pm: Biden, "before the surge occurred we said we'd be out by the end of the summer."
10:04 pm: Raddatz asks if the Taliban is taking advantage of our timeline in Afghanistan. Raddatz asks "what was the military reason for bringing those surge troops home?"
10:03 pm: Critics say Biden is out of control. I say, he's doing what he needs to do:
9:57 pm: Moving on to Afghanistan. A money drain for the U.S. at this point. Raddatz, "why not leave now? What more can we really accomplish?"
Ryan: "We don't want to lose the gain that we've gotten."
9:55 pm: And we're moving into defense. Paul Ryan speaking to not cutting the military.
9:54 pm: I mean, this is a full-on brawl.
9:52 pm: Biden is "translating" all the goboldy gook that Ryan just spouted about the middle class.
9:50 pm: Biden is a factory of emotions tonight. Constant giggles, laughing, sneers. To his supporters it's playing well. Michael Shear of the New York Times cautions that to opponents, "it might just look like the vice president had way too many cups of coffee, or maybe Red Bulls."
9:49 pm: Biden gave a very clear answer to the tax rate question, Ryan is meandering like it's nobody's business.
9:48 pm: Tonight's debate looks basically just like this:
9:46 pm: Raddatz asks if your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes who will pay less.
Biden: No one will pay less and those making over a million dollars will pay a little bit more. "We want to extend the middle class tax cut permanently."
9:46 pm: Totally agree:
9:45 pm: Ryan shoots back: "This is what politicians do when they don't have a record to run on."
9:42 pm: Biden: "Look, these guys haven't been big on Medicare from the beginning." Again Biden speaks right to the camera and right to the American people, "folks use your common sense on this."
9:40 pm: Raddatz asks why we should not raise the Medicare age very slowly if it would help solve the problem.
9:39 pm: A little kerfuffle is going on. Ryan tries to play the condescension card and it just doesn't work. Also, Martha Raddatz is #killingit.
9:35 pm: Paul Ryan attacking Obamacare.
Biden: "Ask yourself, do you have more benefits today? You do." Tells folks to, "follow your instincts on this one." With regards to social security, "folks, we will not privatize it."
9:33 pm: Raddatz is moving on to Medicare and entitlements.
Paul Ryan: "Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt."
9:32 pm: Yes.
9:29 pm: Biden to Romney: "Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something."
9:28 pm: Ryan gets a laugh from the audience making fun of the famous Biden gaffes.
9:25 pm: We have moved on to jobs. Biden is fired up like I've never seen. Paul Ryan is saying "we're heading in the wrong direction." He is laying out that Romney five point plan.
9:21 pm: #Marlaky Twitter trends give us a good sense of what's been going down in these first 22 minutes:
Looks like Americans are not over the Eddie Munster/Paul Ryan comparison.
9:19 pm: Biden: "We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon."
9:18 pm: Obama campaign speaks to Biden's performance:
9:16 pm: Already can imagine SNL poking a good deal of fun at Biden's use of "my friend" in refering to Ryan.
9:16 pm: Biden: "We feel quite confident we could deliver a serious blow to the Iranians ... they are a good way away from" from getting a nuclear weapon.
9:14 pm: "Gates of hell" is already trending on Twitter thanks to Biden's quote about tracking killers "to the gates of kill if need be."
9:13 pm: And Raddatz wants to move on to Iran. "How effective would a military strike be?"
Ryan's immediate reply: "we cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear capability."
9:11 pm: Raddatz asks if the U.S. should be apologizing for situations like U.S. soldiers urinating on corpses. Ryan's reply: "Oh gosh yes."
9:10 pm: Biden: "You know usually when there's a crisis we pull together ... but even before we knew what happened the governor was holding a press conference. That's not presidential."
9:09 pm: Biden is not letting him get away with it tonight.
9:08 pm: Paul Ryan's delivery is halting in a very jarring way. Biden calls what Ryan says about Libya, "a bunch of malarky."
9:06 pm: Paul Ryan criticizes the president for taking "two weeks" before he called the Libya situation a "terrorist attack."
9:03 pm: It's underway. And we're beginning with Libya.
Joe Biden: VP calls it a "tragedy." Biden going on the attack against Romney's stance on the Middle East. "The President of the United States has led with a steady hand and clear vision; Governor Romney the opposite. The last thing we need now is another war."
9:00 pm: Audience members were told not to tweet during the debate. Let's see who abides by that.
8:57 pm: Real official count down. Three minutes until the debate.
8:46 pm: With 14 minutes until go-time, Martha Raddatz is suited up and ready to go:
8:41 pm: Ann Coulter always swoops in with some hard-hitting analysis:
8:21 pm: A little background on debate moderator Martha Raddatz.
She is the Senior Foreign Affairs correspondant for ABC News Has reported from Pakistan and Afghanistan multiple times Has reported from Iraq 21 times Author of the New York Times bestseller The Long Road Home: A Story of War She is the mother of two.
8:20 pm: What the VP candidates tweeted out tonight.
7:57 pm: At tonight's debate Paul Ryan will be addressed as "Mr. Ryan" rather than "Congressman Ryan." The thought behind that, as stated by Politico, is it's "almost certainly because of the low approval ratings overall of Congress." Sounds about right to me.
7:39 pm: The moderator for tonight's debate, Martha Raddatz, has said she will be alternating between domestic and foreign policy questions. The New York Times has taken a stab at what Raddatz will choose as topics. They are predicting.
1. Jobs, unemployment, and the economy
2. Libya and terrorism
3. Medicare and the Ryan budget
4. Iran and nuclear weapons
5. Taxes, deficits, and the fiscal cliff
6. Syria and the Arab Spring
7. Abortion and contraception
8. Afghanistan, Iraq, and defense cuts
7:28 pm: He's going for a bull's eye tonight:
7:24 pm: Joe Biden e-mail to supporters tonight reads: "I can't predict Paul Ryan will follow Mitt Romney's lead tonight, hiding and flat-out denying their unpopular ideas, or if he'll come prepared to have a real debate about where this country should go." Fighting words already.
6:31 pm: It's a face-off between Biden's larger than life smile and Paul Ryan's widow's peak.
6:25 pm: The Biden gaffe blooper reel. Let's hope the vice president avoids anything like this tonight:
6:16 pm: According to theNew York Times, Biden's task tonight is "to respond to all the lies and half-truths that Mitt Romney tossed at President Obama at last week's debate, to which Mr. Obama did not respond."
Biden: Biden has been down this road before. He has been a presidential candidate more than once, meaning he's had multiple opportunities to hone his craft of communication skills. Moreover, he's not reliant on prepared notes or teleprompters like the head of his ticket is. While that may contribute to the occasional Bidenism on the stump, it also means that Biden is able to handle the ebb and flow of a debate.
Ryan: Remember when Paul Ryan spoke at the Bipartisan White House Budget Summit? Much of Paul Ryan's analysis on the health care bill was spot on. Moreover, his analysis was presented in a cogent, coherent way that proved to be persuasive and compelling. The fact remains that our economy will continue to remain a strong focus of the next two debates and the campaign stump. As the House Budget Committee Chairman, and a seasoned politician in his own right, Paul Ryan is more than capable of going toe-to-toe.
Biden: Biden has noticeably been absent from the spotlight. While Ryan has done at least 200 interviews as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Biden has had only a few. As such, his practice in front of a room full of media has been severely limited. True, he'll spend his time practicing before the debate, but game-day practice builds on past experience and lessons, which Biden seems to have a severe deficit compared to his opponent. Furthermore, he's not going up against a kooky Alaskan diva this time. As mentioned above, Paul Ryan is a seasoned veteran himself, and that might invite more Bidenisms than Obama really wants.
Ryan: The Republican budget is Ryan's budget, and it has been used against Republicans in the past. As such, Ryan may take a lot of flack from Biden on the issue of vouchers and Medicare reform that Ryan is proposing. Biden's already started launching grenades at Ryan in this fashion while campaigning. Furthermore, Ryan's a staunch social conservative, which might given Biden the opportunity to distract from the economic issues that dominated the first presidential debate and the campaign up to this point.
3. What They Need to Do
Biden: Simply put, he needs to do what Obama couldn't do. Polls are relatively useless in the role of predicting an electoral winner, but they do help the public to see where the trends lie in terms of the presidential contest. Right now, Romney's showing a surge on the heels of the drubbing he delivered to Obama. Biden cannot be seen as contributing to that weak performance with one of his own. Much like Romney had to own the debate, Biden has to as well. His performance must match that of Dick Cheney in 2004.
Ryan: Unlike Biden, Ryan presents a long-term party leader for Republicans, even if he and Romney prove to be unsuccessful in their bid for the White House. Up to this point, Ryan has been a known quantity among Republicans, but remained relatively unknown to the population at large. As such, he can either make or break his future political fortunes on the back of one political performance such as this debate. One of his contemporaries, Bobby Jindal, stymied his own meteoric rise with a poor response to the State of the Union.
Biden: Much has been made this week about Barack Obama being an invited wedding guest to the wedding of the moderator, Martha Raddatz. Despite the cries of bias by conservatives, she'll likely make every attempt to be openly fair and straightforward in moderating the debate. However, bias isn't completely removed by any correspondent, and Biden might have an advantage to take care of should he be prepared to manipulate those biases in his favor.
Ryan: Since his nomination as the vice presidential candidate, Ryan has taken on more of a folksy campaigner as opposed to the policy wonk that he's normally known as. This will be critical in the debates. As mentioned before, debates are not about winning all the arguments. Debates are about being persuasive, and the subtle difference between the two means that Ryan has to demonstrate for voters that his ticket's presidential candidate is the preferable choice for Americans.
Biden is going to come out for the throat in this debate. Unlike debating Palin in 2008, when he couldn't come across as patronizing or bullish towards a woman, he has a young, vocal Republican who has invited scrutiny over his budget proposals in the past. Ryan should be ready to come out swinging as well given that the strong, aggressive performance by Romney proved to change minds on the presidential trail.
From the start, the debate will be a knock down, drag out fight between the two political veterans. As such, look for the debate to come across as a draw, with partisans of both sides claiming victory off of a strong performance and independents not being persuaded to vote for one ticket or another going forward. They're waiting for the next round between the top of the ticket, and the under-card won't provide much to answer what questions they have.
5:45 pm: According to 2012 Election Central here's the skinny on tonight's topics and schedule: