Presidential race tightening up as running mates prepare for debate

Vice President Joe Biden (D)

Thursday night is the first and only vice presidential debate. It's taking place at Centre College in Louisville, Kentucky.

After last week's debate, Team Obama needs a boost. Mitt Romney made some gains in key swing states. He's now leading Virginia by one point, still behind, but up two points in Ohio and there's still a one-point spread between the two in Florida.

Vice President Joe Biden has more experience on the debate stage, but new numbers suggest the public's betting on Paul Ryan winning this one.

Ryan says he's ready to take on the vice president.

"We think he's probably going to come at me like a cannonball, but the Achilles heel he has is President Obama's record," Ryan said.

Ryan is in Kentucky after several days of debate prep in Florida and Virginia. He's reportedly done three mock debates. Ryan's debate partner is former US solicitor general Ted Olson, and he's been sparring with Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen.

The vice president has been in Delaware, studying Ryan's book, his speeches and his budget.

"I just want to make sure that when I say these things that I don't have the Congressman saying 'No, no no, I don't have that position" or 'That's not the governor's position,'" said Biden.

Biden has been a controversial figure, occasionally prone to making rhetorical gaffes. Obama himself came under withering criticism for his lackluster performance in last week's debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.


Biden, who served Delaware in the U.S. Senate for several terms before becoming vice president, got into a rough patch recently when he told a campaign audience in Charlotte, N.C., that the middle-class in America has been "buried" the last four years - the same time frame of Obama's first term as president.

"There is a lot of pressure on Vice President Biden to take the fight to Paul Ryan in an attempt to slow Mitt Romney's momentum from last week's debate," said John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent.

The White House - reluctant to address the president's performance in Denver - said this about next week's presidential debate:

"It's not about him. It's not about his opponent. It's not about one party or the other -- it's about what would you do -- what will you do -- when you get into office," said Jay Carney, White House press secretary.

Pew research finds 51 percent view Vice President Biden unfavorably - more than Ryan. Around 40 to 34 percent think Ryan will win tonight's debate.

Meantime, the president told ABC News, "Joe just needs to be Joe. Congressman Ryan is a smart and effective speaker. but his ideas are the wrong ones. And Joe understands that."

Watch the debate tonight at 9:00 pm on WTHR Channel 13 or on