POLITICS
10/11/2012 04:32 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Joe Biden Debate: Expect 'Pitbull' Focused On Sharp Policy Contrasts, Say Insiders

DANVILLE, Ky. -- The Obama campaign isn't providing many details about what to expect from Vice President Joe Biden in Thursday night's debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

But those who have helped Biden prepare for his debate, both this year and in 2008, say to expect him to come out swinging and ready to display his expertise on a range of policy issues.

Former Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), who has been actively involved in Biden's debate preparation, said Biden will hone in on the same themes that have dominated his campaign speeches: sharply contrasting visions of America, and the Romney-Ryan campaign's regularly changing positions.

"There's a real opportunity, a lot of room there, to make the points you want to make by pointing out how they are constantly shifting their positions," said Kaufman, who cited Romney's squishy positions on abortion, tax cuts and education spending.

If Biden's campaign speeches are a preview of what's to come, one can expect him to more forcefully address points that some Democrats were disappointed President Barack Obama didn't push in his debate last week, namely Romney's comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on government and Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare while gutting programs for the poor.

"Biden likes contrasts and hasn't been shy on the stump," an Obama campaign official said.

In terms of Biden's style and tone, some insiders predict he'll be the same fiery but affable guy that most Americans have come to know over the last four years.

"He relishes the idea of being the pit bull for the administration, but I think he's going to do it in a way that's appealing," said former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who played the role of Sarah Palin in Biden's 2008 vice presidential debate prep.

Granholm, who is now the host of Current TV's "The War Room," said her debate experience with Biden showed that he will "do what it takes" to make his points, but that he will "always do it with a smile."

The vice president has been prepping for the debate for weeks, with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) playing the role of Ryan in mock debates. Besides Kaufman, others guiding the ship have included Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod, Biden's former chief of staff Ron Klain and Biden counselor Mike Donilon.

Also in the room: piles of M&Ms and animal crackers to keep people going, said the campaign official, though Biden is more of "a Gatorade guy."

While the vice presidential debate isn't usually the draw of the presidential debates, more eyes may be on Biden than usual this year as his debate comes on the heels of Obama's lackluster debate performance last week -- and his subsequent drop in the polls.

But Kaufman dismissed the idea that Biden faces more pressure to do well.

"This is a big deal no matter what happens," Kaufman said. "It's not like he's got four debates, he's got one to advance what he believes in."

Granholm said she hasn't played a major role in this year's debate prep, though she has talked to Van Hollen and given her advice on what worked in the 2008 debate prep. Ironically, she said what works best for Biden is the very thing he sometimes takes heat for: his off-script moments that can spiral into gaffes.

"You cannot muzzle his heart, his authenticity. It's a genuine, genuine affection for him. That is one of his greatest strengths," Granholm said. "He's not a programmed, sound bite guy. He is a happy warrior."

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