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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Vice Presidential Debate Tonight
Aired October 11, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I almost resent Vice President Bush your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I served with Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was really uncalled for, Senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You call that trickle down, I call it Niagara Falls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Dole and Mr. Kemp would put the American economy in a barrel and send it over the falls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can see my wife and I think she's thinking gee I wish you could go out into the private sector.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well I'm going to try to help you do that --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) your plan, Barack Obama's offered a clear plan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your plan is a white flag of surrender.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": The vice presidential candidates, front and center tonight in a campaign that's very close once again.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": That's right. Just 26 days before the election and we're seeing these debates tonight.
ANNOUNCER: A young gun Republican appearing in his first national debate. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can turn this around. It is not too late to revive the American dream.
ANNOUNCER: An experienced Democrat, returning to a familiar stage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They just have no credibility. It's not just what you say, it's what you don't.
ANNOUNCER: Both energetic defenders of their parties, their policies and their partners at the top of the ticket.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not let America down and Barack and I will not let you down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to elect this man, Mitt Romney, the next president of the United States.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in their only vice presidential face off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to give you a clear choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has a fundamentally different view.
ANNOUNCER: The vice president setting his sights on the Romney- Ryan economic plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen this movie before. It ended in a catastrophe (INAUDIBLE).
ANNOUNCER: The congressman taking aim at the Obama-Biden White House record.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can turn on the TV and you can look at how the Obama foreign policy is blowing up in our faces.
ANNOUNCER: The candidates know the debate stakes are higher after Ryan's boss scored and Biden's boss stumbled. Now, CNN's coverage of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan head to head, on the dangers overseas and the troubles here at home.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will take responsibility and own up and get things done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America's coming back! We're not going back! We're going forward!
ANNOUNCER: The nation is watching. Voters want answers and America's future is up for debate.
BLITZER: This is Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, the site of tonight's debate. Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan they're getting ready for their only chance to compete face to face on the issues. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to "Debate Night in America".
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
Tonight, these candidates need to prove to voters that they're qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. We're going to give you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the set-up for Joe Biden's debate preparations and our Dana Bash has an exclusive interview with Paul Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden is 69. You're 42. He's a generation plus older. How much does that play into the preparation?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm used to that actually. I came in the Congress when I was 28 years old. I'm used to serving with people who are older. I'm usually debating people who are older.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to hear more from Congressman Ryan and bring you a debate night exclusive interview with Joe Biden's son, Beau Biden (ph), as well. We're also mobilizing the full resources of CNN for our coverage tonight. Let's bring in our colleague Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.
COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. During the debate, we are going to clock the time that the candidates get to see how much time they each get to talk overall and about each specific issue. We'll also get immediate reaction to what Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan are saying from a focus group of undecided voters. Their responses will look like this on your screen, the bottom of the screen lines going up and down, in response to what the candidates are saying. Ryan and Biden need to impress undecided voters the most tonight. Let's go the debate hall and check in with our Soledad O'Brien -- Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Anderson. Here from our perch in Nuland Hall (ph) along with about 1,400 other people will be watching the debate. It's a great way to get a sense of what the crowd is thinking not only from the substance of parts of this debate, but also of course the moments and the zingers. We've been talking about what's at stake for both men. We've been talking about whether this will be an attack or for in fact it will be more civil than some people are predicting. We've really got a bird's eye view, not only of what's happening on that stage right behind me, but of course what's happening in the crowd as well. We're going to bring that to you through the evening -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Soledad, thanks very much. We'll check in with you soon. We have seen the presidential race of course tighten in the last few days after the first Obama-Romney debate. Our John King is at the "Magic Wall" looking at the state of the race right now -- John. JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Anderson it has tightened dramatically. That's the big question heading into the vice presidential debate. These are not usually the debates between the number two's game changers, but since that first presidential debate Nevada has tightened. Colorado has tightened. Wisconsin has tightened. So has Ohio and Virginia and Florida and New Hampshire. The big challenge tonight for Paul Ryan to keep the Republican momentum going. Joe Biden walks on to that debate stage, Wolf, trying to stop it.
BLITZER: All right, John, stand by. There are two very different vice presidential candidates and they face different challenges. Tonight, we have exclusive reports taking you behind the scenes of Paul Ryan and Joe Biden's debate preparations. First, Biden, our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is joining us from the debate hall right now -- Brianna.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. We're out there doing a walk through of this debate hall. Early this afternoon the vice president retired to a home not far from Centre College. He reviewed some of his notes. He actually got in a nap or a rest I'm told by one source for about an hour or so and he had dinner with his family and with a team of aides. He's been getting ready for this night for months now, but most of the prep actually took place in the last few days during an intensive debate camp.
KEILAR (voice-over): As CNN first brought you exclusively, these pictures show Joe Biden practicing for debate night, practice that's been going on for months. Just ask his son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would describe him as methodical on his preparation for this.
KEILAR: When you say methodical what do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He always prepares. The thing he prepares for the most in my experience in his political life is debates.
KEILAR: CNN has learned Biden spent the last four days at this Sheridan (ph) hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. This exclusive look at his set-up shows a second floor ballroom staged to resemble the debate conditions in Danville, Kentucky, complete with a similar blue backdrop, red carpet and a table shaped like the one he'll share with his Republican rival. Just like in these photos, Biden will be seated on the left in tonight's debate. Paul Ryan, played by Chris Van Hollen in the mock debates on the right. Across from Biden and Ryan, moderator Martha Raddatz, played by the vice president's communications director Shailagh Murray (ph). Campaign sources acknowledge there are two unknowns in debate prep. Raddatz doesn't have a history of moderating and Ryan has not participated in a national debate. They're looking to Biden's sparring partner, a Democrat, who serves alongside Ryan on the House Budget Committee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a very skilled debater. He's used to a lot of back and forth on the floor of the House, so I'm hoping I can be of some help to the vice president in the end showing how Paul Ryan likes to present the Republican case.
KEILAR: CNN has also learned aides have pored over Ryan's past interviews where the congressman is prone to challenge the questioner. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You and Mitt Romney are proposing $5 trillion in tax cuts. You're proposing to increase defense spending by $2 trillion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neither of these numbers are accurate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey guys.
KEILAR: Biden himself acknowledges he will be ready to respond if Ryan disputes his record.
JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make sure that when I say these things that I don't have the congressman (INAUDIBLE) no, no, no, I don't have that position or that's not the governor's position.
KEILAR: To fully prepare, Biden had a strict daily ritual. Mornings spent at home studying with advisers. Afternoons at the Wilmington Sheridan (ph) where Biden rehearsed answering moderator questions. Dinner time back at home with his wife, Jill, and after dinner, Biden returned to the hotel where the 90 minute mock debates took place. Biden's team wants to make sure you don't see any of those gaffes he is so notorious for.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does speak off the cuff and it gets him in trouble sometimes.
BEAU BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN'S SON: That's the thing about Joe Biden, my dad, that I think people in this state and around America like about him and love about him in many cases. He speaks from his heart and from his head and that's what you'll see.
KEILAR: But it can be a fine line between speaking from the heart and moments like this one last week on the middle class.
BIDEN: How they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years.
KEILAR: Or in August, speaking to an audience that included many African-Americans.
BIDEN: He's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They're going to put y'all back in chains.
KEILAR: And in this colorful one in 2010, congratulating the president on the passage of Obamacare.
BIDEN: This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal. KEILAR: Biden's pension for going off message even became an issue in a 2007 primary debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?
KEILAR: But for all of Biden's foot in mouth moments, they don't usually pop up in debates.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, can I call you Joe?
KEILAR: His 2008 performance against Sarah Palin was gaffe free.
(on camera): Looking at Paul Ryan versus Governor Palin does it make a difference who he's -- I mean it has to make a difference who he's debating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, he prepared very, very hard for the debate against Governor Palin. Now, obviously Paul Ryan has intimate knowledge of the budget.
KEILAR: Has he read and reread the Ryan plan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm confident he's becoming very familiar with the Ryan plan. He's preparing very, very hard for this.
KEILAR: And I'm told by a source familiar with the vice president's preparations that he's been readying himself not only on substance, but also on tone. Whether it's a Paul Ryan who comes out mildly or very aggressively, and Wolf, it's not every day that you get to give the vice president of the United States a hard time. Sounds like Chris Van Hollen may have had that opportunity in practice.
BLITZER: He certainly did. They practiced a lot. Brianna, thanks very much. Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: We're joined also by our senior political analyst David Gergen and chief political analyst Gloria Borger. What are you actually personally both going to be looking for tonight particularly right out of the gate?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to be looking for some fun. I think this is going to be one of the most entertaining interesting debates of the year.
COOPER: Because the stakes are higher than they were before the --
GERGEN: The stakes are a lot higher and we've got two really interesting personalities going at it. And they do represent two very different philosophies about which road this country ought to go down. So I think it's just going to be one of those debates. Ever since Ryan got named (ph) I thought Ryan versus Biden, that's going to be a terrific debate.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know we haven't seen a lot of Joe Biden lately and --
COOPER: By accident?
BORGER: -- in case you -- no, I don't think it's an accident. I think this is campaign time and there's no room for error and I think that he's been focused on the debate prep, but I also think he's not out there since he gave his "Meet The Press" interview in which he sort of preempted the president on the question of gay marriage, right, so I think they have kept him corralled to a degree, so we haven't seen Joe Biden --
COOPER: And in a debate like this, no matter how much I mean pre-preparation there is, you cannot corral somebody.
BORGER: No you can't but the thing is on the Sarah Palin debate, he was disciplined. He didn't want to be condescending to Sarah Palin. You know he was debating a woman I mean, and so, he does have that kind of discipline in a debate. It's when he's out on the campaign trail that he tends to have problems, but I agree with David. This is going to be a lot of fun because it's also three debates in one. I mean you're going to do foreign policy. You're going to do immigration. You're going to do Medicare. You're going to do all the issues the American people care about --
COOPER: The rules of the debate are different than they were the --
GERGEN: Yes, very importantly because --
GERGEN: -- the last time we had these 15 minute pauses they were called -- there were supposed to be. This time there are going to be nine segments. Each one 10 minutes long and each candidate has you know two minutes apiece to answer the first question, then they're supposed to mix it up. Now I don't know whether Martha Raddatz can hold it within that 10 minutes or not. Frankly I think one of the problems that Ryan is going to have is Joe Biden likes to talk. He is --
GERGEN: -- (INAUDIBLE) right? And I think Ryan likes to talk, so it's going to be interesting how they sort of -- you know whether they'll let the other person talk or (INAUDIBLE) talk over him. BORGER: And Ryan can be kind of wonky sometimes, so if Biden challenges him on Medicare, for example, his challenges, because he's very wonky on budget facts, his challenge is to sort of explain what he's saying.
COOPER: It will be interesting just generational the differences and the experience of debating. I mean Biden has just by the years under his belt he's had more debates and more time on the campaign trail.
GERGEN: I think -- I think that Biden, because of his age, you know has the advantage of being the wise man on the stage. But he has to be very careful not to look like he's not over the hill, he doesn't have the energy, he doesn't have -- you know he's not losing it because that happened to Reagan once in the first debate he was in, in '84. (INAUDIBLE) Paul Ryan can take advantage of his youth, his vigor and if anything (INAUDIBLE) I think on some of the women stuff and Paul Ryan is very attractive to a lot of women. They like a person like (INAUDIBLE) than meets the eye and --
COOPER: -- for everybody today --
GERGEN: No, no --
GERGEN: No, no --
COOPER: -- has his admirers out there as well.
GERGEN: -- true. No, no, no, but I mean I saw what Scott Brown did in Massachusetts you know a couple of years ago and it made a big difference on the women's vote. But he has to worry about being too callow (ph) and not being ready.
COOPER: I want to bring in our other contributors in just a moment. We've got to take a quick break though. Paul Ryan is sharing secrets about his debate preparation and you may be surprised to find out just how long he has been studying -- a CNN exclusive next.
COOPER: And you're looking at the hall right now in Kentucky, Centre College, Danville, where the debate will be taking place. Congressman Ryan says he expects Vice President Biden to attack him quote "like a cannon ball" during their debate, which begins a short while from now. We have an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his preparations. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us now from the debate hall -- Dana.
BASH: That's right. They were intense preparations. Today though, Paul Ryan had a pretty relaxed day. He worked out. He spent some time with his family and check this out. He came here to the debate hall to get a sense of what it is like on that table or on that stage. I talked to a source close to him and he used three words to describe his feelings, in the zone.
BASH (voice-over): CNN has learned Paul Ryan started prepping for this debate virtually the moment Mitt Romney picked him.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do a lot of reading. That's what I've always done briefings and reading.
BASH: Just look at this monstrous briefcase he carries everywhere.
RYAN: It's pretty heavy. I've got a lot of binders, different --
BASH (on camera): So is this the keys to the kingdom right there?
RYAN: (INAUDIBLE) and I can open my binder for you. So you know I just like to study the issues.
BASH (voice-over): Ryan's brother Tobin is with him a lot on the trail and gave us the inside scoop on the constant cramming.
TOBIN RYAN, PAUL RYAN'S BROTHER: And they carve out 30 minutes here, 45 minutes here, if possible, two hours here. If anybody encroaches on that time, you hear it from many, many people that you can't do that.
BASH: And when Ryan gets distracted, who else would he blame but his brother?
T. RYAN: I end up being his scapegoat. He'll say oh Tobin's interrupting me again.
BASH: It's not just studying, it's role-playing with mock debates. Moderator Martha Raddatz is played by former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. In the role of Joe Biden, Ted Olson, a renowned former solicitor general who argued cases before the Supreme Court.
P. RYAN: He has sort of immersed himself into being Joe Biden and so I've done lots of mock debates with Ted. He's come to Janesville. We've done debates there. We do debates you know in hotels around the country wherever I am at the time.
BASH (on camera): How does that work?
P. RYAN: We sit around the table. We have a moderator and he and I debate each other. He knows my record. He studied it. He studied what we do in Congress, what Mitt and I are offering, our solutions.
BASH (voice-over): A source tells CNN during the first handful of practice sessions, Olson would quote "break character" and go over Ryan's answers with him, but during the past week, Olson has stayed in character as Biden, pounding Ryan. Ryan notes he is a member of the House with experienced debating.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that's a fair description of your plan.
P. RYAN: Well I -- actually I do but we can go back and forth on this.
BASH: In 2010, he went toe to toe with President Obama at a House GOP retreat.
P. RYAN: Why not start freezing spending now?
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to just push back a little bit on the underlying premise.
BASH: And he already knows what it's like to sit opposite Joe Biden. This was a 2010 health care summit.
P. RYAN: Now, I'll just simply say this and I respectfully disagree with the vice president.
BASH: Steve King (ph) is Ryan's long time Wisconsin supporter and friend.
STEVE KING, PAUL RYAN'S FRIEND: He's going to treat Joe Biden no different than he treats a person in a town hall (INAUDIBLE) or Janesville or wherever in the country --
BASH (on camera): The difference of course is that they're -- that Biden is going to be a lot tougher on him --
S. KING: He'll be tougher, but he can't be any tougher than somebody screaming or hollering at him in a town hall.
BASH (voice-over): It has gotten pretty ugly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I'll debate these points anytime with you. You just call me. My number is 262 --
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
P. RYAN: If you're yelling, I just want to ask you to leave. If you're just going to scream out like that, it's just not polite to everybody.
BASH: Still, Ryan's brother says at times this process has been a difficult transition.
T. RYAN: And he meticulously you know writes his own things. He has a very heavy hand in these things and he's probably having more help now that he's not used to.
P. RYAN: (INAUDIBLE)
BASH: Far different from Tobin Ryan's early experience helping his 28-year-old brother prepare for this, his first congressional campaign debate.
T. RYAN: We had about, you know eight sheets of one-sided paper that listed out issues and you didn't really have to prepare Paul. You know, this is a guy that does more in a day, absorbs more in a day than I think is humanly possible.
BASH: Now, Ryan sources insist that of the four candidates are involved in these big debates that he maybe has the toughest job because he not only has to remember his own record and prepare (INAUDIBLE) lines (ph) on those, he has to learn the guy at the top of the ticket, Mitt Romney's record, learn his lines on those and also Soledad make sure that he is really clear on how he's going to talk about the differences. There are minor difference, but there are -- some of them are pretty big issues --
O'BRIEN: And how you navigate those --
BASH: Exactly and I just want to show you one quick paragraph. Mitt Romney made a call to Paul Ryan today from the campaign trail from New Hampshire to wish him luck.
O'BRIEN: Oh that's nice. How is Paul Ryan preparing in -- or changing his preparations in the wake of the presidential debate that passed?
BASH: To me this is so interesting. They've been doing this prep for really more than a month, but in the past week, what I'm told is that they focused much more on the things that President Obama left on the table, the infamous 47 percent line, the Bain Capital issue, even Romney's taxes. Because they feel inside the Ryan camp that it is of course going to be the kind of thing that Vice President Biden comes at him with because President Obama got so much you know flak, especially from Democrats for not using some of his best arguments (INAUDIBLE).
O'BRIEN: They're expecting it this time around.
BASH: Exactly --
O'BRIEN: All right Dana Bash, thank you.
BASH: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Appreciate it. Let's send it right back to Anderson.
BLITZER: Actually, you're sending it back to me, Soledad, but we're going to get -- I want to thank Dana for the excellent work that she just did. When I spoke with Mitt Romney earlier in the week, he tried to lower expectations for his running mate's performance. As for Joe Biden, his son, Beau, is talking about his dad's plan to stay disciplined tonight. Stand by for CNN exclusive interviews. First though, this debate flashback.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the one that was making the comparison --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 1988, during the campaign, Quayle had already been saying many times that he had as much experience as Jack Kennedy did, so Benson (ph) was primed for that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was such a zinger of a line that people loved it and told one another about it and it became the line of that debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We of course assume that President Obama will be watching the vice presidential debate later tonight. We're told Mitt Romney definitely will. I had an exclusive interview with Romney earlier this week and I asked him about his own debate win over the president and the challenge for his running mate Paul Ryan tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you confident, Governor that Paul Ryan will take on Joe Biden Thursday night the way you took on the president?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't know how Paul will deal with this debate. Obviously, the vice president has done, I don't know 15 or 20 debates during his lifetime, experienced debater. This is I think Paul's first debate. I may be wrong. He may have done something in high school, I don't know. But it will, you know it will be a new experience for Paul, but I'm sure he'll do fine and frankly, Paul has the facts on his side. He has policy on his side and we also have results on our side, so I think you'll -- I think you'll find in the final analysis that people make their assessment on these debates not so much by the theatrics and the smoothness of the presenter, but instead on whether they believe the policies being described, the pathway being described will make their life better or not. And I just think the American people recognize that the president's policies are not something we can afford for four more years. We just can't afford more of what we've gone through and they want something new.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's walk over to John King. He's got some -- the latest poll numbers. We saw a nice little bump for the -- for Mitt Romney as a result of that first presidential debate.
KING: And that could be what's at issue tonight, Wolf. Remember before the presidential debate, we were talking about a growing Obama lead in Wisconsin, a growing Obama lead in Wisconsin, a comfortable Obama lead in Virginia, a decent Obama lead down in Florida, an Obama lead up in New Hampshire. Those are all toss-up states on our map. What has happened since that debate, well let's switch maps and look. Let's start out West first. Nevada, one of the toss-up states. Now Governor Romney has been doing better in the West than other parts of the country, but still, a boost there, 47, 45 in a new (INAUDIBLE) university poll. That's a dead heat, a statistical tie in battleground Nevada. Let's move over to the state of Colorado. I was there just a little more than a week ago. It was a very close race. Democrats are starting to feel good. Post debate, bang, there you go, a dead heat, a statistical tie, Quinnipiac-CBS-"New York Times" poll in Colorado. Now let's come back over to those Midwestern battlegrounds, this is Paul Ryan's home state. Republicans think they can keep this in play. It's been reliably blue, had been going the president's way. He's still on top. But now, it's just three points. Again, that's within the margin of error. So, again, another battleground put back into play by the first debate.
Here's one the Romney campaign is encouraged here, but they still have some work to do. They were down in some polls, eight or nine points. There was one poll, a 10 points, in the state of Ohio. Now, they're back to within five or six.
CNN poll has it at four. This new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll has it at six. So, clearly, still a lot of work for Romney to do here, but he's improved this standing in battleground Ohio.
Let's keep going, just for two more very important states, states Romney most likely has to win.
Virginia, again, we saw polls right before the first presidential debate starting to stretch outside the margin for the president. Back to a statistical dead heat. That's NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll.
And let's come down to battleground Florida. And here's another one, Wolf. Again, they started to open up a handful, maybe a little bigger lead. Now, you have another statistical tie.
So, there is no question, no question, the race changed after the first presidential debate. Romney got a bounce. But when you get a bounce, the challenge is to sustain it.
And so, that's the big challenge. Can Paul Ryan keep the Republican momentum? And can Joe Biden somehow find a way to choke it off?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, it's narrowed in those battleground states, but is there any indication that first presidential debate created new battleground states?
KING: Some evidence. Now, I'm a bit skeptical of these because these have been reliably Democratic states.
But one state where the numbers changed, Mitt Romney's birth state of Michigan. His dad was governor there. Our CNN poll a while back had it close to 10 points. It looked like no way the Republicans could put that into play.
Here's the new Epic/MRA. This is a reliable polling firm -- three points. So that's within the margin of error. That sheds Michigan back into play.
The question is: do the Democrats now think we have to spend money here? We have to send the candidates. There hadn't been -- no candidates have been there in some time.
Here's another one here. This is the state of Pennsylvania, Siena College poll, 43-40. This is a state where Democrats thought locked up. We don't have to spend any resources.
Now, when something like this happens, it often dissipates. So, we'll see what happens. But if you see another poll next week in Michigan, another poll new week in Pennsylvania, that gives Romney right now has a narrower path, the harder path to get to 270 than the president.
But if the president is suddenly playing defense in Michigan, defense in Pennsylvania, even just with campaign ad spending, visits by the vice president and the president. If the president's starting here, it makes other opportunities for Governor Romney on the map.
BLITZER: Give us a scenario how Mitt Romney wins the presidency.
KING: The biggest scenario, the way they look at it is three, two, one. Three meaning you take the three most Republican states over the course of their history that Barack Obama won in 2008. Those states are Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia. There's your three. If that happens, then Governor Romney's at 219, the president at 237.
The next two states need to pick up, big prizes that have a history of voting Republican, Florida and Ohio. Remember Ohio because that's the tough one right now. That puts Governor Romney in command of the race.
If he does the three and two, then he just needs one. If he can stay over this part of country, make sure he locks up North Carolina and Virginia. He's got Indiana, nobody disputes that right now. Florida and Ohio are tougher and he needs just one. No Republican has ever won with the state of Ohio.
What gets more difficult if the president keeps, a small lead, but it's been a steady presidential lead, Obama lead in the state Ohio. If the president keeps that, then Romney's math gets much harder because he's got to win out these other places. Not impossible, not impossible, but much harder.
BLITZER: Florida and Ohio, obviously very, very critical.
Anderson, let's go back to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Wolf. Let's talk to our contributor Alex Castellanos, Paul Begala, Mary Matalin, also former special advisor to the president, Van Jones.
Can a vice presidential debate really affect those numbers?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's tough. It's tough. We've been showing these highlights. The late Geraldine Ferraro just really masterfully standing up to Vice President Bush.
Lloyd Bentsen really nailing Dan Quayle. But our ticket lost that race. Bentsen's ticket lost that race.
It was very difficult.
If I were advising Vice President Biden, I'd say you've got to get the momentum back, as David Gergen said earlier. You got to get it. We want to hear more not just about 47 percent and the mistakes Romney's made, but the real ideas.
They want to turn Medicare, Democrats argue, to voucher program. Paul Ryan voted for the Bush privatize part of Social Security. They want tax cuts if the rich.
COOPER: If Biden does well tonight, does that change the sort of median narrative?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISOR: I think it can. I don't think -- this is very important for the Democratic base. The Democratic base didn't get a chance to hear that old time religion from Obama last week and there was a deflation.
And I hear it from my friends all across the country, the sense of deflation, the sense of, you know, looking in the rear-view mirror now. I think for Biden to come out, give the old time religion, remind what this fight is about is important to get the energy back. I think that will impact the poll numbers.
CASTELLANOS: I don't think Biden can win it tonight. But I think Biden can stop some of the bleeding tonight and that's important.
You know, something big happened in that first debate. Barack Obama has not had a campaign for president. He's had a campaign to stop Mitt Romney from getting elected president. A negative campaign.
When he didn't show up in that debate and when Romney did and looked like an acceptable Republican, the one campaign he had, the anti-Romney campaign got a big crack in it.
He needs a campaign. He doesn't have one now. If he doesn't begin to get one tonight with Biden and next week, candidacies can collapse. That air coming out of a balloon, that can continue. Right now, there's no campaign in Obama world.
JONES: Great thing about it, Biden's been under a rock, he's been out there firing up the grassroots. I think you're going to see some of that tonight. I think it's going to be important for us.
MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Can I just say -- we need to understand what happened in this debate. It wasn't just that Romney was so good. It was that he defied his absurd mischaracterizations of him.
But he also did, it wasn't a bounce so much as it filled the empty space that was holding him back because people wanted -- primaries they said this and they've been saying it in our polls, Romney polls consistently, we want to know what a Romney presidency will look like.
So Ryan's job tonight is to broaden and deepen what a Romney presidency would look like.
COOPER: Do you believe though that Romney -- I mean, you're a Republican. Do you believe Romney moved to the center in the debate or do you think that's the real Romney that the media hasn't allowed to get out? I've heard also from supporter.
MATALIN: The people who are most delighted, ecstatic, with Romney's performance were conservatives. I'm a right wing nut. I was ecstatic. I don't think he moved anywhere. He explained in a way that we know Mitt Romney. But he --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: With all due respect, you are not a right wing nut.
BORGER: And what you were hearing was somebody supporting free markets, which you like, but I talked to some people who are to the right of you --
MATALIN: There's nobody to the right of me, Gloria.
BORGER: No, to the right of you and who said we had some questions about Mitt Romney during that debate, but we're going to hold our fire. We're going to hold our fire until he wins. Once he wins, we're going to watch him.
CASTELLANOS: I know Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney's a friend of mine. That was Mitt Romney.
JONES: Where's he been for the past year and a half?
CASTELLANOS: He's a very conservative guy when it comes to family and faith. The other Mitt Romney that's always been there is this fix-it guy. This pragmatic businessman who transforms the Olympics, who invents a new way to do business in America. That Mitt Romney, that practical, reasonable, problem-solving guy is always -- that's the guy we saw in the debate.
BEGALA: He walked away from everything. But all politicians move and they are slick. He stood up there in that debate, I think part of why the president was so flatfooted is honestly didn't -- I suspect think he was going to campaign against a guy in a debate who would walk away from a central economic promise that he's made in a campaign, this massive tax cut, who post-debate now has said, gee, I don't want new abortion laws on my agenda. Are you kidding me? It really is --
JONES: His Web site was different than what he was saying. His web team had to catch up to the changes he made.
CASTELLANOS: Why the president can't go there? Because no one has changed positions in policy more than this president.
Earmarks, I'm against them -- he accepts them. Guantanamo, close it -- no. He increased spending to reduce the deficit.
COOPER: We'll continue the discussion in a moment. While you watch the debate tonight, get instant reaction at CNN.com/debates, live blog. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Give us your take as well.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 1984, when George Bush Sr. was in a debate with Geraldine Ferraro, the problem was that he appeared to be patronizing toward her.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me help you with the difference, Ms. Ferraro, between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she answered right on the button.
GERALDINE FERRARO (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me just say first of all that I almost recent, Vice President Bush, your patronizing attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That moment, I think, solidified the idea that a woman had the right to be there as a vice presidential candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're standing by for the first and only vice presidential debate in this election. And one of the interesting things will be watching tonight: will Joe Biden and Paul Ryan get the same amount of time to talk and if not, will that affect voter's opinions? Take a look this -- look what happened during the first presidential debate last week. Barack Obama spoke about just under 43 minutes, but four minutes longer than Mitt Romney who talked about 38.5 minutes. That wasn't necessarily an advantage for the president, because Romney was widely considered to have won that debate.
There was less of a gap during the vice presidential debate four years ago. Joe Biden spoke just under 40 minutes. Sarah Palin spoke for 40 minutes and 29 seconds.
Biden and Palin, by the way, stood at podiums. Tonight, Biden and Ryan will be sitting together at a table and that will affect the way they interact, possibly also the amount of time they talk.
Jessica Yellin is over at the media center following the debate. Jim Acosta is in the spin room.
Jessica Yellin, first.
Set the scene for us. What's going on?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. I'm actually in the media filing center. This is where the press from around the nation, actually from around the world.
There are some people in from other countries, have come to watch the debate and file their stories. They're watching it on these big monitors. You can see around here, here's our sister company, "TIME" magazine's Mark Halperin and people from press from all over the place, filing.
And this is the gymnasium for Centre College. Usually, they play basketball and sports in here. But tonight, we're watching a different jousting game. A big debate, and lots of folks will be filing their opinions throughout the night. We'll be following it all here with you, Wolf, from Kentucky.
BLITZER: I'll be watching it on TV. Thanks very much, Jessica.
Jim Acosta is over in what they call the spin room. They're not spinning yet, but they will be doing a lot of spinning after the debate.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and I had to chance to talk to a top Ryan aide earlier this afternoon.
And, Wolf, you might remember these from previous debates. These are the surrogate signs you see in the spin room after the debate over. These staffers will be holding these signs to direct reporters to various surrogates in the room.
I have one for Brendan Buck. He is a top spokesman for Paul Ryan, as part of the Romney campaign. Also, a fixture on Capitol Hill. This top Romney and Ryan staffer told me earlier this afternoon, you're going to see a lot of these signs. They are planning to flood the zone, you might say, Wolf. They're going to have a lot of these signs in this room tonight. Hopefully, more than the Obama campaign in their words.
And we saw a lot of that at the last debate because Mitt Romney was deemed the winner of that debate. We saw a lot more of those Republican surrogates in the room than we saw Obama surrogates.
Just to give you another quick tour of the room. This is where the Romney-Ryan campaign is sort of setting up. They're doing a lot of live interviews from here on the other side of the room just doing this very quickly.
The Obama campaign, you can see the "Forward" sign behind me. Wolf, I had one of these behind me earlier this afternoon from one of my live shots. We heard from the Romney campaign, hey, do we have to have that sign behind you? Just to show you how conscious of the optics and what's going on in this room, even when the media is doing their live shots, Wolf.
BLITZER: Everything is going to be shown. All right. Thanks very much for that. Jim Acosta tonight, vice presidential debate. It's a good reminder that the men vying for the number two job might wind up being president some day.
Will Joe Biden and Paul Ryan tell voters the truth of what's going on? We're going to find out more now from John Berman and our reality check team.
John, you've been fact-checking the candidates' claims out there on the campaign trail. What are you finding out?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, the candidates continue to war on taxes with Paul Ryan claiming that President Obama wants not just to raise them on small businesses, but to put them over 40 percent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What President Obama wants to do is raise the top tax rate on our successful small businesses and our manufacturers to much higher tax rates than our foreign competitors, above 40 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, what are the facts here? The top rate paid by top earning small businesses would rise to nearly 40 percent if the Bush tax cuts expire on those top earners as President Obama wants. Many small businesses are taxed as individuals.
Now, the rate on small businesses would go above 40 percent if you included additional Medicare taxes on the wealthy. So, our verdict here is mostly true. Some small businesses at the very high-end could end up with a tax rate of more than 40 percent.
I want to shift to Medicare here because this has been a huge discussion on the trail and it will be a big discussion tonight. I want to look closely at some claims made by the vice president, that the Ryan plan, an early version of it, could cost seniors thousands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The first plan that my counterpart, Congressman Ryan introduced, pushed through the House of Representatives and got past the author of a plan, the so-called Congressional Budget Office said that plan would cost the average senior $6,400 a year more for the Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So, let's look at the facts. The $6,400 does come from an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office of one Medicare reform plan, an early one, offered by Paul Ryan. The budget office says the difference could be that amount, $6,400 over time.
But listen to what Joe Biden went on to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Governor Romney although he probably has forgotten it, governor Romney said at the time, the House passed this bill, knowing the cost to seniors in the future said where I'm president, I would sign that legislation. Now granted, that's not their plan anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Biden's right. The Ryan plan changed in the spring and Romney this summer abandoned any cap on growth of government vouchers which means in theory, seniors would not get hit with that $6,400 bill.
But the independent Congressional Budget Office has not analyzed the new one yet.
So, our verdict here is everything Vice President Biden says is true. He really does offer a pretty complete timeline here of the Medicare plans -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. John, we'll continue to have fact-checks throughout the night tonight. Tonight's vice presidential debate comes just five days before the second Obama Romney face off.
Our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley is going to moderate the next debate. She's with us now.
From your perspective as a moderator, what are you going to be watching for tonight? CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm going to be watching to see what new subjects come up and what questions are left. You know, 90 minutes sounds like, oh, my goodness, 90 minutes. It's never enough time.
COOPER: It flies by.
CROWLEY: It's never enough time. So what's left on the table? You don't want to when you go into a debate, you don't want to ask questions that anybody can Google. You want to se what new frontier you can open up that's meaningful. You don't want to go into especially the Greek debt crisis no offense to the people who want to hear about the Greek debt crisis. But in general, you think most people aren't going to kind of form their opinions about that.
So you want to open a fertile field, but a new one. So, you know, it's what I did in the first presidential debate was sit around and say, okay, this one, answer, we're not going to get -- you always know when you interview a politician. There's only so far they're going to go.
You know when you hit the limit of the information they're going to give you. It becomes a rabbit hole you run down. You don't want to do that and waste your time.
COOPER: One of the things we were talking about during the break is sort of the role of the vice president in this debate. You were talking about the number one rule.
CROWLEY: Number one rule to me for a V.P., and any of these guys are able to discuss it, but it seems to me, it's the do no harm rule. I mean, first, what you want to do is not mess with the guy at the top. Sure, it would be great if Biden could come and somehow, you know, stop the Romney rush and it would be great if Paul Ryan could somehow keep the Romney rush going.
But the fact is, their number one rule is don't hurt the number one. First, do no harm. They're kind of positions tonight.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I just learned tonight for the first time, in our reporting, that these two guys are going to be sitting at a table, not standing at podiums. My working assumption is that it makes it much more difficult to go on the attack in the way we think of attacks.
It's more a conversational sitting. I'm curious how you -- I think there's difference between being at podium versus what they're doing.
CROWLEY: I think as we saw -- it makes so much difference whether they're standing or sitting, it makes a difference to the moderator. I think one of the things that Jim had to deal with -- I thought in the first debate, they were going to be seated as well. And then when they showed up at podiums, that kind of surprised me. So here's Jim sitting, Jim Lehrer, the moderator of the first debate, and here are the two guys standing. And there's sort of power position there with standing.
So, I think you're absolutely right. It's very hard for you and I to get in each other's face in big passionate way when we're like this.
BORGER: I think Joe Biden might find a way.
CROWLEY: Oh, no. I mean, there's spirited and there's hostile. Two different things.
GERGEN: You can't put the sheave in quite the same way.
CASTELLANOS: There's a way you do that -- et tu, Brutus. You know, you get very close to Caesar and then the knife.
You know, Joe -- the vice president of the United States is a good man and his loyal to his president. That's an admirable quality. He has to defend the indefensible here tonight, I understand that.
But let me tell you what's wrong about that. So you hug and then you fight up close.
COOPER: Do they get checked for sheaves?
BEGALA: Seated is more conversational. It's harder for people. But you're not required to be aggressive about the guy sitting across the table from you the way they will be in the next debate Candy is moderating. The really difficult thing is it's not just Candy, it's a town hall setting.
It's very difficult. We game this out. When I worked for Clinton and you were working for Bush and President Bush had to get his momentum back, and he had to go on the attack. As soon as he started, a guy with a ponytail stood up and said, stop making attacks. And that was their strategy.
COOPER: You must have hated that moment.
BEGALA: It was my cousin, George. No, I'm just kidding.
COOPER: We got to take another break.
Paul Ryan talks about his personal relationship with Joe Biden in our exclusive interview and our focus group of up decided voters, they're going to tell us what they want to hear from the candidates tonight. We'll also obviously check back with them later on after the debate to see if they heard it and if anybody's mind was actually changed.
First, this debate flashback. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each candidate will have two minutes for an opening statement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 1992, when Perot had chosen Stockdale as his vice president, Stockdale appeared in that debate to be stunned. He almost didn't seem to belong there.
JAMES STOCKDALE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who am I? Why I am here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It made no sense to the audience and it hurt Perot's credibility as a presidential candidate.
STOCKDALE: I'm not a politician. Everybody knows that. So don't expect me to use the language of the Washington insider.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What it underscored was a problem of judgment on Perot's part.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Looking at a live picture. This is the debate hall in Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky. We're going there in a moment. When the vice presidential debate starts in a little while, our focus group of undecided voters will rate what the candidates are saying as they say it.
Our own Erin Burnett is with a group of them in Virginia. We chose Virginia because it's a crucial battleground swing state.
Set the scene for what you're going to be doing, Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": It is obviously a crucial state, Wolf. When you think about it after the last debate in some falls, you had a swing of as many as six points, putting Romney ahead of Obama. Obama is still ahead and others. But it's within the margin of error, and Virginia is a crucial state.
Old Dominion University is where I am tonight, and we have 31 people here who have been kind enough literally out of 7,000 people who were called and e-mailed, Wolf, by SMU, (INAUDIBLE) they spent all this time reaching out to undecided voters to get people who are willing to take the time and effort to come out and watch tonight. Use these dials that we've shown you, these dials -- you can see they go back and forth. They're going to rate it from a scale up to 100, like it or loathe it. You're going to see the lines on the bottom of your screen.
I have to tell all of you viewers, as I get ready to ask some questions here, that we had 39 people at our focus group in Colorado and they nailed it. Three days later as there were more analysis and reports coming out about who won and how, the Colorado voters called it.
So you guys have a big burden tonight. So what do you want to hear?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to hear anything to do with the troops, the environment, and just what their plan would be to help improve the status of the United States.
BURNETT: All right. And troops obviously defense very important here.
Quickly, a question to Jerome (ph). What are you looking to hear tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking for concise viewpoints to distinguish between the candidates, that's mainly what I'm searching for.
BURNETT: Concise and distinguishing, not always an easy thing, but you got two people here are going to certainly try to do that tonight. We'll be back and explain a little bit more about what we're going to be doing here, Wolf, when I see you in a few minutes.
BLITZER: Looking forward to it, Erin. Thanks very, very much.
We also measured the reaction of undecided voters during the first Obama-Romney debate. These colored lines show us how they responded. The green line represents men, the yellow line women. Tonight, we're going to tally the ups and downs just as we did last week.
Mitt Romney, by the way, had the most high points that night, seven, compared to four for President Obama. There were fewer low points, one for each candidate. Clearly, Romney had an advantage with our focus group of up decided voters from Colorado. He was widely considered to be the winner of the debate, as well.
We're going to see who has the edge tonight.
CNN's coverage of debate night in America continues right now.