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Debate Night in America

Aired October 11, 2012 - 20:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: The fight for the number two spot at the White House. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in their only vice presidential debate.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We cannot afford four more years like the last four years.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: We are so much better than these guys give the American people credit for. It's not even funny.

ANNOUNCER: The vice president. A country veteran known for going after (INAUDIBLE).

BIDEN: We're going to ask the wealthy to pay more. My heart breaks.

ANNOUNCER: The congressman. A rising star, known for his controversial budget plan.

RYAN: If we don't tackle these problems soon, they will tackle us as a country.

ANNOUNCER: This hour, a debate night exclusive. Joe Biden's son on his dad's rehearsals and his top goals tonight.

BEAU BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S SON: He spent a heck of a lot of time figuring out how to take the 90 minutes and communicate directly to the American people.

ANNOUNCER: And an exclusive interview with Paul Ryan about the challenge of facing off with a more experienced debater.


RYAN: I'm not intimidated. I'm actually excited about it.

ANNOUNCER: Now CNN's coverage of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan head to head on the dangers overseas and the struggles here at home.

RYAN: We will take responsibility and own up and get things done.

BIDEN: America is coming back. We're not going back. We're going forward.

ANNOUNCER: The nation is watching. Voters want answers. And America's future is up for debate.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. It's the backdrop for another important night in a very, very close race for the White House.

Vice President Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, they will appear together in this hall very soon.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to "Debate Night in America."

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We could see more fireworks in this Biden-Ryan debate than we did even in the presidential debate last week when the two candidates faced off.

Stand by for a CNN exclusive. Interviews with Paul Ryan and Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden, on the political attacks we may, repeat, may, see tonight.

We have the full our political team devoted to bringing you comprehensive debate coverage.

Let's begin with my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it is going to be an exciting night. We're going to show viewers who may just be joining us what they see during the debate. What they're going to see. What you're going to see. We're going to clock Joe Biden and Paul Ryan to see how long they discuss particular issues and how much talk time they get overall.

Also, our focus group of undecided voters is going to be reacting in real time to what the candidates are saying. Their responses will look like this on your screen, underneath your screen, and you can tell how they're reacting, lines going up and down.

Let's now -- let's go back to the debate and CNN's Soledad O'Brien -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR AND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, thanks. Here in Newlin Hall, folks are just starting to stream in, I'd say, over the last 20 minutes or so. We've seen a large number of people come in and really start to take their seats even though they have, really, an hour before this debate gets under way.

Right below me and in kind of the nosebleed area, a lot of students. We've talked to students and people in the community. Students were in some kind of a lottery system, about 500 students wanted to get tickets. Ultimately it was 125 alternates (ph) that were able to get tickets.

Further down right by the stage, you have the Biden and Ryan family sitting there, being able to watch right in front. A third of the tickets went to the Romney campaign, a third of the tickets went to the Obama campaign, a third of the tickets went to the Committee for Presidential Debates.

That's how they divided it up. So from our perch, we have a very good view about what the crowd is feeling and sensing tonight. Not only in the substance but also in those moments that we often look for for debates. We'll be able to see exactly what happens on the stage, of course, as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: Great. Soledad, thanks. It is going to be an exciting night.

Let's see how tonight's debate fits into the bigger picture of the presidential race right now. John King is at the magic wall for that -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And Anderson, these are the vice presidential candidates, it's not the men at the top of the ticket. But they have an interesting role in the campaign. Obviously they're debating tonight. But I want to show you where the candidates visited across the country. This looks a little bit confusing right now but let's break it down.

Here's where Joe Biden spends his time on the campaign trail. Look at this concentration in blue-collar communities in the big presidential battlegrounds. That's Joe Biden. Right? Let's put a circle on these communities so you'll remember. Let's try that again, here we go. That's where Joe Biden spends most of his time.

Now we turn that up, look at this, Joe Biden from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Paul Ryan, Janesville, Wisconsin. He's been a little bit out west, raising money here, but most of their time spent right here in the key battlegrounds. They are the blue-collar warriors. Expect a lot of talk tonight, Wolf, about the middle class.

BLITZER: John, thank you.

Let's get to our exclusive interview right now with Congressman Paul Ryan. He tells our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, that his debate preparations have been lengthy. They have been thorough. A lot like the way he gets ready to go deer hunting.


BASH: I want to start by telling you what a source who I spoke with said about you and how you prepare for hunting. You wash your clothes in non-scented detergent. You shower in non-scented soap. You spray special non-scented stuff on your boots.

Now I know that this is somewhat typical for hunting, but then you take it to a whole another level. RYAN: If you're into archery and into bow hunting, that's the way to do it, to be successful. I like the strategy of bow hunting and it takes a lot of preparation. And I do take it seriously, because I'm much more successful if I do things properly and prepare the right way.

BASH: How does that speak to how meticulous you are and doing anything in your life?

RYAN: Yes, I mean, I've always just believed in if you're going to do something, do it well. You're talking about the debate, I suppose. Joe Biden has been doing this for a long time.

BIDEN: You better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the green zone, where I've been seven times and shot at.

RYAN: He ran for president twice. He's a sitting vice president. He's been on this big stage many times before. So that's new for me. And I'm just doing my homework, studying the issues. And now -- and I know how he'll come and attack us. The problem he has is, he has Barack Obama's record he has to run on.

BASH: Are you intimidated at all based on the background --


BASH: -- that you just described?

RYAN: I'm not intimidated. I'm actually excited about it.

BASH: I know you have a pretty large brief case here.

RYAN: Yes, you asked me to show you my briefcase.

BASH: Can you show it? Can you show us? I mean --

RYAN: Well, sure. It's this --

BASH: I can barely lift it.

RYAN: I got to pull my -- it's a little heavy. What is it, 30, 40 pounds?

BASH: At least.

RYAN: It's pretty heavy. I've got a lot of binders of different stuff and some of this.

BASH: So what -- so is this the keys to the kingdom right now?

RYAN: I'm not going to open my binder for you. So yes, I just like to study the issues.

BASH: But in all seriousness, in there, is that where you keep the binders that -- RYAN: Yes. Yes.

BASH: Are preparing you for the debate?

RYAN: Yes. Absolutely.

BASH: And without giving away the specifics, generally, how are you preparing? You're just doing a lot of reading.

RYAN: I do a lot of reading. That's what I've always done. Briefings and reading.

BASH: You're not just doing it for yourself.

RYAN: That's right.

BASH: You're doing it for the guy at the top of the ticket who picked you.

RYAN: Yes -- or no, this is -- like I said, this is new for me. Joe has done this for decades. Ran for president, did all those presidential debates, sitting vice president. So he clearly goes into this with a whole lot more experience than I do. And I -- this is the first time I'm on a stage like this.

BASH: Now you said this is new for you. I want to show you a picture that might be a blast from the past.

RYAN: Yes. That's probably --

BASH: You did have a debate.

RYAN: That was my first campaign.

BASH: This is your first campaign against Lydia Spottswood. You beat her. Correct me if I'm wrong --

RYAN: That's my lucky Irish tie, too.

BASH: Yes? You're going to wear that?

RYAN: Yes. I've worn that tie -- I don't know. I've got to see if I can dig it up. But I wore -- I've worn that tie in most of my election nights. I've had seven elections so I think that's the tie.

BASH: Back in that race, she was quoted as saying that she was old enough to be your mother. Joe Biden is a generation plus. I mean Joe Biden is 69, you're 42. He's a generation plus older. How much did that play into your preparation?

RYAN: I'm used to that. Actually. I came into Congress when I was 28 years old. I'm used to serving with people who are older. I'm used to debating people who are older.

BASH: It's not exactly a secret that Joe Biden is going to come after you on Medicare. RYAN: I look forward to it.

BASH: And I've heard you explain and defend your Medicare plan probably 100 times.

RYAN: If we just got rid of all discretionary spending --

BASH: But is there a different way that you have to do it in this kind of forum without your charts, without your graphs --

RYAN: Yes, no, I like to use charts and graphs.

BASH: Yes.


BASH: I mean you like to have that.

RYAN: Well, I still do until to this day. This is an issue I've worked on quite a bit. It's an issue that's very personal to me. It's been very important in my own family's life, for my grandma, for my mom. If we keep kicking the can down the road, then people in retirement get hurt, they get cut.

This is a promise that was made to people. And so you need to reform it for your generation, for my generation, if we want to save it intact for the current generation. And I think the biggest mistake that was made to Medicare is Obamacare. I'm excited about pointing that out, and I'm more than happy to talk about the bipartisan solutions that we've offered.

BASH: The last big moment on the big stage was your speech at the convention.

RYAN: Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years. That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year.

BASH: You got hammered a little bit by Democrats and even some Republicans for some things that you said were maybe loose -- that were loose with the facts.

RYAN: They weren't.

BASH: That's --


BASH: That was the accusation.

RYAN: I stand behind absolutely everything I said. If you try to distort what I said and then to say that that was loose, that's one thing. Let me make it really clear. I think you're talking about the Janesville plant. Number one --

BASH: Yes, a couple of other things but yes, that's --

RYAN: The Janesville plant. We never accused President Obama of shutting down the Janesville plant. That happened before he came into office. I made that pretty clear. He came to our plant and said that he would lead an effort to retool it to keep it open for 100 years.

BASH: My question is just more broadly about how you're preparing for the debate and the whole -- the whole question of fact- checking.

RYAN: Well, I think there's a lot of partisanship behind that. I think there's a lot of political operatives that try to take advantage of those words. We are going to give this country a very clear choice. These are pro-growth policies. It's a five-point plan for a stronger middle class.

BASH: The only other person to debate Joe Biden in a vice presidential debate is Sarah Palin. Have you called her for advice?

RYAN: You know, I haven't. I don't really know her. I only met her once and that was about two years ago.

BASH: Would you call her?

RYAN: Sure, sure.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you, Joe?

BIDEN: You can call me Joe.


BASH: She famously or maybe infamously said that she wanted to call him Joe because she kept calling him Joe O' Biden in debate prep.

RYAN: You know, I've known Joe a long time. And so I did call him Joe.

BASH: So you're not going to say --


BASH: So are you going to call him Joe?

RYAN: Well, he knows me as Paul and I know him as Joe. I don't know -- I haven't given much thought to that, to be honest with you. Probably not unless he wants to make it casual. But we know each other. Actually we've gotten along quite well over the years. You know I like Joe personally quite a bit, I just disagree with his policies.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: Now with about 50 minutes to go until Paul Ryan takes the stage here, you might be wondering, is he wearing that lucky tie? He is dressed and ready, I am sure. And I can report to you, the answer is no, he's not wearing his lucky tie.

O'BRIEN: So you asked him if he would call Sarah Palin for advice, of course, because she had done a debate with Joe Biden. And did he?

BASH: No, he did not. I checked just before we came on, just to make sure there wasn't a last-minute phone call to that one person in the world who's actually debated Joe Biden on the vice presidential stage and the answer is no, he didn't call her.

O'BRIEN: How do you think it changes the dynamics of the debate, the fact that Paul Ryan and Joe Biden know each other? They're very different situation in the presidential debate.

BASH: You know, talking to Paul Ryan, I think it does change the dynamic, because, first of all, just the physicality of it. You see it behind us. They're sitting at a table. That's number one. So even if they didn't know each other, it makes it much more intimate. But they have worked together four years in Congress and of course in recent years across Pennsylvania Avenue when the vice president was dealing with issues that obviously they disagree -- disagree on.

But I think, A, that they know each other and, B, that they both tend to have that kind of -- they try to have that kind of folksy rapport, it will make this a very different -- very, very different kind of debate than we saw --


O'BRIEN: Then they're going to try to out-folksy each other --

BASH: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- because it is a strategy they both use with -- very effectively.

BASH: Sure.

O'BRIEN: All right. Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Let's send it right back to Anderson.

COOPER: Soledad, Dana, thanks very much.

Let's talk to our contribute, Alex Castellanos, Paul Begala, Mary Matalin, former special advisor to the Obama White House Van Jones.

Alex, you were saying you think you're going to hear that a lot, that sort of, I like Joe, but. ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I like Joe, but, when you're that close to somebody, it's just tough. You know you're an anchor at CNN. That's one of the amazing things that you guys do is you press people to their face to, hey, that's not what we asked you.


COOPER: That's hard (INAUDIBLE) remote satellite.


CASTELLANOS: That's very hard to do when someone is sitting across the table.

COOPER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: But Paul is right. It's different when you're talking about the two bosses who are not there. There is a certain liberating aspect of this today that they're talking about, you know, Obama, who'll be watching somewhere on TV, and Mitt Romney. So this could be get pretty free wheeling.

COOPER: To an earlier point, though, Paul Ryan does have a tough job in that -- in not only does he have to defend his own positions, he also has to know Mitt Romney's positions backwards and forward so -- that he can defend them, because there is some daylight between the two.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: There is, and their relationship is much newer. You know, the Obama record is the Biden record, and so the vice president must know it perfectly. And if he messes that up, it's a huge mistake.

COOPER: Although Joe Biden did argue against a number of things that President Obama --


BEGALA: He did, but there's only one president. And once the president decides, the vice president falls in line.

CASTELLANOS: There's only one --

BEGALA: So no one will cut him any slack if he gets something wrong about the Obama-Biden record.

You know, Congressman Ryan has only met Governor Romney just a few months ago. And there's a lot of stuff he might not know. I don't think it's that sort of minutia, though. I really do hope this is about those big ideas, like the Medicare proposal that the Ryan put forward that Governor Romney has embraced, that is one of the most toxic things I've ever seen in a poll. And now they're trying to kind of run away from it like the devil runs away from holy water, but Joe Biden knows that. He's going to chase him all around the room.

CASTELLANOS: OK. Can I share one thought with Paul, though? I don't know if you noticed, but Barack Obama is the president. Mitt Romney is actually the challenger.

BEGALA: Right.

CASTELLANOS: The reason we have this --

BEGALA: Thank god. That's why Medicare doesn't have a voucher now.


CASTELLANOS: No, but the points is, we're talking about Mitt Romney has to defend this. Paul Ryan has to defend that.


CASTELLANOS: No, they don't. The president, the incumbent --

BEGALA: I can't defend --


COOPER: That's going to be the objective of Biden to put them on.

CASTELLANOS: He liked that to be that way. But this is --

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And that's what we said this earlier. They have -- they didn't bring a game because they don't have a game. Their game has been to attack Romney and to attack Ryan.

BEGALA: That's a game.

MATALIN: But that's not what -- yes, to us it's a game. To voters --


BEGALA: No, but -- it's a strategy. If a man is proposing to turn Medicare into a voucher program, if a man like Paul Ryan says 60 percent of Americans are makers and not takers, I think it's right -- it's an obligation to highlight that.

MATALIN: What Paul Ryan is not going to let himself get sucked into is defending a position he doesn't hold.

BEGALA: That's not true.

MATALIN: Defending his position.

COOPER: Last thought from Van then we've got to do.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISOR: One of the things I think that's difficult with the media is that we focus on the horserace aspect of this. There's a horserace aspect. There's also a history aspect. This guy could be president. Paul Ryan could be president. So it's very important for us to pay attention. He did in fact say, it's not -- he said, 60 percent of Americans are makers -- are takers, not makers. That's worse than the 47 percent.

BEGALA: Right.

JONES: He said that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and it's socialism. It's important that he get vetted here.

COOPER: Let's take a quick break. Joe Biden's oldest son says his dad knows how to land a political punch. Stand by for an exclusive interview with Beau Biden on whether his dad plans to come out swinging tonight. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It's "Debate Night in America." We're counting down to the only faceoff between the vice presidential candidates. We're less than an hour away from tonight's big debate when Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan appear on stage together at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.

Martha Raddatz from ABC News will be the moderator. She's being urged to exert tighter control over the candidates than we saw in last week's presidential debate. She'll ask questions about both domestic policy and her area of expertise, foreign policy.

Let's go back into the debate hall. CNN's Soledad O'Brien is standing by. What's going on there now, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Wolf. It's filling up, Wolf, in Newlin Hall. About 20 minutes ago, people are seated but kind of here and there. Now it's virtually full. The room holds roughly 1400 people and I would say most of the people are sitting down. The folks very close to the front of the stage are standing and chatting. We've seen Ted Olson. He's in a lot of preparations for Paul Ryan. He is standing but most of the people are sitting down.

It is freezing in here. The room is kept at a negotiated 65 degrees. But for folks like me, we're absolutely brutally cold.

Most of the people have been handed this, Wolf. It is the "2012 Vice Presidential Debate" program that they're thumbing through while they wait for this debate to start, which we're expecting in roughly 40 minutes or so. The room full of students and some elected officials and some folks who've all said that they're excited to be part of history.

And we are told that Vice President Biden's motorcade is making its way here. We're expected to have that for you as soon as when he gets there -- gets here rather momentarily.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: The campaigns always want it cold in the auditorium. They never want to see the candidates sweat. Remember Richard Nixon back in 1960. Well, we're soon going to find out if tonight's vice presidential debate has standout moments that people will remember for years to come.

John King has been taking a closer look at some highlights from those vice presidential debates.

Go ahead.

KING: They don't often change presidential campaigns, Wolf. But you know this. You've been through this before. We have a motorcade arriving right now. That's the Biden motorcade arriving at the site. Quick -- you see him arriving at the building. We know he's just getting ready for the debate moments away.

Often these vice presidential debates, it's not about big policy, but there can be great theater. And sometimes some of the best moments of that come as the candidates for vice president try to make a first impression.



AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I'd like to start by offering you a deal, Jack. If you won't use any football stories, I won't tell any of my warm and humorous stories about chlorofluorocarbon abatement.

PALIN: It's nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?

BIDEN: You can call me Joe.

PALIN: OK, good.


KING: That one was four years ago. "Can I call you Joe?" off the top. Another thing to remember is, sure, Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, they're guys, they have healthy egos, they're in politics. But it's not their job to promote themselves tonight. Their job is to promote or to take aim at the men atop the ticket.


BIDEN: 9:00 the economy was strong, 11:00 that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis. That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he's out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.

PALIN: We're tired of the old politics as usual. And that's why with all due respect, I do respect your years in the U.S. Senate, but I think Americans are craving something new and different and that new energy and that new commitment that's going to come with reform. I think that's why we need to send the maverick from the Senate and put him in the White House and I'm happy to join him there.


KING: That one was four years ago. The Biden-Palin debate. And sometimes you see one candidate, often the less experienced candidate in the debate, like John Edwards in 2004, try to get under his rival's skin. His rival was Dick Cheney who found this part a bit too personal.


JOHN EDWARDS, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much, and you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter.

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Let me simply thank the senator for the kind words that he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.

EDWARDS: You're welcome.


CHENEY: That's it.


KING: "That's it." Clearly Dick Cheney did not want to spend a lot of time there. And Wolf, on that point, that you see Dick Cheney and John Edwards seated, as the two candidates would be tonight. These guys both have spent a lot of time on the Sunday shows, on TV shows, on interview shows, a very familiar setting sitting down, up close to the moderator and up close to the person they're debating.

BLITZER: Yes, I think it would have been a little different debate last week if the three of them, the president -- the two presidential candidates and Jim Lehrer would have been sitting around a small table as opposed to those podiums. And Lehrer below -- it's a little more awkward to keep control. It'll be a little bit easier, I suspect, for Martha Raddatz tonight.

KING: Easier to keep control and you tend to have more of a conversation. It tends to be a bit more casual. It tends to be a bit more friendly. Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney, for example, I'd say.

BLITZER: Correct.

KING: John Edwards and Dick Cheney, not so much. But when you're sitting, you just -- they know each other. You tend to be more casual. I think you will hear a little Joe and a little Paul as opposed to Mr. Vice President and Mr. Chairman.

BLITZER: And then next week's debate, the presidential debate, will be a town hall meeting. With Candy moderating, we get a lot of people asking question. It'd be a very different format there as well.

We're only minutes away from the vice presidential debate. Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden, spoke exclusively to CNN this morning about his father's practice session and his tendency to go off script.


COOPER: Looking to show a live shot of Senator Rand Paul in the hall at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, getting ready for the big debate night tonight.

While Joe Biden has been studying up for tonight's debate, he's also been spending a good deal of time with his son, Beau. The Delaware attorney general moved in with his parents while his own home is being renovated. He spoke exclusively with our Gloria Borger this morning before he and his father flew to Kentucky for tonight's debate. Take a look.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: How does living together work when he's here prepping for debates?

B. BIDEN: It's -- you know, we've got to make sure that the kids are a little bit more quiet and -- when he's -- when he's prepping. But my dad is a dad and a grandfather. My kids adore my father. And so, you know, like last night, we had a nice lasagna dinner and, you know, my dad is -- my dad is working hard. He's -- but he's also being a dad and being a grandfather.

BORGER: I heard the other week he actually helped do the laundry?

B. BIDEN: The week before and he was home, too. And you know, he's working his tail off, but not -- you know, he stayed with the kids again. You know, he got up in the morning, we all went to mass. We got the kids off to Sunday school. And in between all that, I saw him, you know, coming out of the -- coming out of the laundry room with a pile of laundry.

You know got -- he got that laundry, you know, taken care of and then went and cracked his briefing books. I mean he's working really hard. But I think it's what the American people see in my father. We live in -- a normal life.

BORGER: Let me ask you about tonight. The president himself has said that he was too polite in his debate. Will your father go on the attack because President Obama was too polite?

B. BIDEN: We'll see tonight, right? You'll see -- but my father is always respectful and he'll be respectful tonight. But he's going to --

BORGER: That sounds like a yes.

B. BIDEN: It's not -- we'll see, right? We'll see. BORGER: Would you expect him to draw sharp contrasts between himself and Congressman Ryan?

B. BIDEN: He's going to try to communicate to the American people the stark choice we have to make on November 6th. And it is a very stark choice.

BORGER: That sounds like a yes.


B. BIDEN: Well, I'm looking forward to the debate.

BORGER: How does your father find that balance where you go on the attack, but on the other hand, you have to remain likable yourself?

B. BIDEN: Well, you know, the debate with Governor Palin was kind of instructive on that. I mean I think there's a lot of talk , you know, you know, about the process stories going into that debate, how do you -- how do you debate Governor Palin? And what he's -- I think what he does, what I've seen him do, what I've observed him doing is he's himself. And he's is -- he is as respectful to his opponent as he has been in every election he's been and for over the course of 40 years now.

And be prepared to understand what your opponent is about and most importantly take an opportunity to talk directly to the American people who like my wife and I have sit it on it in their family room.

BORGER (voice-over): Beau Biden gave us a clue about the vice president's offense tonight, which will hit Romney's performance last week.

B. BIDEN: A great benefit of being my father is that he doesn't have to contort himself into different people at different times. Unlike, by the way, Governor Romney did. Governor Romney was a fundamentally different person in that debate than he was in the 15 or so debates that you covered with his colleagues.

BORGER: Does your dad believe that Paul Ryan will be a different person on that stage than he's been in Congress?

B. BIDEN: Well, that will be the test, won't it? The test will be whether or not Paul Ryan becomes a contortionist and tries to twist himself into a person he's not or whether or not Paul Ryan is true to the things he's been true to over a decade in Congress.

Where he wants to voucherize Medicare, where he wants to cut Pell Grants, where he wants to cut Head Start, where he wants to cut veterans benefits. So we'll see whether or not Paul Ryan is more like the Paul Ryan over the last 10, 12, 14 years.

BORGER: You say your father is your father, he is who he is. He's always the same person. He's also somebody who also makes a lot of gaffes. Is there any room for that tonight? B. BIDEN: My dad says what he means and means what he says.

BORGER: Right.

B. BIDEN: Now a gaffe is when Mitt Romney goes to Great Britain and within 24 hours offends our closest ally.

BORGER: Well, but your father has had his own share.

B. BIDEN: When my father says what he means and means what he says. So tonight, though, you'll see a person who is disciplined like you said in the debate against Sarah Palin. You'll see a person who is disciplines in every single presidential debate that you've covered in 2008.

He did pretty well in all of those. You'll see him a very focused, you know, vice president who is methodically prepared to debate Paul Ryan and communicate and talk to the American people.

BORGER: Why sometimes is he so unpredictable?

B. BIDEN: I wouldn't say he is. He's blunt. He tells people -- you don't have to guess what my dad believes. The reason, though, they would go after him, I think, is because he lands punches. He's the single best communicator of the middle class out there.

BORGER: When you say your father lands punches --

B. BIDEN: He connects. He connects with the middle class in a way that I don't think Governor Romney is able to.

BORGER: Or Paul Ryan?

B. BIDEN: Well, we'll see. We'll see.


COOPER: Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here along with senior political analysts, David Gergen. If he's the best communicator for the middle class the administration has, he's been under wraps. He hasn't had a sit-down interview for months.

BORGER: Well, the last one he had with national medial was the "Meet the Press" interview in which he pre-empted the president by saying he supported gay marriage.

And then you'll recall the president had to kind of hurry up and say, yes, that's the way I am. Look, there's no room for error right now at the end of a presidential campaign.

When he's on the stump, you saw -- Joe Biden made a mistake said the middle class has been buried and I guarantee you that Paul Ryan will probably raise that in this debate.

COOPER: Do you think it's a mistake to keep him under wraps in terms of tonight at the debate. BORGER: He's out there campaigning, though, let's not forget. He is campaigning in key battleground states.

COOPER: But he hasn't had a rough and tumble interview, which is I guess you could say training ground for a debate.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it absolutely is a training ground and listen, there is a good chance as his son, Beau, said to Gloria today that he will be disciplined tonight.

But the Obama White House isn't sure of that. That's why they put him under wraps for five months. I think it's extraordinary. I can't remember a vice president -- because the vice president is really important to you in your campaign as a spokesman and often an attack dog.

So I think it's been a mistake to do that and in the same period of time, Paul Ryan has had 200 interviews or so until even tonight when Paul Ryan is here on CNN talking. They used his son as a surrogate.

Somebody said something, who was an aide to Joe Biden, and I like Joe Biden personally a lot. But he said, you know, Joe Biden is a little like a box of cracker jacks. You just never know what prize is going to come out.

COOPER: You worked in the White House for Republicans and Democrats. Who has that conversation with the vice president after they get an interview that the White House isn't happy with something? Do they say we are going to now put you under wraps or does it just you get frozen out for a while?

GERGEN: Well, I would imagine the word was passed not by the president but one --

BORGER: I think after that interview Joe Biden went to the president. I mean, I think that the conversation the president has with Joe Biden. But I think what's delicious about tonight, as just a viewer, is that the president didn't have a great debate.

And the president had to come out today and say let Joe be Joe, which he probably doesn't mean. And then Joe Biden has to have a great debate to really stop the bleeding.

COOPER: We should rename this delicious debate night. Gloria Borger, David Gergen, thanks very much. Let's check in with Soledad at the debate hall -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, thanks. You know, the program officially is under way. Right at the half hour, there's this hush that fell over the hall. You could have heard a pin drop.

And then a representative from the Commission for Presidential Debates came out and welcomed everybody. This is a homecoming. You remember the 2000 vice presidential debate was held here. There are folks we have been spotting in the seats behind us. Let me tell you who you've seen, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, the most interesting so far front row is Ted Olson. You mentioned before, but he is really almost he could be the eyesight of Paul Ryan.

The man who spent the past month flying around the country with Paul Ryan, doing mock debates, playing the role of Joe Biden and I'm told that he was very much in character, especially the last week or so.

He didn't break character. He tried to be right down the line Joe Biden. The other person that is interesting who is down there right behind Ted Olson is Reince Priebus.

He is, of course, the chairman of the Republican Committee. He's known Paul Ryan forever. They're from the same district in the state of Wisconsin and they're both young and they basically grew up together in Wisconsin politics. So for him, this is an important moment politically but also personally.

O'BRIEN: We've seen Rand Paul, as well and other elected officials. Brianna, what are you watching for tonight? Obviously, you've got roughly 25 minutes before this really officially gets under way, the actual debate.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, the thing I love about it is you can say you're watching for something, but the fact is I feel like at the end of the night, whatever happens is nothing that we could have necessarily predicted.

So that to me is the beauty of it. But right now, what I'm looking for, I'm looking toward the foreign policy section of this. To me this is so intriguing because you have Joe Biden, who really has a leg up when it comes to foreign policy, having been the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And Paul Ryan doesn't really have that experience, but at the same time, the Obama-Biden ticket is so vulnerable when it comes to Libya. That he is really vulnerable I think to some attacks and I want to see how he handles that.

O'BRIEN: It was interesting to hear Mitt Romney talk about Paul Ryan's lack of experience, almost making a joke. I think he's had one debate maybe another one in high school or something like that. That is, of course, not exactly correct. He's had more than one debate in his past.

KEILAR: Exactly. Obviously, they're in a much, much smaller scale. And a tiny little stage compared to what is going to happen tonight, which is tens of millions of viewers. I think the most analogous is the kind of debating that we saw earlier.

And the story that we did, one on one with the president of the United States at the GOP retreat that they had a couple of years ago, the health care summit where we went head to head with Joe Biden. So he has experience on a national stage, nothing like this.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see how this national stage plays a difference in that. Thank you. Appreciate it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much. The applause obviously coming in. Let's check in with our other reporters who are on the scene for us in Kentucky.

Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta, Jessica, first to you. You're in the spin room right now. There's going to be a lot of spinning afterwards.

It was interesting that after the first presidential debate, it took the Democratic spinners a while to get there because they suspected the president didn't do all that well.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The room was filled immediately after the presidential debate with the surrogates for the Republican campaign. But it took a while for the Democrats to come in.

That's not the case this time around. The room is filled with plenty of Democrats. I have one with me right now, Senator Dick Durbin who has known both President Obama and the vice president.

You served with him for 10 years in the Senate. You're a co- chair of the Obama campaign. Let me ask you. The president said that he was a little too polite in his debate last week. Are you hopeful that the vice president is a little impolite tonight?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: No, I wouldn't go that far, but I do want him to be direct, to address the issues. I think the president missed some opportunities. I think he would be the first to confess that.

I know Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the chairman of the Judicial Committee, quite a career in the Senate. He is also a person that listens carefully to people and he understands some of the things that Governor Romney said in the campaign reversed course on in the debate.

YELLIN: That will be a point that he will clearly try to draw out tonight and make this case that the Obama campaign has been making that there are reversals.

But one of the most important goals for the vice president tonight is to make the economic case for the campaign. It will be important for him to be on offense instead of defending the president's record. How does he do that?

DURBIN: Well, the one thing the president should have brought up more often was Romney's position, which said let the automobile companies go bankrupt. He wrote an article in "The Washington Post," that was the headline, let them go bankrupt and thousands of American jobs would have been lost. If we're talking about a president who is going to lead this country in creating jobs, you wouldn't stand back and allow a sector like the automobile businesses, Chrysler or GM, to go bankrupt. I hope that the vice president zeros in on that particular point. It means a lot across the Midwest.

YELLIN: I imagine he also brings up Congressman Ryan's budget and tries to draw Mitt Romney to it and there's probably a lot of pressure on him tonight, as well, I imagine. Senator Dick Durbin with us. Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jessica. Let's go to Jim Acosta. He has a guest, as well -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. I'm with Senator John Thune from South Dakota. Senator Thune served with Joe Biden in the Senate and Paul Ryan in the House so that means you can handicap both of these contenders tonight. So why don't you go ahead and do that for us.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, look, it will be an interesting debate. Joe Biden as you know is a very -- as most Americans I think knows a very colorful guy.

Of course, Paul Ryan always does his homework. When he came to the House of Representatives, he immersed himself into the details of policy. He is a guy who will be very well prepared.

What I hope to see tonight is just the clear contrast that I think exists in terms of the two different visions for the future of this country. I think that will come out pretty clearly tonight, because these are two guys who will be able to mix it up when it comes to the big policy issues.

I know Paul Ryan and Governor Romney want this election to be about big things. I hope that we have an opportunity tonight to debate some of those big things because the country has some very large challenges ahead of us.

ACOSTA: Senator, Joe Biden has made it sound as if he's going to get in there and it might be a little scrappy tonight with Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan. Do you think Paul Ryan is ready for that?

THUNE: I do. Paul Ryan is a very competitive guy and in every aspect of his life, particularly when it comes to explaining complex policy issues. I think he'll be very ready and able to mix it up.

I think Vice President Biden is, you're probably right, going to be a little more aggressive coming out of the debate. But I think Paul Ryan will be ready for that. It will be interesting to see they'll probably spar a little early, but we'll see the contrast between the two visions.

ACOSTA: How concerned are Republicans in Congress right now about the word "voucher" coming out tonight? I would be surprised if Joe Biden does not go after Paul Ryan with the word voucher. Are you comfortable with that coming up in this campaign so much?

THUNE: Well, I think there probably isn't any better spokesperson on the issue than Paul Ryan. It's not a voucher. Paul Ryan will have the opportunity to explain that. He gets mischaracterized a lot.

This is an opportunity for him in unfiltered way to be able to get the message across about what his ideas and his plans consists of. And obviously at the end of the day, it's Governor Romney's plan that we'll be talking about.

But Paul Ryan has put some ideas out there. I think they're ideas that get at the fundamental problems that we have as a nation. And I hope that Vice President Biden has a response for that because so far the administration hasn't had one.

ACOSTA: All right, Senator Thune, thanks very much. Sounds like it will be a test of ideas and a test of wills. We'll have to see who comes out on top -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At one point Senator Thune himself was being considered as a potential vice presidential running mate. Obviously didn't get it. Let's go to Shannon Travis right now in Kentucky.

He's outside the debate hall in Kentucky. He is with some students right now. Shannon, what's going on where you are?

SHANNON TRAVIS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, actually, Wolf, it's a mix of students and seniors here at this huge debate watch party, not too far from the actual site of the debate itself.

Students and seniors, because it's sponsored by AARP, it's an association for retired person obviously. It's a lot of music, a lot of food, a lot of fun times, but it's also serious business issue advocacy.

In between the songs, there are speeches about voters getting out to vote, engaging voters. I'm just going to move around a little bit and give you a little flavor of what's going on.

Organizers were hoping for about 5,000 to 6,000 people. I would be surprised if it's that many, but it's certainly a lot of people, mostly people just sitting around on their lawn chairs.

Right now, they're listening to some speeches. The president of AARP just finished up a speech again, imploring people to get out there and vote. Two key issues that they're pushing, two issues that you can imagine are important to retired people, Medicare and Social Security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're watching in Danville, Kentucky. They are watching all over the country and maybe they are watching all over the world. Erin Burnett is joining us once again. She is with a focus group of undecided voters in Virginia right now. They'll be watching very, very closely -- Erin. ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": They will, Wolf. In fact, I think they have the hardest job of anyone around the world. They can't sit at home and talk to anyone about this.

They have to sit here, each of them individually with a dial and every single second of the 90 minutes, go ahead and dial, did they like what they are hearing. Do they not like what they're hearing?

You are going to see those lines on the bottom of your screen and you're going to see them broken down by gender. And I encourage all of you to look at that because there are some very interesting things you'll see, what men and what women like, or don't like about the individuals and what they say.

So far I can tell you some things about our focus group. We have 31 people here. Everyone here is from the state of Virginia. This is a crucial swing state. These people could be determining who wins the White House.

They were taking some poll results. I don't know if you all even know the results of this, but you consider yourselves to be very informed, very interested and not satisfied with the choices that they have for president this time around, Wolf.

If they had to vote today, of the 31 people sitting in this focus group, 35 percent of them say they would vote for the president, 32 percent for Mitt Romney and a third of them are undecided. We're going to see if more of those become undecided.

Another crucial thing I wanted to highlight, let me ask all of you here, how many of you are satisfied with the direction this country is going in right now?

As you can see, just three or four, maybe five hands and how many are not satisfied with the direction of the country is going in? You can see an overwhelming number of people here.

This is something, Wolf, we saw when we were talking to undecided voters in the other crucial swing state of Colorado, but that is the crucial question.

Not satisfied with where it's going, who is going to bring this country in a better direction in the next four years? We're going to see that a third of those voters here tonight who consider themselves not sure who they are going to vote or if we move some of the voters tonight, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Erin. We're looking forward to seeing those squiggly lines at the bottom of the screen. We have producers and reporters working their sources right now to give us an advanced indication where this debate might be heading.

Let's go to CNN's political reporter Peter Hamby. He is picking up some information on Paul Ryan. What he may do in one critically important area namely foreign policy. Peter, what are you hearing? PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER (via telephone): Yes, that's right, Wolf. I mean, foreign policy will come up tonight for the first time in any of these debates and though that might a view that something of a weakness for Paul Ryan, I just talked to the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell here in his home state of Kentucky.

He told me that Ryan should go straight at Joe Biden and be very aggressive over the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the administration's evolving story there. McConnell told me that the story is, quote, "clearly a weakness for the administration."

He told me, quote, "they just made something up that didn't happen" and Ryan should not be shy about attacking Joe Biden and Barack Obama on that.

Wolf, I also talked to Senator Jack Reed, Obama ally in the Senate, a member of the Armed Services Committee. I asked him, you know, how should Biden respond when this issue comes up? He said, look, we should broaden the story line about Libya.

We didn't send ground troops in. We used air strikes. We brought in our NATO partners and really talk about the positive ways the Obama administration handled Libya.

And he also said, Wolf, Biden should point out that Paul Ryan's most recent budget in the House called for reductions in spending on foreign aid and to the State Department and he said that could jeopardize U.S. security, personnel overseas as well and that Biden should definitely point that out in the course of the debate tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We know that half of the debate is supposed to be on foreign policy, national security and the other half on domestic issues. Right now, they're introducing the wives of these two vice presidential candidates. Soledad, you're there. Tell our viewers what you're seeing.

O'BRIEN: That's right, Wolf. We're told that any moment, they are going to be introducing the wives -- the Commission for Presidential Debates has been really running through their program as they head up through the start of the debate. Interesting difference between the two wives, very different women, of course.

KEILAR: Very different, primarily because we do see Jill Biden a lot out there with Michelle Obama, talking about military families.

Jan Ryan has not done any interviews. Believe me, we tried and she wants to maintain a low key kind of demeanor. But she's very accomplished in her own right and while in Washington, she was a Democrat from a Democratic family.

She's actually related to the Born family of Oklahoma, but she decided to give it up. She went back to Wisconsin with him to Janesville. She is raising her three kids. She simply has the pedigree to be able to get out there and talk about politics, but she's chosen not to. O'BRIEN: Very interesting and very different than Jill Biden. They are about to introduce Martha Raddatz. She is going to be the moderator for this debate. She's only two women moderating the presidential and vice presidential debate.

Of course, the presidential debate moderator, it will be our own Candy Crowley. It will be a very different tone certainly, and this is the introduction of Martha.

Martha Raddatz has now been introduced as the moderator. The way that this is set up, the two of them seated around a table, it's a very different feel than the presidential debate we saw.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is different. And if they start to get feisty with each other, you're really going to feel it. And the other interesting thing, the Biden folks say of course there's this question mark about Paul Ryan because he hasn't been tested in a national debate. Martha Raddatz really doesn't have a paper trail when it comes to moderating a debate.

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there. Let's listen to Martha Raddatz as she addresses the crowd.

MARTHA RADDATZ, SENIOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: That was not me so it was fantastic. I am not the scolding type, so I am not really going to repeat all these things about turning off your cell phones. I'm just going to give you a warning.

I was once in a White House briefing and my phone went off and my son, who is here somewhere tonight, had put in Comillionare's "Riding Dirty," which is apparently hip-hop. So that broke up that, and I've never had my cell phone go off anywhere ever again.

But I am very honored to be here tonight. It is a great opportunity I think for all of you. It is great to see the families. Vice President Biden and Congressman, Ryan, honored to be here.

I'm going to sit here. I'm not used to -- I think a few of you know I've spent a good deal of time in war zones, so I'm not used to sitting with my back to the audience.

And usually just sort of roll out and I'm on TV. So this took a while. But it is great to be here. I hope we have a wonderful and lively debate. And thank you all for coming.

O'BRIEN: We were listening to remarks from Martha Raddatz, saying she's honored to be here. She says it's very unusual to be facing away from the audience. Martha spends a lot of time in war zones.

So this is very unusual for her to be, you know, facing away from the audience and also to have so much fuss, talking about instead of scolding the audience about turning your cell phones off, she just reminded her own cell phone went off playing a rap song.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brianna was making an important point. We talk about how the candidates are preparing to debate one other and they're doing as much prep as they can on the moderators. The Ryan camp said they've found only one thing they found she moderated at a think tank.

KEILAR: The question is, does she ask broad questions or stay topical and newsy? They're preparing more for newsy than you would have seen last week in Denver because she has so much connection to the news of the day.

O'BRIEN: For more specifics on what is going to come up tonight, let's go to Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Our political director, Mark Preston, has been working his sources as well. He's joining us on the phone. He is there in Kentucky. What are you learning, Mark?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR (via telephone): Well, you know, Wolf, we've heard the vice president talk a lot about growing up in Pennsylvania, particularly his hometown of Scranton.

A senior Romney/Ryan campaign official just told me that if the vice president tries to emphasis his roots in Scranton to relate to people struggling in the Obama economy, expect that Paul Ryan will mention that the unemployment rate in Scranton was 8.5 percent when Barack Obama took office and it's now 10 percent.

They can't say people in Scranton are better off now than four years ago. But I spoke to an Obama/Biden campaign official and this official told me that they don't necessarily view this debate as a matchup between the vice president and Congressman Ryan.

Rather expect the vice president to draw a clear contrast between the Romney-Ryan plans and the Obama-Biden vision for the future. And also the vice president is going to talk about what the president has done on behalf of the middle class and emphasize this is about laying out our vision and contrasting it with their vision -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff that's going on. We're continuing to work our sources. We're only a few moments away from the start of this, the one and only vice presidential debate. Let's check in with Anderson.

COOPER: Just give a quick primer to the viewers, what are each of you going to be watching for?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think can Paul Ryan keep the spotlight on the incumbent and his record tonight. Because obviously we all seen the movie "Air Force One" where they drop the shaft to keep the missiles away from the presidential plane. That's what the Obama strategy is going to be tonight.


PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: About 20 percent defend and deflect. About 80 percent put Romney on trial. That's Joe Biden's job. MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Biden's job as we saw in the previous clips, this is what Dick Cheney did in his debates is to broaden and deepen an understanding of the Romney presidency. That's what is missing and that's how Romney got his momentum and there is nobody that can do that better than Ryan.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: Biden has to smash the etch-a-sketch. You can't let Ryan pretend to be somebody that he's not. And he has to remind people of what we are fighting for and nobody does that better than Joe Biden.

BORGER: He has to supply the passion that was lacking in the last debate and remind Democrats why they loved Barack Obama last time and should this time.

COOPER: David?

GERGEN: Vice presidential debates in the past have been great entertainment and quickly forgotten. I'm waiting to see if this one actually affects the race.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is why we have elections. You've got a passionate advocate for conservatives, smaller government, take the power out of Washington. And a passionate advocate for no, government should have a bigger role than this guy and his running mate Mitt Romney wants.

I think that's good for the American people if they can lay that out, that gives you a better choice. For Paul Ryan, it's about keeping the momentum. For Joe Biden, it's about bringing back Democratic morale.

COOPER: Paul, what do you think is going on behind the scenes now? We saw Mitt Romney watching a game of Jinga being played, which to me seemed incredibly stressful.

BEGALA: Al Gore used to stand and we would put the notes on butcher paper and he would scan it around. Bill Clinton would sit around. We bounce the basketball back and forth, and talk about mystery novels he just read.

Everybody is different. So you have to find a way to relax him. I always felt like I was the goat they put in a stable before the thoroughbred races.

CASTELLANOS: One of the best things that Mitt Romney did in that last debate is he looked like he was enjoying it. If they're enjoying it, people will enjoy supporting them in this debate. That's a key.

COOPER: I'm trying to figure out why they put a goat in with a thoroughbred.

BEGALA: A goat calms them down.

COOPER: I did not know that.

BEGALA: You need to gamble more.

COOPER: Definitely not a gambler. Wolf, what are you going to be looking for?

BLITZER: I'm looking for everything because I love the domestic stuff and the foreign policy stuff. I want to see a great debate on the issues.

Let's see if the vice president learned some of the lessons from the last debate, if he is going to be as tough as a lot of people expect to be going on. I know they're both backstage right now.

There are only a few -- two, three minutes from the start of the debate. I'm wondering as someone who has been there, how nervous do you think these two guys are?

BEGALA: About as nervous as a hooker in church. This is a very high-stress moment.

COOPER: I don't know what that means. Do hookers get nervous in church?

BLITZER: I've been going to the wrong church.

BEGALA: Nervous as a porcupine in a balloon factory.

COOPER: Wow, OK. John King, can this really change the narrative? If Joe Biden has a very good night, does that begin to change the kind of malaise we've heard?

KING: The principle reason for movement in the polls is the energy of the base of either party. The Democratic base was energized after the Democratic National Convention. That's why the president's numbers went up.

The Republican base was energized after Romney's first debate performance that's why Romney numbers have gone up. There's not a lot of undecided.

So if Joe Biden can get the Democrats back happy, back energized, back saying I want to play, he'll at least stabilize the race right now.

One other point, Paul Ryan has one test that he has to pass that Joe Biden has already passed. He's the sitting vice president. So a lot of people might not like him, but he's passed the test.

He's been on the ticket in a national election. Paul Ryan has to convince the American people if God forbid something happened to Mitt Romney wins, I can be president.

GERGEN: Paul Ryan can do more for his guy than I think Joe Biden can. If he wins tonight, you get a sense of momentum. If Biden wins tonight, you stop the momentum on the other side, but it's up to the president to come back in the other debate. BORGER: And Paul Ryan is also evidence of Mitt Romney's judgment because he picked him. So Paul Ryan has to pass the test with the American people, because Mitt Romney said this man, God forbid something should happen, is qualified to be president of the United States. So it's really reflection of Mitt Romney.

CASTELLANOS: One of the things that's missing in this campaign, they've been going at it, it's so negative. People are desperate for a little vision.

Paul Ryan, young guy, can he say look, that's great, but we can do better than this? Can he take us to a better place? But watch out for Joe Biden.

Middle class, beer drinking Joe Biden, find that motional middle class moment and say Paul Ryan, don't you know the people you are going to hurt?

COOPER: And Paul to your point and you made it earlier, but I think it bears repeating in this minute right before the debate gets underway is, they will, if they attack, you want them to -- they both should be attacking upward as opposed to each other.

BEGALA: Right. Right. It's going to be one of two ways. They'll either both attack up, or -- and this is bad for the principals. If -- if they may just get along and have a very civil polite conversation, helping Paul Ryan, helping Joe Biden without helping either, certainly not helping President Obama and not helping Mitt Romney. So they actually have to be pretty contentious toward the guy at the top.

JONES: Well, one thing that hasn't been talked about so far is poor people. One of the things -- you know, we talk about the middle class. The middle class is getting destroyed. It's very important, I think, that we remember that Paul Ryan actually has something to say about poor people. And a lot of -- not that happy. He wants to take away the nutritional programs. He's against Pell Grants. Those -- I think -- I think if you -- if you want to talk about what's happening in Scranton, what will help people in Scranton is not what Paul Ryan is talking about.

COOPER: We've got to go over to Wolf because the debate is about to start -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We're only a few seconds away, Anderson, from the start of this debate. A 42-year-old Republican vice presidential nominee, a 69-year-old sitting vice president of the United States. Two very, very different men. They've both been preparing almost nonstop the last few days, but they've been preparing for weeks and weeks and weeks.

Paul Ryan making it clear that he's gone through a ton of issues. He's got to work really hard on the foreign policy and national security issues, and the vice president wants to make sure he doesn't have one of those gaffes that have plagued him over the years. Both of these candidates, they are ready, they're getting ready to walk onto that stage. They are about to be introduced by the moderator of this debate, Martha Raddatz. She will make the introduction right now.