VP debateToday's VP debate preview piece is brought to you by Sesame Street and the letter A (as in "attack ad"). With that being said, get ready for fight night.

Put the kids to bed, lock the doors, pull down the shades, grab a favorite beverage, finalize the rules for your drinking game and be prepared to witness a good old-fashioned political rumble. As Joe Biden would say, this is a "f---ing big deal." In fact, if there isn't at least one expletive spoken (ahem, Biden) and one fist thrown (ahem Ryan, actually scratch that, Biden again) we'll be surprised.

Tonight, America will witness quite a show because the stakes, frankly speaking, couldn't be higher for both campaigns.

So where does the race stand after last week's biblical disaster of a debate for President Obama? It's just about a true toss-up.

Here is where we diverge -- a bit. While both of us view this race as a toss-up, at least for now, I (Chris speaking) would emphasize the momentum, somewhat slightly, towards Romney, while I (Frank speaking) still have trouble seeing past Obama's stubborn lead in Ohio.

We both agree that the race is quite volatile. We saw just how volatile in the incredible reactions voters had to Romney's exceptional debate performance, and Obama's exceptionally poor performance. The reality is that enough of the electorate can and will move over the course of the next three weeks to secure the margin of victory for either candidate. The remaining debates (tonight's VP debate and the two remaining presidential debates) will decide this election -- as they should. Sorry, admeisters, it's about time substance took center stage. We are now in the midst of a debate-driven election, and that is why what happens tonight will have repercussions for both campaigns.

With respect to tonight's debate, it is all about whether Rep. Ryan builds on Romney's
momentum or whether VP Joe Biden stops him dead cold. Two thing are clear. First, Biden can accept a draw but cannot make a single gaffe (more on that in a bit) or be seen as the loser. Second, Ryan can accept a draw but cannot stumble in a way that puts the Romney ticket on the defensive going into the second presidential debate.

The reality is that while VP debates seldom, if ever, decide a presidential election, this one will matter because there is just too much volatility among the narrow swath of undecided voters and too few days before the next election to afford any stumbles.

So before the fight begins, let's go to the tale of the tape.

Joe BidenVP Joe Biden
Age: 69
Weight: No idea
Reach: Hits hard with a smile
Strength: Empathetic, gregariousness
Weaknesses: Suffers from gaffe-itis (a syndrome wherein you cause severe headaches from putting foot in mouth)
Secret Weapon: Aggressive, Da Zinger. Turns on the passion faster than a Porsche.

Paul RyanRep. Paul Ryan
Age: 42
Weight: Skinnier than both of us
Reach: As far as the numbers will take him
Strength: Rainman-like statistical knowledge (surely you've seen the Tom Cruise movie)
Weakness: Rainman-like statistical knowledge
Secret Weapon: Aggressive, Aw-schucksian (milks the nice guy persona quite well, because he is one). A grandmother's dream.

So here are the five things to look for tonight.

1. Does Biden swing first? You betcha! The VP will lay down the hammer from the first question. He will try and make up for what President Obama didn't do. The danger for the Veep is that there is a fine line between strength/ passion and angry/out-of-control. As long as the Veep doesn't cross that line, he'll be fine. But he only wins the debate if can punch and counterpunch with substance AND style.

2. Does Ryan rise? Ryan's challenge will be to hit back as hard as he gets without sounding wonkish. Ryan has never had a national debate, and he'll be somewhat nervous. But Ryan has faced down the national press corps before, and he knows his subjects cold. If he comes across as both smart and empathetic, it will be a serious problem for Democrats.

3. The Hiss/Cheer Dynamic: Crowd reactions? Will there be any? Will the moderator tell the crowd to not applaud or respond to Biden and Ryan's answers ... or will they be permitted to clap, cheer, hiss, throw bottles (slight exaggeration) or cheese (gross characterization of the Wisconsin congressman)? Make no mistake, crowd reactions can either feed the candidate or completely throw them off. So be sure to listen to what the moderator says at the very beginning.

4. Gaffe and zinger patrol: Who will make the memorable gaffe, and who will have the memorable zinger? Yes, we know that everyone is prepared for a Biden gaffe, but he will come in focused and disciplined. He's also more likely to have the most memorable line of the debate -- as he had the most memorable line of the convention ("Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive"). We also think there will be enough references to "Sesame Street" and to Medicare vouchers to fuel your drinking game.

5. The "Nasty" Factor: Intellectual fights, which is what debates are at their core, can bring out many emotions. The one emotion this one can't bring out is anger. No one wants to see a nasty candidate. Nobody wants to be yelled at by a politician. If you're Biden, you don't want to look unhinged. If you're Ryan, you don't want people think you're being rude and petulant. Each candidate will have to control himself, and by extension control the debate. Bottom line, the first candidate to be seen as nasty loses.

It's clear that there is more pressure on the Veep to perform, but Ryan must rise to the occasion. So what are our predictions? Too close to call right now, but one thing we can predict: It's going to be quite the show, and you won't want to miss it for the world. Now fill your glass...

Chris Kofinis is a Democratic strategist. Frank Luntz is a Republican pollster and strategist. AOL has an elections content partnership with Chris Kofinis and Luntz Global.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

What is Inflation?

Why do prices go up?

View Course »

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I cannot believe the dems still blame Bush for the war in Iraq when Dems voted, along with Republicans, to go to war. I guess when you hear/read that lie often enough you start believing it.....BUT, then you put it in a comment and look just plain STOOPID! (Hello Dee....are ya reading this?).

Obama/Biden have been an embarrassment about the deaths of 4 Americans on September 11, 2012. Their LIES, then lies on top of lies are truly disgusting.....how can anyone vote for LIARS. So amazing.

October 12 2012 at 7:10 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Luvn1Heart's comment

Yeah sure I can see all the love or lack of in your heart. So what do you do when the president (Bush Jr) comes to you with proof about Weapons Of Mass Destruction and the possibility of capturing the terrorist who just caused the most destruction of United States lives and property since Pearl Harbor ? Of course you agree with him based on his false information even though he has already overridden you and begun the attack on his own. Well if Obama should be embarrassed about the death of four Americans Bush Jr should have to watch a tape of people jumping from the windows of the Twin Towers just before they collapsed twice a day for the rest of his life. I am not sure who you are referring to in your dribble but you are certainly no less stupid than anyone you may be referring to and if you visited the lady in your bio picture she would probably put her torch up a place on you where the sun don't shine.

October 12 2012 at 9:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Hello Dee

I for one am glad Biden spoke up about all the crap he and the President have had to listen to for four years from a group of people who have no concept or understanding of what it means to be middle class. Joe did interrupt but I understand his frustration...I, too, am frustrated with the republicans...and I have been after voting twice for Bush and at the end realizing what a liar he is and how over 2,000 Americans have lost their lives because of his selfish decision to go to war. We're still cleaning up the mess the republicans made of this country and if they think they can come in and do any better in November, I say let them try...it won't happen because all they know to do is take care of the rich and screw the rest of us.

October 12 2012 at 1:14 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Biden was caught on numerous lies, in particular stating the Administration received no request for security for our Libya Embassy as well as Biden stating he voted against the wars...... his voting record clearly shows he did in fact voted FOR them!

October 12 2012 at 12:23 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Biden was some rude a-hole

October 12 2012 at 12:23 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Joe Biden was very knowledgeable and vastly effective with commanding facts. He proved Romney / Ryan have no clear cut policy and they fuzzy on all issues. Choices was so clear that Biden made so passionately that Obama / Biden are for middle-class and pointed with "47% Romney comment" care while Romney / Ryan care for their rich folks. If independent and undecided can not see that yet they are too dumb that they should just sit at home and suffer the consequences.

October 12 2012 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, Biden didn't let me down. He was the smug, rude and most condescending jerk on the planet during the debate. The moderator let him get away with way too much. His actions were atrocious, but then Biden is atrocious.

October 12 2012 at 12:02 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Denise Delezland

This country especially the black race is doomed because of abortion and people need to stop being ignorant about the devastation of abortion. Disposing of a baby that is planted in the womb by God is not a women's right. God did not give that right to women or men, but women have the right to stop being promiscuous which leads to abortions. Sleeping with numerous men outside of marriage and sleeping with other women's husband is two main reason women resort to abortion.

October 11 2012 at 11:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

HA! What a smug old fart Biden is. He looked like the most disrespectful degenerate with that whole act. And it was just that. An act. I've never seen a politician steal the overall vibe of a used car salesman quite as fluidly as that incontinent fossil did. Man, that was funny as hell when Ryan brought up Biden's habit for the weekly gaff. Biden inherited the look of a retired sexagenarian whose sphincter fisted up and pushed a turtle head out. Good thing for him that they make diapers for old canker sores like him now. What a joke this guy is.

October 11 2012 at 11:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Great Debate, Biden came across as very rude to keep laughing and interupting (More than Ryan) while Ryan was speaking-- Tacky ! I feel that Ryan seems to really understand the Big Picture He seems to have a cool head and demeanor. Biden kept throwing out more untruths. It does seem true that Biden/Obama is built on more promises instead of telling us --"Look what we did in the first four years--give us 4 MORE to get the rest of it done." Where were the examples of what Obama/Biden did in the past 4 years. I just know the National Debt-- that Obama promised he would CUT in HALF-has grown by much more. I feel sorry for President Obama, he really had no idea what he was up against as President. He also did and still doesn't have enough experience--- with his short time in office-- for the state of Illinois. He may be ready some day but he has so much more to learn and needs to come across as truthful which seems to Not be a strong suit. Lots of stories, lots of hiding supposed truths (school records, birth information took forever to get out, and the 1st Family really contributed a lot toward debt both Government Spending & especially personal spending like lots of extra personal staff, more trips and at higher costs to the Tax Payerss. When the President first took office and the First Lady planted a White House Vegetable Garden that was to be used I thought wow we got a fine example here. " What a Thrifty 1st Lady she'll be ! " Cool ! What happened ? Did the job go to her head ? She sure contributed to other costs like the trips where she was in one plane and he in another. Also what was with going on an African Safari without her husband. The one speech she gave hardly seemed worth the fact that it was an extremely expensive Trip especially with taking Relatives along. I really feel that that was not what First Lady's do, especially when our National Debt is at it's Highest Ever ! If the President had CUT The National Debt, I might feel different. I would have thought, that due to our Huge Debt , the 1st Family would have-- at least--ACTED-- like they cared and Held Personal spending Down. We have ALL-- had to changed OUR Spending Habitsduring this Deep & Lasting Resession. I gave up some things since I can't bill the Federal Government. When we're Broke we're Broke ! I voted for Obama last election becaused he seemed to have so much Promise & Promises. I am VERY disappointed. I always vote not for a certain Party--I vote for the person who I believe will do the best job. This year it will be Mr. Romney who will get MY vote.

October 11 2012 at 11:36 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Regarding a womans right to choose, I was pleased to finally see Paul Ryan admit that he would want to impose his catholic faith on us all. Joe Biden hit it right with his statement, that his faith is an important part of his life, but he would never impose his faith on a diverse country. No one should ever impose their religious beliefs on others.

October 11 2012 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply