Vice President Joseph R. Biden isn't known for his disciplined oratory, but after watching Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney outperform President Obama during Wednesday night's debate, Mr. Biden said he's ready to face Mr. Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, and pin him down on the facts.
The vice president and Mr. Ryan will have their own opportunity to go toe to toe before a prime-time audience next Thursday at Centre College in Danville, Ky., and with pundits giving Mr. Romney the first win, Mr. Biden is under pressure to even the score next week.
During Wednesday's debate, Mr. Biden said, the president "did well" and was "presidential" against what he described as a shape-shifting Mr. Romney. Mr. Biden said he's studying up on the finer details of Mr. Ryan's positions so the Wisconsin Republican can't follow Mr. Romney's example and easily pivot away from attacks.
"You just don't ever know what game, what positions Gov. Romney's going to come with," he told reporters while campaigning in Council Bluffs, Iowa. "Last night we found out he doesn't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I guess he outsourced that to China or something."
Even though his loose lips and chummy style have created headaches for Mr. Obama throughout the election, Mr. Biden also is a seasoned debate veteran who has run for president twice and memorably faced then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008. Relatively untested, Mr. Ryan is more of a blank slate. His aides say he may have participated in just one debate when he first ran for Congress 14 years ago.
Mr. Ryan left the campaign trail Tuesday night to spend Wednesday and Thursday morning hunkered down in debate preparation at a resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains 150 miles southwest of Washington. He was joined by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who played the role of Mr. Biden in mock debates.
Mr. Ryan planned to rejoin Mr. Romney in Fishersville, Va., at a rally Thursday evening but has not publicly talked about Mr. Romney's win or his own preparations, commenting only through his Twitter account.
During the debate itself, Mr. Ryan weighed in via Twitter four times with the hashtag #CantAfford4More – all comments focused on repealing Mr. Obama's health-care overhaul. At one point, he praised Mr. Romney for making "a strong case for repeal & replace," and during another he said "Obamacare" posed the greatest threat to Medicare, noting that "our plan proposes no changes for those in or near retirement."
"@MittRomney defined the clear choice facing America," Mr. Ryan tweeted late Wednesday night, including a photo of himself watching a TV screen in a lodgelike hotel room. "He is the man for the moment and will lead us to a real recovery."
The day after the debate, Mr. Biden echoed the Obama campaign's contention that Mr. Romney had evaded the truth and outright lied during the debates, a strategy Mr. Biden predicted will come back to bite him as fact-checkers point out discrepancies.
"I think as time goes on, meaning days, it's going to become pretty clear that Gov. Romney has either changed a number of his positions or didn't remember some of his positions," Mr. Biden said. "I think at the end of the day, we have two more debates coming up, or the president does, and I feel very good about it."
Monday morning quarterbacking about the president's debate performance is so easy to do, the vice president pointed out, but there's "nothing like standing up before 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 million people."
"So all debates are tough," he said. "But I'm looking forward to it. ... We have a fundamentally different view on a whole range of issues, so I hope it will be a fun debate."
Mr. Biden's frequent gaffes on the trail have given Republicans plenty of campaign fodder: His latest earlier this week that the middle class was "buried" over the last four years became one of Mr. Romney's sharpest attack lines Wednesday. And the vice president seemed keenly focused on trying to keep his tongue in check during next week's debate.
"I don't want to say anything in the debate that's not completely accurate," he said.
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