Fight Night: Your Guide To Tonight's VP Debate

We've teamed up with our friends over at theSkimm to bring you some at-a-glance (and surprisingly funny) debate-prep primers, so you can be as informed as possible, watching the circus that is the 2012 election unfold. Read on and be sure to check out theSkimm's site, and sign up for its newsletters for a daily dose of news at an (entertaining) glance.
THE STORY: The one and only vice-presidential debate is tonight at 9 p.m. ET. VP Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan will square off to defend their respective work-husbands.
THE PRE-SHOW: The brief moment when the candidates are backstage praying or hyperventilating, letting the camera focus on the front row of the audience to show the wives. The last presidential debate started off with an awkward handshake/hug/lean display of affection between Michelle Obama and Ann Romney. Tonight, it’s Dr. Jill Biden and Janna Ryan’s turn to face off. We’re game to see how this plays out. Just don’t expect any helmet hair or outfits from the "pantsuits that travel well" collection.
Let’s handicap the greeting with some info about the women in front of the men at the podium:
Dr. Jill Biden — “Dr. B,” as her students call her, is a teacher at a community college. She is one of the few second ladies to keep her day job, which she loves almost as much as her work with military families that she does along with Michelle (as in Obama — they’re tight). Jill is a mom to three kids and grandmother to five but still makes the occasional off-color joke, including one of the nude shade when she gestured that the VP is well endowed at a campaign event, recently. Also, girlfriend has legs for days and picks brightly colored outfits that make the most of them. Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it...tastefully, of course.
Janna Ryan — Paul’s wife is no stranger to politics, even though this is her husband’s first run on the big ticket. She comes from a politically active (Democrat! Ahem, something caught in our throat) family and is from a small town in Oklahoma, so she knows folks. Janna moved to the big city, D.C., and became a lobbyist. She’s now a stay-at-home mom with three adorable kids. Oh, and although she wore a $169 Talbots dress to the Republican National Convention (and wore it well), she’s a millionaire. She is a year older than Mr. Ryan, which we enjoy. #babycougar
WHERE'S THIS GOING DOWN?: Danville, Kentucky at Centre College. Kentucky is REALLY excited.
WHERE CAN I WATCH?: All the major networks and cable news channels will have it. Don't worry, it's only an hour and a half, and you can still tweet and Tumblr your way through it.
IS THERE A THEME?: Officially, no. Unofficially, it's "save my candidate" night. Biden is tasked with making up for Obama's underwhelming performance last week. Ryan is charged with solidifying and building off Romney's newfound boost. One poll may lie, but three don't... Last week's debate changed the race dynamic. Although one debate does not a president make.
Photo: Courtesy of and
SO WHAT DOES TEAM OBAMA HOPE JOE WILL DO?: Enough with the hope, they want: Attack. Attack. Attack. The Obama campaign is letting their attack dog off his leash, since Obama said he was just "too polite" last time. They need Joe to get answers on Romney's tax plan, flip-flopping, and maybe throw in a 47% joke here or there. They need him to be aggressive, but not condescending. Joe can bring the heat, so they're hoping voters watch this fight night.
THAT'S EASY, RIGHT?: Not for poor Joe, a chronic sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease. The campaign hopes he will go into a brief remission in order to swing hard but not be too brutal against the much younger Mini-Mitt. Recent polls show Biden is seen more unfavorably than Ryan. As in, if you were stranded on a desert island, Biden would be voted off, pronto.
WHAT'S THE ROMNEY 'TUDE GOING INTO DEBATE #2: They're calm with a side of edge. While Obama's recent performance may have been a gift, a riled up Joe is no joke. Ryan said he expects Biden to come at him "like a cannonball." Even if unhinged, the VP and longtime senator has done 18 presidential or VP debates over the years. He knows what's up, and while he may have once played nice with the Pitbull in Lipstick, he's not expected to go soft on Ryan.
WHAT DOES RYAN HAVE UP HIS SLEEVE?: Probably a muscle tank. The P90X fanatic is smart and already a GOP star. He's incredibly well spoken, and completely geeks out over budgets, taxes, and entitlement programs. All party tricks. And, he has fantastic hair.
WHERE CAN RYAN GO WRONG?: He's younger, which can work for or against him, and his experience on the House Budget Committee could almost make him too knowledgeable about budget intricacies. What's more boring than reading about the budget? Hearing about it.
WE’VE GOT A CRIER!: Nothing says leadership more than a man who’s in touch with his tear ducts. They may have to walk the presidential walk (gotta be on your toes as #2), but there’s an art to softening your image. Introducing one of the toughest battles on the campaign trail: Who can out-cry the other? Right now, Biden is in the lead, as he cried at the DNC, on the Today show, at the 2008 debates, and while he was a senator. Ryan cued the waterworks when he was chosen as Mitt’s (running) mate, but needs to let his P90X side down a bit more.
WHAT'S OFF LIMITS?: New rule — Big Bird, if Sesame Street has its way. The "Street" asked the Obama campaign to nix an ad using the yellow friend against Romney (who said he would take away PBS's funding at the last showdown). Obama advisor Robert Gibbs says the Bird stays on air. Also out of bounds: Romney will no longer be using the story of meeting a slain Navy SEAL in his campaign speeches after the deceased's mother complained he was politicizing her son's death.
The future of Medicare and social security: Ryan made a national name for himself as the prom king of the budget Democrats hate (HATE!). As House Budget Committee chairman, he introduced a controversial budget that included big cuts to entitlement programs, like Medicare. He and Joe will compete to prove who loves seniors more. (One point for Biden for being one.)
Foreign Policy: The Obama administration is on the defense after Romney attacked its global hope and fail strategy this week. Plus, there is congressional drama over what went wrong in Libya. But, Biden has years of foreign policy experience, going back to his decade-plus time on the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Ryan has repped Wisconsin.
Economy: Biden will have to defend Obama's record like woah. Obama owes him a drink.
Social issues: Otherwise known as abortion and gay marriage. Both men are Catholics, and will be in a faith-off to discuss who reps family values best — the one who opposes a woman's right to choose and is anti-gay marriage, or the one who came out for gay marriage before even Obama did and works to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Sob stories: Both men have overcome extreme challenges and love to share. Biden's first wife and their baby were killed when he was a new senator, and he had to raise his two sons alone (until Jill). Then, he survived a life-threatening brain aneurysm. He also rode the train home. A lot. Ryan discovered his father's body when he was 16-years-old. Now, he works out a lot.
If you have to listen to another 90 minutes of back and forth, at least you can have some fun. Let's break this out Ryan-style and do a push up when you hear these buzz words (Note: "work out" can be substituted with a "take a drink," rather easily, if you ask us).
*Scranton/Amtrak: As in Biden's hometown and his excuse to take his favorite means of transportation: the train.
* Folks: As in Biden loves this word and all the good working-class people out there.
* Budget: As in Biden is worried about his own social security under Paul Ryan.
* Leadership: As in Ryan doesn't think Obama has any.
* Obamacare: As in Ryan wants this gone.
* Janesville: As in Ryan's hometown and where he still lives. We get it, you want your kids to be just like you.
WHAT'S NEXT?: Barry and Mitty face off again on October 16. Big Bird is already nervous.
NEED MORE? Sign up at to get the full debate treatment and to get your Daily Skimm newsletter — you know, everything you need to know to get you through each day, looking and sounding smart.
Photo: Courtesy of Duncan Wolfe for Obama for America and

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