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The Globe and Mail

Winning the week: Face-off between Biden, Ryan key to U.S. campaign fortunes

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) speaking in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012, and Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, speaking in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012, are shown in this combination photo. U.S. vice presidential debates usually don't matter much, but the October 11 showdown between Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan could be an exception. Democrats are counting on Biden to blunt the momentum of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has gained ground after a strong debate performance against U.S. President Barack Obama last week.

Mike Segar (L)/Jason Reed (R)/Reuters

Each Monday, The Globe invites two strategists – a Republican and a Democrat – to share their take on what each campaign needs to do this week in order to win the White House.

Mitt Romney's resurgent presidential campaign starts the week with the advantage, while the Barack Obama campaign looks to seize the momentum after a poor presidential debate performance.

A week ago, Republican and Democrat strategists shared their take with the Globe and Mail about what each campaign needed to do in order to win the week: Mitt Romney needed to deliver under pressure, while a strong debate showing, combined with a positive jobs report, could help President Obama put the race away.

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But a lot has been upended since.

This week, once again, we invited two strategists to give their quick take on how each presidential campaign can win the week. The key, as it turns out, is Thursday night's vice-presidential debate, which has suddenly taken on an outsized role in this year's campaign.

The Democratic view

The pressure will be on the gaffe-prone, but experienced Vice-President Joe Biden, says Linda Moore Forbes, who served in the Clinton White House and worked on Capitol Hill. She is a Democratic Party insider, political consultant and has worked on several presidential campaigns.

"Biden needs to exploit not only the very real differences between [Paul] Ryan and Romney on important issues from the budget to abortion rights, but also force Ryan to square the differences between Romney's previously held positions and the ones he described at the debate last week," Ms. Forbes says.

"And, [Mr. Biden needs to] also force budget hawk Ryan to explain how the Romney plan adds up. How does he drastically cut taxes on the wealthy and increase military spending, without increasing the deficit or raising taxes on the middle class?"

Ms. Forbes also points to foreign policy experience, an area where Mr. Biden can "expose Romney and Ryan as neophytes in this area."

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"This race will be close. It will go down to the wire."

The Republican view

"The debate this Thursday will put pressure on Vice President Joe Biden to stop the momentum of the Romney campaign," says Ron Bonjean, who served as lead spokesman for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and as head of public affairs to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce in the George W. Bush administration

Mr. Bonjean points to Mr. Biden's debate experience during his presidential bids in 1988 and 2008, as well as his vice-presidential debate appearance opposite Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin four years ago: "… he is unquestionably one of the most experienced debaters in American political life," Mr. Bonjean said.

"That means Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan has a big task ahead to win the week and help Romney improve on his rising poll numbers. With virtually no national debate experience, Ryan's goal will be to present the American people a clear choice in this debate over the direction of the country.

"The Romney campaign hopes that Biden decides to waste this opportunity by going too negative trying to score points."

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