Normally vice presidential debates aren't all that important. This one promises to be for two reasons: The first is that Paul Ryan is the VP nominee for the Republicans. Not since John F. Kennedy tabbed Lyndon Johnson in 1960, has a running mate meant so much to a ticket. Johnson delivered Texas, along with most of the South. Without him, Richard Nixon would've won the election hands down.
But the second and most important reason this debate will be crucial is due to the positions Paul Ryan and his reluctant running mate espouse. Unlike Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan is a true believer, a disciple of the highest order. While Romney conned his way through 90 minutes of etch-a-sketch magic, basically running away from every position he's taken over the last twelve months, Ryan will do everything in his power to run toward them.
Like Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, he wants to have that conversation that Romney avoided like the plague in Denver. Ryan wouldn't know an etch-a-sketch if it hit him in the face. Joe Biden's job on Thursday is not to stop him but to encourage him to speak his mind. And, when the Wisconsin representative begins to show any hesitancy, egg him on.
Ironically, the one character trait that Joe Biden seems to have in abundance - the ability to fearlessly speak his mind even when it doesn't always come out right - may be just the perfect tonic for what is currently ailing the campaign. He's had much more experience debating than either his rival or his boss. Flying without a net comes naturally for him. In short, he's the run and shoot to Obama's ball control offense.
Normally the strategy going into a VP debate would be to play it safe. Do no harm, as they say. Obama's performance last week took that option off the table. Romney has ostensibly erased his deficit and has drawn even in the polls. Hence, Biden not only has to "move the chains" he has to put some points up on the board.
Put simply, Joe Biden has two objectives in this debate: 1. Effectively rebut the lies that Ryan will no doubt attempt to peddle, just like Romney did with impunity in Denver; and 2. Let Ryan hang himself with his own budget. If he manages to pull off both, then the hemorrhaging will finally stop and the polls will start to go back to where they had been prior to the first debate. If he fails, then it could be game, set, match.