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Ryan and Biden Prepare to Debate; Interview With Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen

Aired October 11, 2012 - 18:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-six days until the presidential election, but tonight it is the running mates in the spotlight.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It certainly is.

And we're counting down to the vice presidential debate between the incumbent, Joe Biden, and the Republican nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan.

In less than three hours, they will face off in Danville, Kentucky.

And that's where CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar begins our coverage this hour.

Brianna, how is the vice president feeling about tonight?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's feeling good. He's feeling ready. That's what one source close to him tells me.

He arrived in nearby Lexington, Kentucky, earlier this afternoon and he made a 45-minute drive to Danville here at Centre College where the debate will take place, where he went on a walk-through of the hall behind me after Paul Ryan had gone on his.

He did talk to reporters about the debate before he left Wilmington, Delaware, which is where he departed from. This is a matchup that is being billed here Danville as the thrill in the Ville. So, perhaps fitting that one reporter asked if his strategy would be rope-a-dope.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking forward to it. Nice of you guys to be here. Are you on the plane with us? All right.


BIDEN: Well, those guys (INAUDIBLE) you ever seen me rope-a- dope?


KEILAR: So, that's not the plan. Expect the vice president to be somewhat on offense, but, of course, still polite, still with a smile, Wolf, as we know Joe Biden to be.

After his walk-through here at Centre College, he went to the private home of a supporter not far away where he was with -- still is with family members and with his team of aides. He reviewed some of his notes and doing some studying and one source told me that he actually took a nap or had a rest for about an hour or so.

And one source also told me, Wolf, keep an eye on the foreign policy part of this debate. This is an area where the vice president may make some news and may offer some new details on certain foreign policy issues, Wolf.

BLITZER: Half the debate is supposed to be on foreign policy, half on domestic issues, largely the economy.

The vice president has been practicing, practicing, practicing, Brianna. He's been in what they call debate camp. Tell us what you know.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He's been in a four-day intensive debate camp in Wilmington, Delaware, leading up to this. Started on Sunday and wrapped up last night.

And we actually have some photos that were first on CNN to show you the setup, just going to show just how much his team was trying to duplicate the conditions here at Centre College in Danville. A table that he was sitting at opposite Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, which Paul Ryan is the chair, the table the same dimensions and the same setup as it is here.

His communications director, Joe Biden's communications director, Shailagh Murray and also a former "Washington Post" reporter, I should say, playing the role of moderator Martha Raddatz throughout that process. What he did every day, Wolf, was a lot of practice sessions on certain moderator questions and then he would review some policy and then each evening culminating in a mock debate.

The last four nights, he had four mock debates and his team says that he's ready, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thank you very much.

Vice President Biden is about to face off with one of the GOP's rising stars. Paul Ryan is a seven-term congressman from Wisconsin. He made his mark in Washington last year as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan is a self-professed numbers guy and his budget proposal is certain to come up tonight.

Some of its more controversial provisions may give Biden a line of attack.

Let's get details of Ryan's last-minute preparation details.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is also in Danville, Kentucky, scene of the debate.

What are you hearing about Paul Ryan, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have been getting in touch with top advisers to both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan all day long.

A top aide to Paul Ryan tells me this has basically been a down day for the Wisconsin congressman. He has been resting and playing with his children. He did a little exercising, which I suppose is not too surprising coming from Paul Ryan. He did that earlier today and also hitting his debate prep books somewhat, but he has also been doing some intense debate prep over the last several weeks with the former Solicitor General Ted Olson.

That has been his debate sparring partner playing the role of Joe Biden. This Ryan aide tells me do not to look for zingers tonight and look for Paul Ryan to get into the substance of the important issues, he says, facing the country right now. That basically matches up with what I heard from a top Romney adviser earlier today.

They expect Paul Ryan to get into the substance of the issues facing this campaign. They believe that debate tactic worked for Mitt Romney last week in Denver when Mitt Romney -- there was all this talks about zingers and the zingers might fly.

Mitt Romney, by my count, Wolf, only let a couple zingers fly. He mainly got into the substance of the issues facing the day and they feel like that worked for Mitt Romney. That will also work for Paul Ryan. Now, Paul Ryan, as Brianna just mentioned a few moments ago, he did his walk-through on the debate stage and he tweeted out a picture of that. We can put that up on screen.

But, Wolf, as you know, we have been talking about this all day long, there are some other pictures of Paul Ryan that have been up for discussion throughout the day. They are these pictures that were released by "TIME" magazine earlier this morning. They show the vice presidential contender before he was the vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney working out in his workout clothes and so those pictures were put out by "TIME" magazine earlier today.

I talked to a top Ryan aide who said that people around the Wisconsin congressman are outraged by all of this. They were very surprised that "TIME" magazine would put out these pictures on the same day of a debate. They thought that was provocative putting that out on the same day when important issues should be discussed and it was their understanding that those pictures were never going to be released.

One final thing I should mention, Wolf, I heard from a top Ryan aide just before we went on the air that the Wisconsin congressman expects to be called Mr. Ryan tonight, not Congressman Ryan or Chairman Ryan. That is in the debate's memorandum of understanding, the MOU that both sides -- that was not a part of the MOU, but something that they hope will be agreed to by Joe Biden later on tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, as you know, I spoke with Rick Stengel, the managing editor of "TIME" magazine, in the last hour, and that's our sister publication, and he denied there was any commitment to Ryan or anyone else that they wouldn't release these pictures.

And he said they decided to release these pictures because they thought it was a good time to release them, that from Rick Stengel, who joined me here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the last hour -- Anderson.


We're also watching of course the presidential candidates and some claims they have making about jobs and abortion.

CNN's John Berman is checking the facts for us.

John, what are you finding out?


Of course both candidates like to say they will create jobs. Mitt Romney has been crediting studies that say his tax plan will create millions of them. This is what he told Wolf earlier this week.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're not going to see that growth unless we have a tax policy which encourages businesses, small and large, to make investments and to hire people.

That's why I want to put in place the plan I described. And, by the way, it's been scored by people at Rice University as creating about seven million new jobs.


BERMAN: Romney is citing a study by John Diamond from Rice University that says that under certain circumstances the Romney tax plan could add 6.8 million jobs.

However, Diamond says that since Romney does not make clear how he would pay for his plan, Diamond had to make certain assumptions and depending on what deduction and loopholes Romney closes, that could change the results.

Our verdict here is true with important qualifications on the claim that there is a study that says his plan would add seven million jobs. It only adds seven million according to the study if you assume certain details that Romney simply doesn't provide.

Also, we should not that Diamond, while not a paid adviser to the Romney campaign, has provided some advice to the campaign. Of course, abortion is back in the news this week. Mitt Romney told "The Des Moines Register" he has no legislation on abortion as part of his agenda.

President Obama told Diane Sawyer that's not true.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney has made very clear that if a bill comes to his desk that overturns Roe vs. Wade, that he will be fully supportive of that. And he said, I will appoint justices that will overturn Roe vs. Wade.

And now four weeks before an election, he is trying to cloud the question.


BERMAN: So, the facts here are this. Mitt Romney has said repeatedly he does support overturning Roe vs. Wade.

And just yesterday he said his budget would take away funding for Planned Parenthood, a group which provides abortion, but which they say, not with federal money.

The verdict here is true to the president's claims that Mitt Romney says he would overturn Roe vs. Wade and his charge that Mitt Romney's statements got a little cloudy this week. Both those statements, Anderson, appear to be true.

COOPER: John, we will be checking in with you throughout this evening. A lot of facts to check, no doubt, coming out of this debate.

We are counting down to the vice presidential debate. CNN's special coverage begins at the top of the next hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And up next, we will hear from the man who played Paul Ryan in Biden's debate rehearsal. Congressman Chris Van Hollen joins us live.


BLITZER: No one may know better what Paul Ryan is in for tonight than Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Take a look at this picture, first brought to you exclusively by CNN. You see the Democratic congressman standing in for Paul Ryan as part of Vice President Biden's debate preparations. And this picture came out later from Biden's Twitter feed. The mock contests were part of four days of intense debate preparations Biden has had in his home state of Delaware.

Chris Van Hollen is joining us now from Danville, Kentucky, for tonight's big event. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

So, here's a key question: Will the vice president do tonight what the president didn't do last week, namely come out swinging? REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Look, Joe Biden is going to be Joe Biden. That would have been true whether he was doing this after a different debate last week or not. You know Joe Biden, and the American people have gotten to know him. This guy's a fighter for the middle class. He feels it in his gut, and even more importantly, the policies that he and the president stand for are ones that will help the middle class, which is in stark contrast to the Romney/Ryan plan.

So, I think the nation is in for a really good discussion tonight.

BLITZER: I think you're probably right -- a very serious, strong discussion.

Look, you know Paul Ryan now, probably better than anyone. You've studied and studied him, getting ready for these debate preparations. Where do you believe the Wisconsin congressman is most vulnerable?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Paul Ryan is very quick on his feet. We've debated his budget many times in the House. But I think he's most vulnerable when it comes to translating his budget into the impact that it has on real people. Because when you actually begin to crunch the numbers and do the math, you find out that his voucher plan for Medicare is going to really hurt seniors badly. You know that the original plan would have cost seniors more than $6,000. That was according to CBO. And they passed that plan twice in the House without blinking.

You know that his tax plan would provide big tax breaks to very wealthy people at the expense of the middle class. So, the question tonight, is whether Paul Ryan will really level with the American people about the impact his budget will have on middle class families, on seniors, or whether he's going to do what Mitt Romney did the other night, which is just try and run away from the Ryan/Romney plan.

BLITZER: But you know that Mitt Romney has disassociated himself from some of Paul Ryan's legislation, some of Paul Ryan's ideas, for example, on Medicare. You're familiar with that.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, yes, but there's one area where they've absolutely doubled down and that's on the voucher plan. And the way that works is, they save Medicare money by off-loading rising health care costs on to the backs of seniors. So the value of your voucher goes down as the cost of health care goes up. Seniors have to eat the difference.

And then the rest of the plan, Romney actually made the Ryan plan worse for seniors because he is now going to reinstate -- Romney -- the overpayments to the insurance companies. We made savings in Obama care by eliminating some of the big overpayments to private insurance companies. Seniors will now have to pay more premiums and more co- pays -- in fact, $360 a year on average over the next ten years more because Mitt Romney wants to overpay private insurance companies. And, so, when they tell you that you don't have to worry about Medicare changes if you're over 55, that is absolutely not true. Seniors will pay more in premiums for the Romney/Ryan plan. If you have high prescription drug costs, you're going to really be getting hit hard.

BLITZER: You've heard the criticism that the vice president may be out of practice at taking on tough questions from the national news media. He hasn't done a national television interview since five months ago when he was on Meet The Press. The Weekly Standard quotes an unnamed Republican source as saying this, and I'll put it up on the screen. "Joe Biden gets used by the Obama campaign like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie's. They drag him out to a battleground state, prop him up on a podium in front of a teleprompter, pose him for photos with locals and then quickly roll him back to Air Force 2 before reporters have a chance to ask him questions. They want Biden to be seen, but not heard in any interviews because they're afraid he might embarrass the president with another one of his hilarious gaffes."

It's a very serious charge they're making. Is he ready for these kinds of tough questions tonight? He hasn't done it, really, in a while.

VAN HOLLEN: I'm not surprised, Wolf. That came not only from a Republican source, but a Republican source that did not even want to put their name to it. Republicans are usually very eager to put their names to outrageous statement these days.

Look, he is ready, the vice president is ready, and he is looking forward to this debate. And one thing Republicans realize is that Joe Biden relates at a gut level to middle class voters. He grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, working class background, and you can be sure that he's not going to endorse a set of policies that hurt the middle class, which is why he thinks that the Romney/Ryan plan is so bad.

I mean, these are two guys who both endorsed the Bush plan to privatize Social Security. Imagine what would have happened to all those people in the economic downturn. That's what they want to do to Medicare.

So, look, Republicans realize that Joe Biden communicates very directly to middle class voters and very effectively. And of course, this election is about how we're going to deal with the strains that middle class families are facing and whether we're going to continue to climb out of this recession the president inherited, or whether we're going to go back to the same policies that helped Wall Street and put us into this mess.

So, I think Joe Biden is the perfect person to talk directly about those middle class issues up against Paul Ryan tonight.

BLITZER: Congressman Chris Van Hollen, just out of debate preparation, debate boot camp, as they're calling it, in Kentucky right now. Like all of us, getting ready for the debate. Congressman, thanks for coming in.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: So, if you watch Paul Ryan out on the campaign trail, you notice one constant companion, a 40-pound briefcase he carries around. just ahead, he shows our own Dana Bash what is inside that is helping him prepare for tonight's debate. This is a CNN exclusive.


BLITZER: The U.S. has a new man on the ground in Libya in charge of diplomacy.


COOPER: He was just 28 years old when he won his first congressional race. Now at 42, he is taking on an elder statesman of politics -- Paul Ryan's rise to the Republican ticket next.


COOPER: And you are looking at the debate stage in Danville, Kentucky, miles away and years removed of course from Paul Ryan's political roots.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash shows us how Paul Ryan became the man, the congressman he is today.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch Paul Ryan on the campaign trail and you begin to notice a constant companion, a 40-something-pound bag he lugs around himself.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm probably seen with it all the time.

BASH: A weighty burden he clearly can't live without.

(on camera): Can you show us?


BASH: I can barely lift it.


P. RYAN: It's a little heavy.



P. RYAN: What do you think? It's about 30 or 40 pounds.

BASH: At least.

Is this the keys to the kingdom right there? (voice-over): Inside, weeks of piled-up prep for tonight's debate.

P. RYAN: It's pretty heavy. I have got a lot of binders, different subjects.

I'm much more successful if I do things properly and prepare.

BASH: Talk to anyone who knows Paul Ryan and one word always comes up to describe him: prepared.

Older brother, Tobin Ryan:

TOBIN RYAN, BROTHER OF PAUL RYAN: This is guy that does more in a day, absorbs more in a day than I think is humanly possible.

P. RYAN: I have always just believed in, if you're going to do something, do it well. And life is short. You have got to make the most of it.

BASH: Seize the moment, a lesson a teenage Paul Ryan learned from tragedy, his father's untimely death at age 55.

(on camera): This is the house where Paul Ryan was raised and, at age 16, it's where he found his father in bed dead from a heart attack. It's a moment that he says forced him to grow up very fast at a young age.

(voice-over) Tobin Ryan remembers the transformation.

TOBIN RYAN, BROTHER: One of his legacies was to think big. I want to stretch your mind. You need to absorb. And so Paul grew up, I think, in an environment where if you made a comment, you know, our dad would say, "Why did he say that? Have you thought about, you know, enough of it? Are you thinking big enough?"

BASH: In his small hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan always thought big. In high school, he was in ten clubs, was prom King and class president.

(on camera) But he also was voted biggest brown-noser. Why do you think that is?

T. RYAN: He must have been the biggest brown-noser.

BASH (voice-over): In Washington, after college, the ambitious young Ryan made a point of forging relationships with powerful GOP players. Former housing secretary and vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, former education secretary Bill Bennett.


BASH: Back in Wisconsin, Ryan sought out local GOP guru Steve King, who agreed to give a 27-year-old Ryan his first break, backing him for Congress over several more experienced Republican candidates.

KING: Two was frankly not happy with me and one was a close, personal friend and today is not a close, personal friend.

BASH (on camera): I'm guessing you don't regret that decision.

KING: No, not at all. He has this youthful appearance to him, and yet, as one of my friends, a Democrat, actually, told me, he said, you know, he's got an old soul. He gets it.

BASH (voice-over): But he also had an advantage in this part of Wisconsin others didn't, the Ryan name. Paul Ryan's uncle started Ryan Inc., a highly successful dirt-moving company. Ryan's father was a prominent Janesville lawyer. Until he died his name was on this law firm that towers over downtown.

Ryan's first congressional campaign was a family affair.


BASH: His siblings and extended family pitched in.

T. RYAN: My wife, our little baby, my mother, we thought we were doing some fun, volunteer work for our brother. Low and behold, it was eight months, 90 hours a week.

BASH: At age 28, Ryan won his first House race and was re- elected six times since.

(on camera) What do you think your dad would say or think about the fact that his youngest son is the vice-presidential candidate?

T. RYAN: Of course, my dad would be immensely proud.

BASH (voice-over): Proud perhaps that his son took his advice to think big.

P. RYAN: What I learned at a young age is, if you get involved, you can make a difference in this country. That's what's so great about this country.


COOPER: Dana, it's interesting you see him lugging around that bag. I mean, he's used to kind of being on his own, preparing stuff on his own and suddenly now there's a lot more cooks in the kitchen on this debate prep. How is he dealing with it?

BASH: You know, he has some of his most familiar and closest aides near him. Some of the people who were leading his congressional office are now in the vice-presidential team, but he does have some new people who he's had to get accustomed to. And his brother, Tobin, told me that, in part of this process and the one before during the convention, that he certainly has opened to new ideas. He likes to listen to thoughts about how to get ideas across.

But then, at times he has put his hand out and said, "You know what?" In the words of Tobin, "I don't speak that way." So he had to sort of push back a little bit, which I think is pretty typical for somebody who kind of is thrown into this kind of big, big arena like you're going to see tonight.

COOPER: Yes. Well, our special coverage of the vice- presidential debate begins at the top of the hour.

Up next, zingers, one-liners, those gotchas, well, as you know, Sarah Palin would say. John King is at the magic wall where a special look at what we can expect.


BLITZER: Check out this. This is a live picture coming in from the hall where this vice-presidential debate is going to be taking place later tonight. You can see the -- this is where the two candidates, what they'll be seeing as they look out from their chairs around this table with the moderator there right in front. Empty right now, but it will be jam-packed pretty soon.

The vice-presidential debates usually, usually don't sway an election, but they certainly have given us some memorable moments. Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here to take a closer look.

You've been going -- you've been going through some of those memorable moments over the years. They bring back a lot of memories for me.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some great memories, some funny memories, some important policy memories, too. You're right. Vice- presidential debates don't change the elections. Americans pick presidents, not vice presidents.

But let's go back in time a little bit. Let's go back to 1992. Remember there was a three-way race. There were three candidates in the vice-presidential debate. You had Al Gore, you had Dan Quayle and you had the odd man out, Ross Perot's running mate, Admiral James Stockdale.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to talk about this because the question was not about free trade or education. The question was about...


GORE: Let me talk now. It's going to be a long evening if you're like this now...

QUAYLE: Don't change the subject.



KING: Observer at a Ping-Pong game. Admiral Stockdale. You remember at one point he said, "Who am I? Why am I here?"

Another thing that's striking: Listen tonight when the Democrats are criticizing Republican tax plans, because you might have a sense of deja vu. Let's go back to 1996.


GORE: The plan from Senator Dole and Mr. Kemp is a risky $550 billion tax scheme that actually raises taxes on 9 million of the hardest-pressed working families, who would blow a hole in the deficit, cause much deeper cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment and knock our economy off track, raising interest rates, mortgage rates and car payments.


KING: Well, deja vu when you listen to Al Gore then and Joe Biden and President Obama now. We'll watch to see if that plays out tonight.

And tonight, who do we have on stage? We have Vice President Joe Biden, Congressman and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. They want to debate which ticket is best for the middle class. Expect a lot of talk about their hometown roots, Scranton and Janesville.


JOE BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I proudly represent the state of Delaware from years in the Senate, but I come from a state similar to you all. I come from Pennsylvania -- I come from Scranton. And the same things in Pennsylvania have basically happened here in Ohio and, I tell you what. Both, both are coming back.

P. RYAN: I live in Janesville. I live about two hours northeast of here. It looks just like this town. Actually, this looks, very much like some buildings we have in Wisconsin.


KING: Hear a lot of that tonight. Joe Biden and Paul Ryan on the campaign trail.

Wolf, their job is often to go into those small, blue-collar towns in Iowa, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in other places that are and could be presidential battlegrounds. So, if you walk back through time, we'll have more of these throughout the night. There were some interesting moments. There were some funny moments. There are some reminders that some of the issues like taxes and spending and talk about gutting Medicare. Doesn't matter what campaign you're in, those attack lines, quite familiar.

BLITZER: Love those memories, bring back a lot of good memories. All right, John. Thank you.

So here's a question: will Joe Biden do what President Obama didn't do, namely go on the attack against his debate rival? Anderson Cooper is standing by to talk about that and a whole lot more with our political panel of experts.


COOPER: And welcome to debate night in America. You're looking at an exterior shot there of the hall in Kentucky where Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan will be debating this evening.

Joined here in Washington with our panel: CNN chief political analyst is here, Gloria Borger; CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen; also, CNN political contributor, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos; CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin; senior political contributor and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and former Obama adviser, Van Jones.

In terms of strategy, David, Gloria, if you're Paul Ryan, if you're Vice President Biden, what are the strategies?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if you're Joe -- if you're Joe Biden, you're going to go on the attack. You're going to try and differentiate your ticket from the Romney ticket. You're trying, you're going to try and do what the president did not do last time. I think we're going to hear a lot of 47 percent. I think we're going to hear a lot of Bain Capital. I think we're going to hear a lot of Medicare, maybe some Social Security thrown in there, and he's going to try and do it in a disciplined way. They're trying to keep him on a script and do it in a disciplined way without being unlikable. And also Paul Ryan is likable. So, he has to be -- has to be careful about that.

COOPER: And if you're Paul Ryan? What is it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very simple. If you're Paul Ryan, you want to keep the momentum going. Pick up where, you know, Mitt Romney left off. Keep pushing, keep pushing those arguments. Do it in a somewhat different way.

I think he's going to make a big decision tonight. Does he come out as a strong conservative or does he move to the more moderate tone that we saw with Mitt Romney, which apparently worked last week.

But I think for Joe Biden, it's just the opposite. He has to stop the movement. He's got to -- he's got to see if he can't put a brake on this thing and start reversing it, leaving it for President Obama.

COOPER: If you're Joe Biden, Paul Begala, and you do see Paul Ryan doing kind of a move to the middle, do you call him on that? Because President Obama did not do that last week.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No, actually, you call Mitt Romney on it. The cool thing about a vice-presidential debate is everybody gets to attack. And I like that. I hope Martha Raddatz, the moderator, attacks someone.

But you don't attack up. You don't attack equal. So you attack the organ grinder, not the monkey. You know, the top dog, not the second banana. And both of these guys are really smart. They're really good debaters, and they're very sharp without being unpleasant. So, I actually think it will be great.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: But there's an opportunity, though, for Biden to look at -- look at Ryan and say, you're not just Mitt's V.P. candidate. You're Mitt Romney's plan, and to attack Romney via Biden. So I think we will see a little bit of that.

COOPER: To attack Romney via Ryan?

CASTELLANOS: Via Ryan, yes. You're going to throw Grandma out in the snow. You're going to eat babies. That's what your plan does, it cuts everything. It's the end of the world.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADVISOR: But it's not just the economic plan for Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan is a problem, I think, for this ticket. Because women are up for grabs.

And you've got a guy who sat down with Todd Akin to figure out how to redefine rape. That's Paul Ryan. You've got Paul Ryan who is -- who voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act. I mean, so I think that there is -- there is an opportunity to say why would Romney, who wants to be trusted and likable by women, pick someone who's this extreme on women's issues?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: This is what I hope happens tonight. I hope Biden is that foolish to say some of those things.

JONES: Why do you say it's foolish? It's true!

MATALIN: Because Paul Ryan is not Akin, and Romney is running for president of the United States. And we are -- the women gap is closing every day because you know what women care about, contrary to your view? We don't want to secure for posterity free birth control for us. We want to secure for our posterity, for our kids, a debt that is manageable and Medicare and Social Security.

JONES: What about Lily Ledbetter? The Lily Ledbetter Act is about women in the economy not being able to participate, and Paul Ryan for some reason doesn't believe that women should have the same rights in the workplace. We're not just talking about...

MATALIN: Are you kidding?


CASTELLANOS: This is one of the traps, I think, for Paul Ryan tonight. The goal here, I think, for the Democrats tonight is to put Paul Ryan on defense. Explain yourself, justify yourself, move the spotlight off of Barack Obama's debate.

MATALIN: Completely distorts who he is and what he believes and then make...

JONES: That would never happen.


CASTELLANOS: But my point was going to be -- my point was going to be that the way for Ryan to prevent that is he has to be on offense. He has to move. Look, we tried trickle down government for $16 trillion worth of debt. How are we doing? Have we fixed anything? He has to keep the spotlight on Obama.

BORGER: Here's what Joe Biden is going to do. He's going to say, "OK, what does this ticket stand for? Is it the extremism of Paul Ryan and his budget? Or is it this new guy that showed up at the debate last week?

And he is going to say, "Who are these people? What do they stand for?" Actually, Paul Ryan is driving Mitt Romney, because, that's right: he is the target. Paul Ryan is driving Mitt Romney when it comes to the budget, when it comes to Medicare. I mean, this is...

GERGEN: Let me just add this, to them. Four years ago when Biden came up here, he was facing Sarah Palin. Now, the easy thing to do would have been to attack Sarah Palin. He does not do that. He steered clear of that. He went straight to the top of the ticket and just won the debate by some margin.

CASTELLANOS: I talked to David, I checked in with an old friend, David Axelrod this morning. I said, look, what are you guys going to do here?

He said, "We've got three things we have to do. One, play offense." There's a lesson from last week's debate, presidential debate. Keep the spotlight on the other guy. Two, emphasize the distinctions on policy on records. Again, play offense. And three, don't let Ryan fudge.

I think the Democrats are trying to create this narrative that Republicans somehow are altering everything.

COOPER: Do you think the gains that Romney made in poll numbers in the last week, since this last debate, are they, can they be recovered by Democrats?

BEGALA: Oh, sure. They're real, I think they're important, but they can be reversed just as easily as they were gained.

And the question about offensive versus defensive, it's really crucial. Some of this is a test of the relationship between the V.P. and the candidate and the principal.

When Bill Clinton first put Al Gore on the ticket, it was great. They didn't know each other very well, though. Gore went into his debate against Dan Quayle and Admiral Stockdale, and as we trained him, spent most of the time attacking President Bush.

I was watching the debate with then-Governor Clinton. He was like, "He's not defending me. He's not defending me."

So you've got to go to the president. You've got to go to Governor Romney and say, look, you're going to have to take a few hits here so we can score some hits on them.

COOPER: It was interesting to re-watch some parts of the Palin- Biden debate four years ago, and he just kind of laughed and smiled a lot. When she was attacking him, he was sort of almost paternalistic in a way, almost like he wasn't really taking it -- I mean, he was taking it seriously, but he's sort of laughing and smiling it off. Does he use that strategy tonight, or is he more aggressive?

GERGEN: Well, that's interesting. I think he will be more aggressive. He has to be because they have to make up the gap from last week. But it's also true that, because of the age difference, I think what he wants to do is be the wiser, older figure on the stage and, you know...

COOPER: What about that Paul Ryan doesn't want to be called Congressman tonight?

BORGER: He wants to be called Mr. Ryan.

COOPER: Why is that?

CASTELLANOS: You don't want to be called Washington.


CASTELLANOS: It's really hard -- it is really hard to debate your dad. The older guy is always the authority figure in these kind of situations, so you have to be respectful, but that is a tough challenge. How do you do it? You do old versus new. "Yes, dad, but there's a new way to do these things. Why are you doing things the old way, which hasn't worked?"

COOPER: If you were...


COOPER: Would you continue to call on Congressman Ryan "congressman," just to annoy him?

BEGALA: Yes. Sure.

COOPER: I know Paul would.

BEGALA: It's his real job. Like Governor Romney, for a long time was a very successful businessman. Or Admiral Stockdale.

He did drive the Oscar Myer Wiener-mobile. So call him "Mr. Hot Dogginess." It's the only job he's ever had. MATALIN: I love -- they're so grasping at straws. Everyone said Obama didn't bring his game. That's because he has no game to bring. It's going to be the same case with Biden.

You're going to say to Joe Biden, who was elected when Jesus was a little boy, that -- that Ryan's been in Congress too much? Ryan was 3 years old when Biden was elected to Washington.

JONES: I think the far right should be proud of his service. Honestly, for him to say he doesn't want to be called a congressperson, I just think he should be proud to serve.

He is -- he has been able to establish himself at a very young age as the dominant force in this party. The ideas -- I hope that he comes out there and says what he believes. What he believes is so extreme on the economy and on women, if he says what he believes, I think that he will lose this debate.

CASTELLANOS: Let me just point out that's his opportunity tonight, because if he appears a reasonable Republican like Mitt Romney did the other night, then all those arguments are going to crumble.


JONES: You'd have to note say what he believe. He doesn't want to privatize...

COOPER: We've got to take quick break. We've got a lot of time to talk. We'll have a lot more. We're minutes away from the start of our special coverage, debate night in America. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Paul Ryan's spent part of this debate day doing something that's always part of his routine, working out. We know he's an avid follower of the P90x exercise plan, but some new photos out from our sister publication, "TIME" magazine, show us his workout like never before. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does this picture say Mr. Vice President to you?

(on camera) This is Paul Ryan, Republican...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's like oh, no.

MOOS: Oh, yes. Photos of Paul Ryan working out that came out in "TIME" magazine have plenty of fans tweeting, too. " And just like that, panties drop. "And the Internet melts." UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His knees are a little bony.

MOOS: Noted one poster, "Big Bird called. He wants his legs back." "Paul Ryan is the bro-est bro ever to run for V.P." "Paul Ryan is definitely channeling his inner Marky Mark."

Just as Marky Mark pumped iron, so did Paul Ryan, in a photo shoot almost a year ago when the fitness buff congressperson was a runner-up for "TIME's" Person of the Year.

Some say by releasing the old photos around the time of the vice- presidential debate, "the editors of 'TIME' wish to make him look trivial, young and unserious."

(on camera) Maybe it's the backwards baseball cap, but when we took the photos out to the street...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no clue who that is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd have to say no.

MOOS (voice-over): Two-thirds of the people we asked didn't recognize him.

(on camera) Who is this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Mr. Schuester, Matthew Morrison?


MOOS: No, not the glee club instructor from "Glee."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little like Bradley Cooper.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeff Somebody who's got a new -- yes, a new talk show?


MOOS: No. Not Jeff Probst.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's the vice president soon to be.


MOOS: The V.P. candidate's spokesman said this about the photos. "Paul Ryan takes his health seriously. Clearly, judging by these silly pictures, he doesn't take himself too seriously."

Neither did readers on BuzzFeed. They put him in with the Village People, the cast of "Jersey Shore." They made him flex and even wink, like a certain previous V.P. candidate. Some wonder, "When are the Joe Biden workout photos coming?" The best we could do was drag out that famous PhotoShop job done by "The Onion," a shirtless Joe Biden washing his Trans Am in the White House driveway. Shirtless Joe, meet Backwards Cap Ryan.

(on camera) This is a potential vice president of the United States.



MOOS (voice-over): Jeanne Moos...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a great look for him.


MOOS: ... CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Looks like a regular old Joe Blow.


MOOS: ... New York.