After President Obama’s widely panned performance in the first presidential debate, and Mitt Romney’s rapid rise in the polls, there’s no denying that Thursday’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan is — as Biden himself might put it — a Big F***ing Deal.
The conventional wisdom leading up to the debate is that Ryan, the smooth-talking would-be wonk from Wisconsin, has an advantage over the gaffe-prone vice president. In reality, however, Biden has proven himself to be a gifted debater who is more than capable of going toe to toe with Ryan.
Biden, who served in the Senate for over 30 years and has run for president twice, has a great deal of experience talking about the issues and boiling them down into easy talking points (such as his oft-repeated “bumper sticker” line that “Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive”).
Biden showed off his debating skill throughout his oft-forgotten 2008 presidential campaign; in fact, NBC News’ Chuck Todd has argued that Biden actually won the majority of the Democratic primary debates. He delivered some truly memorable lines along the way, as when he famously slammed Rudy Giuliani for only speaking in sentences consisting of “a noun and a verb and 9/11.”
In addition to that takedown, The Huffington Post has compiled a video of some other memorable Biden debate moments.
Biden may be uniquely well suited to debate Rep. Ryan, due to the way that his strengths mirror Ryan’s weaknesses. Biden’s experience creates a sharp contrast with Ryan’s youthful looks (a comparison that Mitt Romney unhelpfully drew attention to when he listed “high school” as Ryan’s only debate experience). Biden served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while Ryan has almost no foreign policy experience (a gap in his résumé that may appear glaring if the debate turns to the controversy in Libya).
All this is not to say that Biden is guaranteed to wipe the floor with Ryan. After all, the Republican vice presidential nominee is well known for his ability to eloquently pitch his controversial plans, and — if last week’s presidential debate is any indication — Ryan’s tendency to stretch the truth may not hurt him on the debate stage. Plus, there’s always a possibility that Biden slips up and sticks his foot in his mouth.
One thing is certain, however: unlike President Obama, if Biden does lose Thursday’s debate it won’t be because he was “too polite.“