This article is from the archive of our partner .

The only thing that can stop the liberal gnashing of teeth and rending of garments is a kick-ass debate performance from Joe Biden. Joe Biden! Joe Biden, the guy who's most vulnerable when he's riffing, is supposed to save the day. (As The Washington Post's Dan Balz explains, "For the Obama team, Thursday will offer an opportunity to short-circuit the advances Romney has made since the first presidential debate. For the GOP, Ryan will have a chance to piggyback on Romney’s performance and solidify the gains their ticket has made in recent days.") These are indeed dark times for Democrats. Worse, liberals are giving Biden conflicting advice. He must boldly rescue President Obama without risking gaffes. Can it be done? A guide to the debate advice for Biden:

Advice: Coax a GIF out of Paul Ryan.

Adviser: The New Yorker's Amy Davidson.

Humble suggestion: "Ryan may not know what to do when told he is not brave or clever," Davidson writes. In 2001, when Obama attacked Ryan's budget in a speech for which Ryan was sitting in the front row, he looked annoyed. This week, when a reporter "posed a question with a trace of sarcasm, showed flashes of the same sensitivity. It is not attractive." 

Note: This is the advice we really hope Biden takes, for the sake of making blogs fun. It's critical for the campaigns that the candidates make it through the debates without inspiring GIFs. It's critical for live GIF-blogging that they fail on that score. The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters reports that while the candidates hate split-screens and reaction shots, the networks love them. So does The Atlantic Wire.


Advice: Do that smiley thing.

Adviser: The New Yorker's Amy Davidson.

Humble suggestion: "Biden, on the other hand, has a thick skin—maybe too thick," Davidson says. "In the primary debates in 2008, he sometimes reacted to criticisms with cheerful self-aggrandizement, some of which comes across surprisingly well."


Advice: Don't just call Mitt Romney (or Paul Ryan) a liar.

Adviser: The Center for American Progress's Matt Miller, writing at The Washington Post.

Humble suggestion: If Biden just calls Mitt Romney a liar, he'll blow it, Miller says. Biden "needs to walk people through some political realities the way he’d explain them to a small roomful of independent or undecided voters." Miller then walks Biden through how to do that, literally putting Biden's talking points in quotes.


Advice: Don't be an angry old man.

Adviser: New York's Jonathan Chait.

Humble suggestion: Chait writes that liberal dreams of a debate-fueled comeback for the Obama campaign are silly. The dummies in the audience will be just like the wise and careful bloggers of The Atlantic Wire, and not totally focused on policy. "The audience has no concept of the underlying facts," Chait writes. "The audience will only be able to grasp the atmospherics of the debate. And Paul Ryan is a world-class bluffer. He will spout figures with winsome authority, and Biden will come off as an angry old man." We take this as a suggestion that Biden not act like an angry old man.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.