Partisans Try to Calibrate Expectations for Veep Debate

Surrogates for President Obama and Mitt Romney took to television on Thursday ahead of the vice presidential debate, with each side trying to calibrate expectations about their candidate and the opposition. 

David Axelrod, Obama’s senior campaign adviser, accused Mitt Romney of running away from the conservative positions he espoused during the Republican primary and said that Vice President Joe Biden will hold Rep. Paul Ryan to the facts during Thursday night’s debate.

“I think the big challenge for [Biden] is to pin Congressman Ryan down,” Axelrod said on CBS’s This Morning. “Harry Truman said ‘I don’t give them hell, I just tell it like it is and they feel like they are in hell.’ Maybe Congressman Ryan is feeling the pressure of his own position.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, said Biden will present “the raw, authentic truth” and challenged Ryan to do the same.

“What we need tonight is just pure, unadulterated honesty from both sides,” Booker said on CNN’s Staring Point. “I do not want to see the Paul Ryan that I saw [during the convention] … I want to see the Paul Ryan back when he unveiled the Ryan budget.”

Across the aisle, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus also stressed the importance of honesty from both sides during the debate, but played down expectations for Ryan's performance while getting in a jab at the vice president's age.

"It's a nervous situation... this is [Ryan's] first time. Joe Biden's been doing this since the 1800s," Priebus said on Starting Point. "They are two different guys, but they are both very relatable people. They can speak with authenticity."

Ahead of the face-off, the Obama campaign attacked the GOP ticket for changing positions in a press release early on Thursday. 

“Leading up to tonight’s Vice Presidential debate, Mitt Romney has made it very clear that he will say anything to win, even if it’s not true – just like he did in Massachusetts and in the boardroom,” Obama’s deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. “The question now: will Congressman Ryan adopt the same dishonest strategy, or will he stand by the very extreme positions he’s taken as the 'intellectual leader' of the Republican Party?"

Cutter said on MSNBC's Morning Joe that in a side-by-side, sit-down debate, Biden and Ryan will have an opportunity to get down to math.

“One of the things that will be important to do tonight is to nail down exact details of what Paul Ryan says,” Cutter said. “The thing that we remember most over the past 10, 15 days about Paul Ryan: it was too complicating to do the math on the tax cut. They have an hour and a half tonight. Hopefully he'll have time to do the math.”