Tonight Paul Ryan faces off against vice president Joe Biden in the only VP debate and the second of four debates between the competing tickets.
The mission for each is clear.
Paul Ryan’s challenges are two-fold.
First, he must look presidential. One of Sarah Palin’s biggest problems was that she did not make a credible second in command.
The age difference between the two VP candidates is greater than any that has participated in a televised debate.
Biden is a master not only of domestic policy, but especially of foreign policy.
Ryan cannot afford to make a mistake on this front.
Ryan’s second challenge is to keep the ever shifting policy differences of the ticket straight and not confuse his initiatives in Congress with those of the Romney/Ryan ticket as Mitt Romney has dismissed, at times, a number of elements of the Ryan budget, for example.
Ryan needs to keep those issues straight while defending his boss’ run to the middle, most recently on choice.
When pressed on the Romney/Ryan stance on abortion yesterday Ryan said you’ll find out in the debates.
Ryan also will be pressed hard on budget issues. The question is will he be able to dodge them all night?
As for Joe Biden, his task is more simple and he will be under the microscope.
He must press Ryan harder than Obama held Romney accountable for the Mitt flops of the GOP ticket.
He must focus on a grand theme for the Romney/Ryan ticket and hold the discussion to that view.
Biden has a history in the Senate of being a tough prosecutor of Supreme Court justice nominees.
He will need to tap into that experience to keep Ryan’s answers boxed into fact checker like responses.
So Biden has two objectives, and they are the exact opposite of Paul Ryan’s.
First, try to make Paul Ryan look inexperienced and un-Presidential and, two, hold the Romney/Ryan ticket accountable for their ever changing policies and focus on Mitt Romney as someone that cannot be trusted.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.