Who Won The Presidential Debate: Biden Beats Ryan, Reinvigorates Obama Campaign


Final VP Debate Grades

Joe Biden - B+

Dear Liberal Base, you're welcome, love, Joe. Vice President Biden came out swinging and landed haymaker after haymaker on a clearly in-over-his-head Paul Ryan. His constant interruptions and attempts to talk over both Ryan and moderator Martha Raddatz were unprofessional at best. That said, Biden mixed a great deal of substance in with his sucker punches, doing what his boss failed to do last week by calling out the Romney/Ryan campaign on blatant micharacterizations of the truth.


Paul Ryan - C

Paul Ryan looked like Vice Presidential material when he walked out on stage. Unfortunately, he was forced back on his heels the second he sat down at the table. Ryan was unable to stoically weather Biden's aggressive assault and came across as inexperienced and shallow. He failed to leverage his reputational strength as a "wonk" by being unable to answer requests for specifics from both Biden and moderator Raddatz. His closing statement sounded like a canned speech that came across like a late night informercial rather than an impassioned request for the vote. While not quite as bad as Palin's '08 debacle, Ryan's performance will hardly help Romney's election efforts.

10:31PM - Ryan Closing - Back to the "this is a choice" talking points, concluding with "Obama tried, didn't work, vote for me." Sounds like a bad informercial, not a very strong finish.

10:30PM - Biden Closing - Recognizing and qualifying his frustration and closing on the middle class. Solid tactical choice topped off with classic Joe Biden "values talk."

10:29PM - Official closing statements - it's like the end of the Lord of the Rings, just when you think it's over...

10:26PM - Biden taking direct shots at Ryan's budget to close. Ryan smirks in reponse. Solid summary of tonight's performance.

10:25PM - Closing statements introduced by an editorialized comment from Raddatz and are fairly dull overall. Could have been more interesting.

10:23PM - Re: "the assault on the Catholic church." Those "unelected" judges have thrown them out as nonsense left and right.

10:20PM - Ryan says that his religion informs his political motivation. Not according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

10:18PM - Biden: I refuse to impose my religious views on others. This is the most important thing said all night and the position every single politician and public figure should hold. Period.

10:16PM - Aaaaaaand here comes the arm chair First Amendment commentary.

10:15PM - Ryan flipping on abortion position right on camera. 

10:14PM - Finally back to domestic issues. Moving to religion in politics and abortion.

10:11PM - "We would not go through the UN" is not an answer to "what would you do differently to address Syria?"

10:10PM - What is with the neo-con hard-on for painting Russia as the big threat in the world? Has anyone noticed that we helped them get into the WTO or that we are constantly improving our economic relationship with Medvedev. THE COLD WAR IS OVER

10:07PM - Moving to Syria. Good question from Raddatz (why doesn't intervention reasoning used in Libya apply to Syria).

10:06PM - Sure fire sign the debate is going in favor of Biden, the Conservative spin machine is going full blast blaming moderator Raddatz:

10:01PM - So far, the best commentary on Afghanistan has come from Raddatz. Neither campaign wants to talk about this, move on.

9:57PM - Did Ryan really just say they weren't going to increase defense spending. Has he spoken to Mitt recently?

9:56PM - Thank you, Biden, for calling out the fact that Republicans signed the Super Committee legislation that put in the cuts. 

9:54PM - Ryan is getting flustered. Raddatz slamming Ryan on his lack of math. Can't wait for the conservative spin about Obama attending Raddatz's wedding.


9:49PM - Raddatz: Do you have specifics?

Ryan: Magic

9:48PM - Crap tax answer by Ryan. Trying to run around the "tax cut" reality and not doing so well. I don't envy his position - it's tough explaining a tax plan that is based on "magic."

9:45PM - This debate so far:

9:43PM - Fact Check: Joe was right. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has disavowed his support for the Ryan plan.

9:42PM - Ryan: My voucher program isn't a voucher program. 

9:41PM - Biden throwing away his strong answers on Medicare by constant interruptions. Folksy Biden is ok in moderation. Thin line between Folksy Biden and Jerk Biden.

9:39PM - Ryan calls out Joe on being unprofessional. Joe, stop being a dick - you were doing so well, don't throw it away with a total lack of decorum.

9:36PM - Biden taking shots at Palin over the death panel carry-over. Palin lives on. Biden staring at the camera to talk directly to America - pro-move.

9:33PM - Switching gear to Medicare discussion. Ryan humanizing himself before explaining his position is smart - helps weaken the blow that's coming. 

9:31PM - Here comes Ryan with the "single party control" nonsense. This is what happens when you let a Congressman talk about Senate procedure. Here's why the "single party control" is a load of crap:

9:30PM - Joe slamming Ryan left and Ryan. Ryan's face is just:

9:28PM - Nice shot at Joe there Paul.

9:27PM - Job Creators, DRINK!

9:25PM - This is my face right now - holy shit Joe Biden.

9:24PM - Comment from my peanut gallery:

"He hasn't actually pulled it out and placed it on the table, but that's just a formality at this point."

9:22PM - Ryan: A nuclear armed Iran is worse than another war in the Middle East. Bold double-down, but he kind of has to.

9:21PM - Big props to Martha Raddatz for digging into the vague answers.

9:20PM - Nobody name drops like Joe Biden - "My Friend Bibi" might be a great new sitcom.

9:19PM - A solid summary of Romney/Ryan Foreign Policy:

9:17PM - Tough sell for neophyte Ryan to sell a barely credible Romney foreign policy. Ryan coming across well but his position just doesn't have the credibility to back this up. Biden's 39 years of experience really coming through here.

9:15PM - Dear Joe Biden, stop grinning like an idiot while Ryan talks.

9:13PM - Interesting reaction from CNN "independent voter" polling. Ryan talks hawkish, male support plummets. War weariness is real.

9:11PM - Ryan scoring HUGE points in my book for being clear that we absolutely need to apologize when we burn Quran's and turning the question on broader security policy. Great answer and pivot. This debate is already 10x better than last week.

9:10PM - "These guys bet against America all the time" - Joe Biden

9:08PM - "That's a bunch of malarkey." #joementum. Taking it to Ryan directly. Popular or not, THIS is how you get back in the game.

9:07PM - Good answer Ryan. A little in the weeds but still solid. Stop smirking Joe.

9:06PM - Joe knocking it out of the park on the first answer. Clearly prepped and well prepped at that. Channeling gif Obama here:

9:05PM - Nice response Joe. THIS is why Obama tapped him for foreign policy experience. This guy lives and breathes values.

9:03PM - Holy cow, starting off with Benghazi? Woof.

9:02PM - Here we go!

9:01PM - Let's get this show on the road, there's only so much Wolf Blitzer I can take.

8:59PM - Debate Prep 101: Biden "STOP IT" gif count - 23, Ryan "HUH?" gif count - 18. So pumped.

8:57PM - Ryan's Biceps or Joe's Folksy Stories? "Mr." Ryan or "Uncle" Joe? What are your bets for performance? Comment below or tweet me at @markskogan

8:51PM - First wow moment of the debate from moderator Martha Raddatz, who is clearly Ridin Dirty.

8:49PM - Second fun fact, so am I.

8:47PM - Fun fact, both candidates are wearing this under their dress shirts:

8:45PM - We are LIVE! Mark Kogan here, ready and pumped for the Vice Presidential Debate!



After the doozy of a kick-off debate that was last week's showdown in Denver, we are gearing up for the side attraction to the three-part presidential debate series, the vice presidential debate.

Scheduled for Thursday, October 11 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, the debate will be hosted by Centre College in Danville, Ky. 

The VP debate will likely garner more attention than usual this election cycle thanks to last week's apparent "upset" victory by Romney. Whether it will beat 2008's 70-million viewers for the Biden/Palin show remains to be seen.

As Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan square off, the tone and storyline of the larger campaign will weigh heavily over the debate, with both campaign staff and the media looking for new narratives to spin.

Get your popcorn ready.


LIVE Updates Courtesy of Chris Miles:

4:45 p.m. When Paul Ryan and Joe Biden face off at their debate tonight, "the form of address the vice president is supposed to use with his opponent is "mister" instead of "congressman," Politico reports.

"The form of address is part of the detailed memorandum of understanding between the two camps, according to the sources familiar with the document. Such MOUs detail specifics ranging from how footage of the debates can be used to podium placement, and so forth."

4:40 p.m. Why the heck are we having this VP debate in Kentucky (courtesy of PM Editor Chris Miles)? I mean, try and point to Danville on a map. That’s right, you can’t. Not many people can.

Full disclosure: I am a proud Kentuckian. I attended two of Kentucky's finest universities. I consider Lexington, Kentucky to be one of the most beautiful little corners of the world. 

I am baffled at why Danville is the host of tonight's vice presidential debate.

The VP debate, of course, will be held at the liberal arts Centre College, about a 30 minute drive from Lexington, the heart of Kentucky’s Bluegrass region.

It’s a quaint little town, with a population no bigger than 1,600. Centre College pretty much makes Danville … other than that … well there’s an Applebees. 


But of all the places in America, Centre College in Danville, Kentucky was the best they could come up with? We’re not talking about a vital swing state or a booming media center here.

Kentucky does hold some political appeal: it’s a red state, but has only had one Republican governor in the last four decades. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is, of course, one of the two senators representing the state (he’s a big deal) along with rising libertarian star Rand Paul. Kentucky can be considered a Southern state and a Midwestern state (though Kentuckians consider themselves full-fledged Southerners) … so the presidential commission killed two geographic birds with one stone there. Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, a point both Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in tonight’s debate would do well to bring up to fire-up the Kentucky crowd.

But why Centre College? Why not one of the state’s bigger name schools like the University of Kentucky (8 NCAA national basketball championships, thank you) or the University of Louisville (one of the best political science programs in the nation, thank you)?

Well, Centre actually held the VP debate in 2000 — becoming the smallest town to hold a presidential series debate — and it turned out really, really nice for everyone. Commission Executive Director Janet Brown said that Centre’s selection was based on several factors: “First, Centre did an outstanding job of hosting the 2000 vice presidential debate. Second, Centre’s principal players from that debate are still at the College, and we value that experience. Finally, Centre’s facilities, as good as they were in 2000, are vastly improved now.”

Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges.Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. The 2010 Open Doors Report, published by the Institute for International Educational, ranks the College second in the nation for percentage of students who study abroad.

Centre enrolls more than 1,300 students on a 160-acre campus.

As a University of Kentucky alumni, I used to visit friends at Centre often. It’s a nice little place, but it is smaller than my high school, so it’s also a pretty tight-knit —group (which get annoying).

I went to a couple of Centre parties — most notably the “air guitar” party, where you literally air guitar to songs in front of 100 students or so … mildly to heavily buzzed, of course.

There were a few other parties that were NSFW. One guy tried to give me a shot of pure grain alcohol from a fire extinguisher once ....

Centre has a tradition — "the flame" — where students run around one of their campus statues naked. I did not participate in this event. 

Centre is a fine educational establishment, but, (again, speaking as a University of Kentucky and University of Louisville alum) the students can be a little too proud. In Kentucky, Centre students hold a reputation, one where they consider themselves to be some sort of Harvard of Kentucky, which is very debatable (and which, for the record, the University of Louisville actually is).  

This debate and the 2000 debate have been a boon for the college. Applications from would-be students rose about 20% in the year after the 2000 debate, and out-of-state applications have steadily increased since. 

The same is expected to happen after tonight's Biden-Ryan battle royale. 

The small school in Danville, Kentucky, is about to get some significant media exposure. 

Some 3,200 media outlets/ personnel will be in attendance in Danville. Check this out, from right outside the debate: 


One thing is clear after this VP debate: Centre College, not Biden or Ryan, will be the big winner on Thursday night.

3:35 p.m. Young people in elections 2012: As reported by PM Pundit Emily Podmore, a recent study surveying young millennials provides interesting insight into the values and political preferences of young Americans, aged 18-25.

Our generation is often criticized for our apathy and ignorance. It's lamented that we are too focused on our smartphones and social media sites to be properly informed about the issues. But a new survey may explain why we "young millennials" appear to be less engaged politically.

The Millennial Values and Voter Engagement survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs has created quite a stir over the past week. The results were based on interviews with just over 1200 younger millennials, with a margin of error of 4.3%. “Young millennials" refers to those of us who are aged 18-25, born between 1987 and 1994. The study examines not only our reported voter engagement and political preferences but also our values, worldviews, and our schema of society in general. 

In this unprecedented report, some interesting results were discovered, many of which will play a large role in the upcoming election. Obama has long touted the support of the young voters, and this survey shows that young millennials prefer Obama to Romney at a margin of 16%. 

Furthermore, the majority of young millennials view social issues (including legalizing same-sex marriage, the DREAM Act, and marijuana legalization) liberally, supporting all three. It is clear that we are more receptive to liberal views on such social issues than our older counterpart generations, yet we still feel as though we don’t have a voice when it comes to politics. 

There may be more behind our disappointing voter participation numbers: 66% of younger millennials report being currently registered to vote, and only 50% of younger millennials are certain that they will vote in the 2012 presidential election.

While many cite misinformation, apathy about and boredom with the electoral process and politics as reasons that young people don’t vote, another part of the survey, which revealed a widespread pessimism about politicians and the government in general, caught my attention.

We are the generation that spent much of our formative years in the post-9/11 era: the era of a Bush presidency, two wars, and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Many of us are finally old enough to vote, but we have little to be optimistic about. We have grown up hearing from our elders that Social Security will run out by the time we are old enough to benefit from it, and that we will be paying for the war on terror for the duration of our working lives. 

We feel disillusioned by our government officials. Over 80% of young millennials feel that elected officials in Washington are out of touch. Nearly 2 out of 3 believe that “people like us” have no say in the government, and that it isn’t structured for the benefit of all people. It is statistics such as these that cause me to question whether we must take sole responsibility for our lack of interest in the system or whether the system as simply failed us. 

Either way, now is as good a time as any to ignite change, as the 2012 election season draws to a close in November.

And so, even taking the numbers with a grain of salt (as should be the case with most surveys), let this survey be a call to action. Vote. Let your voice be heard. Run for office. Rid yourself of the pessimism. Remember the mantra you’ve heard for much of your life: we are the future.

2:50 p.m. A BIG BATCH OF FRESH NUMBERS shows polls movement toward Romney in the states that matter

INTERNAL OBAMA POLLING data show that all swing states have tightened up and that Romney is within the margin of error in Colorado, Florida and Virginia," Major Garrett reports. "In Ohio, the gap has closed from what was an 8 to 10 point Obama lead to just outside the margin of error." The initial version of the story said Ohio was also inside the margin of error, but National Journal has corrected their story.

FOX NEWS national - Romney leads by 1 (46-45) among likely voters. "That's a six-point turnaround and a three-point 'debate bounce' for Romney." Interviews were conducted Sunday-Tuesday.


NBC/WSJ/MARIST-Taken Sunday through Tuesday with a 3.1% margin of error-

Virginia: Romney up 1 (48-47). Obama was up 2 the week before. Independents broke from statistically tied to +8 for Mitt.

Florida: Obama up 1 (48-47). Held steady.

Ohio: Obama up 6 (51-45). He was up 8 in their pre-debate poll. 


NYT/CBS/QUINNIPIAC-Taken from last Thursday through Tuesday:

Wisconsin: Obama up 3 (50-47), down from 6 last month.

Colorado: Romney up 1 (48-47), a flip from a l-point Obama lead last month.

Virginia: Obama up 5 (51-46), holding steady from last month. NYT A1 story on what to make of these numbers.

2:20 p.m. Based on looks alone, who do you think will win the debate? 

This guy?

Or this guy?

This guy?

Or this guy?

Probably this guy:

(Paul Ryan did a beefcake photoshoot. TIME magazine released the photos Thursday morning. The photo shoot happened last year, when Ryan was a runner-up for the magazine's Person of the Year. The macho poses are, of course, a reference to Ryan's affinity for P90X.)

2 p.m. What exactly is going to happen at the vice presidential debate tonight? PM Pundit Nathan Stringer explains: "If all goes well, tonight should feel like a college sophomore finally confronting his wacky uncle about politics.

"The nephew, Paul Ryan, is both intelligent and promising — but he’s also a college sophomore. The uncle, Joe Biden, has always seemed just a bit off from the rest of the family and frequently makes inappropriate comments and shares embarrassing family stories."

12:22 p.m. The Romney-Ryan Tax Plan, or the Obama tax plan ... which is better? Great analysis from PM Pundit Victor Zhao:

The 2012 election was supposed to be a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the country’s future. With mounting national debt and trillion dollar deficits, the debate over the size and scope of government took on added importance. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, has portrayed President Barack Obama as a free-spending liberal unwilling to make harsh cuts to entitlements and under whom deficits have ballooned. Obama, meanwhile, has fought back by claiming that Romney’s plan would do nothing to reduce deficits besides enforcing draconian cuts to critical government programs and entitlements, all while protecting defense spending and cutting taxes for the wealthy even further. The reality is that both sides are right about the other but wrong about themselves.

Of the two, Mitt Romney has been more recalcitrant in his ideas, although whether that is simply a result of having to survive through a tough primary battle remains to be seen. He has repeatedly called for the restoration of the cuts to defense spending under the so called “sequester” provision of the debt ceiling deal reached last year. More famously, he joined with other Republicans in rejecting the hypothetical “ten-to-one” deal proposed in one of the primary debates, in which each dollar of tax increases would be matched with $10 of spending cuts. By selecting Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate and adopting certain elements of his budget proposal into his own plan (now called the Romney-Ryan Plan), Romney has further committed to $5 trillion of tax cuts with a 20% rate cut across the board. How he would pay for this remains nebulous, although he has recently floated the idea of capping total tax deductions at a certain level. The fact of the matter remains that any tax savings he finds will be used to pay for the tax cuts, and thus not for deficit reduction. Under the Ryan Plan, in fact, the budget is not projected to be balanced until 2040, and even then, only with massive cuts to government spending and drastic changes to Medicare and other entitlements.

Obama, meanwhile, has been similarly unrealistic in his proposals (although once again, it remains to be seen how much is a result of election-year posturing). The biggest driver of budget deficits is entitlement spending, an area that Obama largely shields while marginally cutting around the edges. Ironically, the reductions in Medicare spending that he has proposed – $718 billion under the Affordable Care Act – have been used as political fodder by Romney. Moreover, Obama has promised to preserve Bush-era tax cuts for everyone but those making over $250,000 a year, a move that is a good first step but brings in a mere $1 trillion in revenue over 10 years. For comparison, the deficit in fiscal year 2011 was $1.3 trillion. Nevertheless, Obama has made an effort to work across the aisle on a plan for deficit reduction. Last summer, at the peak of the debt ceiling crisis, Obama and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner were close to a $4 trillion “grand bargain” of spending cuts and revenue increases before negotiations ultimately fell apart.

Neither Obama nor Romney seem capable, or willing, to put forth serious proposals that will effectively reduce the deficit. Both are welded to the idea of tax cuts – Romney for all, Obama for all but the top earners. The Bush tax cuts, remember, were supposed to be temporary, and the higher Clinton-era tax rates presided over an era of economic prosperity. Neither Obama nor Romney seem truly willing or capable to enact entitlement reform either, as evidenced by Obama’s lack of meaningful proposals to address entitlements and Romney’s attacks on the few Obama cuts to Medicare. Sure, some of this may be election-year rhetoric, and both candidates may actually have serious policy proposals to reduce the deficit after they reach the Oval Office (or, in Obama’s case, secured his stay), but they haven’t shown it so far. Besides, isn’t that what elections are for?

11:12 a.m. This is kind of how the last debate Biden was in went: 

More Biden vs Palin memes here (some NSFW)

10:54 a.m. 

The Format: The 90 minute debate will cover foreign affairs and domestic policy topics. Unlike last Wednesday’s presidential debate where both candidates stood behind podiums on a stage, in this debate, both candidates will be seated at a table, giving a more casual atmosphere to the discussion.

The Moderator: The debate will be moderated by Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs correspondent from ABC News. Despite an outstanding record as a well-respected journalist with extensive foreign experience, the choice of moderator has recently drawn criticism after the revelation that Obama attended Raddatz’s 1991 wedding and later appointed her husband, Julius Genachowski as head of the Federal Communications Commission. While representatives of the debate commission have stated that Raddatz was thoroughly vetted and there is no reason to be concerned about her objectivity, the recent criticism may lead her to ask especially hard questions of VP Biden to defend her nonpartisanship.

10:45 a.m. Hear Paul Ryan debate Barack Obama: 

10:26 a.m. The big issue nobody is talking about ahead of the debate: who will women vote for?

President Obama needs women. He lost a nine point lead over Mitt Romney among women after last week’s debate, and they’re now tied at 47%. Women not only make up more of the electorate than men, but they also come out to vote in larger numbers. After Obama’s lackluster performance and subsequent favorability drop in the polls, it seems that tapping into this crucial bloc could serve him well.  If Biden puts women at the top of his list for voters to win over tomorrow night, he would be up against a great person to do it: Paul Ryan.

The left has been trying to paint Paul Ryan as an ideological nutcase all along. His energetic demeanor and air of cool charisma, though, make it a less powerful strategy than painting Romney as an evil corporate mastermind. Biden should underscore this discrepancy most with Ryan’s voting record on women — particularly a personhood amendment seeking to give a fertilized egg the same legal rights as a person and a House measure in which he changed "rape" to "forcible rape."

If, of course, the vice presidential debates go anything like the first presidential debate (and the campaign in general up until now), Ryan may try to dismiss these issues to instead talk about his budget plan and jobs.

This, though, may be where Biden’s potential strength lies: birth control and abortion. Many women have been begging to be recognized by someone, anyone, who understands that women's issues are financial issues, especially for single women. Unplanned children are expensive, but they can also derail career plans and ruin a young woman’s chance at upward mobility. And the failure to understand this can point not only to the detrimental effects that the absence of women in this election has had, but also to a failure to understand what economics means in the context of the middle class, and in the context of individual and family lives. At least 60% of women who have abortions are women with children already. Why? Because they can’t afford another.

Romney’s corporate success and Ryan’s budget that shot him to Congress stardom both reflect a real aptitude with numbers and a real understanding of economic realities, but neither necessarily reflects an understanding of how those economics factor into most people’s lives. In fact, brushing off women’s reproductive concerns to continually emphasize that only jobs matter is not only condescending, it’s not accurate. Children and reproductive issues are the focal point of women’s issues, and they also happen to be very legitimate financial concerns for families and women.

Women voters have gone Democrat since the 1992 presidential election when younger women, poorer women, and educated upper-middle-class women joined forces behind liberal objectives. But the Romney campaign has done its best to distract from any issues aside from the economy; and, of course, Obama let him do just that in last week’s debate. Obama lost his lead in the polls, and he has, very importantly, lost his lead among women.

Biden’s task is two-fold: he needs to remind women of the regressive stances taken by his challenger in this regard, and also remind everyone of the importance of not separating the economy from just about every other stance the candidates have taken. The Romney campaign has been focusing on the economy from the beginning to rouse fear and portray themselves as the ones truly equipped to bring on a real recovery. Of course, it’s the best strategy a challenger could use during tough economic times. But it’s dangerous to let the economy eclipse any other issues, especially when they’re as damaging to one group as Ryan’s policies toward women are. Whether Biden, who is not known for a flawless delivery, can pull all of that off in one night remains to be seen on Thursday night.

9:55 a.m. Ryan leads in the polls versus Biden: 

Who will win the Thursday vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan? According to independent voters, more believe Ryan, the Republican, will be the victor.

By a 42% to 25% margin, more independents expect Ryan to do better than Biden in the debate single VP debate between both candidates.

When’s its broken down along party lines, most Republicans and Democrats predict victory for their party’s candidate, but Republicans are more confident than Democrats. Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) Republican voters say Ryan will do the better job in the debate. Fewer Democrats (62%) expect Biden to do better.

This debate will be a little different than their presidential counter-parts. Expect a lot more rhetoricand  one-liners, and a lot less real policy. Gaffe-prone, Joe “this-is-a-big-f*cking-deal” Biden will be expected to avenge President Barack Obama’s poor debate performance from last week, and will likely assail the Republican ticket on everything from the Romney-Ryan tax plan, to Big Bird. Conservative wunder boy Paul “P90x” Ryan will be expected to say the things Romney isn’t allowed to say in a presidential debate … un-relentlessly trashing the Obama presidency (i.e. Obamacare, Libya, the economy, etc. etc.)

It’s being billed the “Thrill in the’Ville” (it’s being held in the small town of Danville, Kentucky), and it’s sure to be a slug fest.

Still, this one won’t be as big in media saturation as the first presidential debate in Denver: only 54% of voters say they are very likely to watch the debate (conversely, 62% said they were very likely to watch the first presidential debate, and another 21% say they are somewhat likely). Interest in the upcoming debate is far lower than it was for the Biden-Palin debate four years ago (69% very likely to watch), though higher than for the debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards in 2004 (41% very likely).

More so, Biden is entering the debate as the bad guy: the survey from Pew Research Center found that 51% of registered voters see Biden unfavorably, compared with 39% who gave him positive reviews. Independent voters largely agreed, with 52% seeing Biden negatively.

Voters were more evenly divided about Mr. Ryan, who is viewed favorably by 44% and unfavorably by 44%.

Biden, though, is very much being forced in the villain role. As Politico's Jonathan Martin writes, "If Gentleman Joe took the stage four years ago, determined not to come off as patronizing or bullying Sarah Palin, it seems almost certain that Thursday will bring the appearance of Scranton Joe, the scrappy pol who’s never been afraid to throw a punch … The circumstances around the face-off this week at Centre College actually most resemble not 2008 but 2004: the incumbent president flops in his first debate, forcing his older and more seasoned vice-president to take it to a younger foe."

Here we are again, at another make-or-break debate.

9:30 a.m. The momentum may be growing for the Obama-Biden ticket, new polls show:

The consensus seems to be that President Barack Obama is losing steam in election 2012. Faithful supporters, close aides, a range of tracking polls, and even the “liberal” media are all claiming Obama has hit a [kind of major] speed bump in his re-election campaign.

And suddenly hope is turning to nope, as Republican challenger Mitt Romney builds significant momentum.

But there are worrying signs for the Romney campaign. The number of “undecided” voters is growing, and that number is made up of more Republicans than Democrats. Romney’s base is unstable, and while he may be the candidate gaining the most speed ahead of the next presidential debate, Romney will struggle to maintain the gains he has made in the last two weeks.

The right-leaning Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday showed Romney winning election 2012, attracting support from 48% of voters nationwide, while Obama earned 47%. One percent preferred some other candidate, while 4% are undecided.

That “4%” is the red flag in all of the data. The number has grown by two points in only three days. More so, 8% of Republicans and unaffiliated voters currently stand in the "undecided" category or plan to vote for some other candidate. Only 2% of Democrats are uncommitted to one of the major party candidates.

The 8% number corresponds with Republican enthusiasm in election 2012, which is considerably lower than Dem enthusiasm. Democrats are generally more excited than Republicans for election 2012.

Dem enthusiasm for election 2012 has skyrocketed, with almost three-quarters of swing-state Democrats saying they are very excited to vote.

Seventy-three percent of Democrats in swing states are excited to call their ballots, up from 53% in June, according to Gallup. The numbers and spike are smaller for Republicans, with 64% saying they’re excited, an increase from 55%.

Obama is definitely taking his lumps now, but Dems can take solace in the ground-game here: With a solid performance at the next presidential debate (and the foreign policy debate a week after that), Obama can reassert himself as the leader in the presidential race. The momentum is already building for him.

Still, he’ll have a lot to prove on the next debate night. Everyone and their mom (to use a colloquial term) is trashing Obama right now … even the “liberal” media, which conservatives are often so quick to bash as uber pro-Obama.

Politico’s Mike Allen reports: “The media narrative has turned in dramatic — and, for Obama, dangerous — ways. Talk to top Democrats, and suddenly it's Obama who has suspect personal and political skills — and a vague, uninspiring agenda. It's Romney who has his groove, is drawing bigger crowds, feeling love from his base, and seeing a nice bump in the polls. Ask any professional Democrat's private take on the president, and it's usually mixed, if not downbeat. Many will be quick to criticize if the turbulence continues. And just ask Mitt Romney what happens when prominent members of your own party go on the record to bash you.”

That sums it up nicely.

So now our attention turns to, first, the vice presidential debate in Kentucky on Thursday, which will be a political blood bath (I mean, forget policy points, this debate will likely be more about rhetorical “gotcha” moments … each party’s right-hand-man ripping the other as well as their opposite’s presidential candidate), then to next week’s town hall-style presidential debate, where Obama will look to be the more “likeable” and approachable candidate, while also dogging the heck out of Romney.

That debate, it seems, is looking like it will be for all the marbles.

9 a.m. Here are some elements you may not have thought about to be on the lookout for during the debate, courtesy of PM pundit Mythili Sampathkumar

1. The Table: The candidates will both be seated. If you remember the Edwards-Cheney debate of 2004 (C-SPAN) you may understand the implications of this. Seated at a table is much more initimate and immediate than standing at podiums on a larger stage. It seems as though the candidates are engaged in more of a managed conversation sometimes than an actual debate. However, in the case of the 2004 debate, the seated format can also prove to be more initimidating to certain candidates.  Cheney appeared much more formidable and "adult" than the younger, more handsome Edwards — like a son being schooled by his father in foreign policy. ("You're dead wrong" was one of Cheney's famous lines from the debate). In Biden and Ryan there is the same age and experience dynamic, but it remains to be seen whether Biden can bring his mettle and "attack dog" role to the table, literally.  Insiders have said he is less prone to his famous gaffes when doing seated interviews, so that does bode well for him. Ryan is a wild card in this respect, this being his first debate on the national stage. The pressure of the more immediate setting could be getting to him, as he ended an interview earlier this week by claiming "you're trying to stuff words in people's mouths?" when asked a question about specific tax cuts. Here's the full video with the ABC affiliate in Flint, MI. Also, take note of the candidates body language in the split-screen camera shots. Most likely, the timing devices will also be visible and right on the table in front of them. 

2. The moderator. It's always wonderful to see the specific energy, rhythm, and topics of debates depending on their moderators. Moderator choice may not be looked on by the public with much scrutiny, but is a careful and thoughtful selection that is made. Female moderators are very rare, but this year's VP debate will be presided over by veteran journalist Martha Raddatz. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I am an admirer of her. To be fair, I did not agree with all the criticisms of Jim Lehrer in the first debate either though. The man was essentially fired, on air, in front of millions by Mitt Romney's PBS de-funding declaration. Cut him some slack!) She may play a bigger role in all this than we expect. It's interesting to note, no women's rights issues came up in the first presdiential debate despite a plethora of proposed legislation regarding reproductive rights, health care matters, and equal pay rights playing a huge role this year. I think we can expect that to change, especially given Biden's likeability factor with women on average and on the campaign trail specifically.  

3. The world at large. Given Raddatz' extensive foreign policy experience, this debate will be a real test for Ryan, who comes in to the election much as Obama had in 2008 — lacking any specific experience in the area. Afghanistan and comments made about troops may also be on the agenda, with Raddatz having written a book (The Long Road Home - A Story of War and Family) on the subject which was a New York Times bestseller. This is the one and only debate the VPs will have this year.  These two men are in the running for a position that is one heartbeat away from the presidency.  Foreign policy is a major concern, but also the area in which there is the most daylight between Biden and Ryan. The election will not be won on foreign policy, but it might be lost on the threat of new or continuing wars in my opinion. Expect the Romney plan to dramatically increase defense spending to be discussed in light of Ryan's budget plan, the main reason for which he was taken on as candidate.  

4. Tweet tweet. Big Bird isn't the only one chirping. The last presidential debate was the "most tweeted about even in U.S. politics," according to Twitter, a tool used to great effect by both Democrats and Republicans. The candidates are well aware of the astounding 10 million tweets sent out about the #debates. We can expect curated sound bites, as always, but given Ryan's relative youth, he may be the one who is more consciously aware of the real-time news implications of every single word and action during the debate.