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Ryan and Biden Prepare to Debate; Interview With Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling

Aired October 11, 2012 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour here. Thank you for being with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Count them with me, six hours now from the vice presidential debate. To hear Paul Ryan tell it, he is practically quaking in his boots at the thought of going up against Joseph R. Biden.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe Biden's been on the stage many times before. This is my first time. So, sure, it's a nervous situation, because Joe Biden is one of the most experienced debaters we have in modern politics.


BALDWIN: And here he is, Joe Biden there on the left of your screen. An exclusive look at his debate preparations, four days' worth at a hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. The vice president has arrived for tonight's debate in Danville, Kentucky. Here he is getting off Air Force Two this afternoon, daughter Ashley by his side, sons Beau and Hunter, wife Jill there on the plane as well.

Now, Paul Ryan, he did arrive. He actually got in to town yesterday. He is ready to go as well. And we mentioned this before. Gallup's daily tracking poll came out just about one hour ago. Take a look at the numbers with me here, President Obama losing two more points, Mitt Romney gaining one point, So Obama standing now at 48 percent with Romney's 46 percent.

We could theorize that the post-debate slide for the president hasn't yet bottomed out. Paul Ryan says he is not intimidated, heading into tonight's debate. Ryan is a hunter and when he sat down for an exclusive interview with our own Dana Bash, he told her that he's preparing just like he would any other prey.

And his friends spelled out exactly what that means.

Dana Bash already in Danville, Kentucky, for me.

And, Dana, before we get into hunting and prey, I am curious. Did Ryan at all alter his prep after the presidential debate last week?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Brooke? I'm told he did. He has been preparing for a very long time, but after the presidential debate last week when President Obama much to the chagrin of many Democrats left on the table some of what Democrats think are their best arguments, 47 percent, that infamous comment by Mitt Romney, what Mitt Romney did or didn't do at Bain Capital, his former firm, what they started to do inside Ryan's debate prep, according to a source I talked to, is step up their focus on that over the past few weeks -- week, I should say, because they're pretty sure that since President Obama didn't do it and he got a lot of flak for it, Vice President Biden certainly will in tonight's debate.

But more broadly, he has been preparing for a very long time, really since the day that he was picked by Mitt Romney. And I started the interview that I did by talking to him about what a friend of his told me about how he hunts.

I'm sorry. I don't think we have that sound bite.


BALDWIN: We are waiting for it. Do we have it, guys?


BALDWIN: OK. Sorry, Dana, we don't have it. But go ahead...


BASH: That's OK. I will tell you.

The gist of what this friend of his told me is that before he goes hunting, showers non-scented soap. He washes clothes in non- scented detergent. He sprays non-scented stuff all over. It's not that atypical for hunters, but he takes it to the nth degree and he said that's the way I prepare for things I want to do well and want to right and he admitted that very much speaks to the way he prepared for tonight's debate, very meticulous.

He walks around with a huge, huge bag of briefings and binders, studies them any chance he gets. I interviewed his brother as well, who said that at five minutes there, 10 minutes and 20 minutes there and that when he had the time on his schedule carved out, Brooke, that his aides really tried to hold that and secure that. If anybody bothered him, they really heard about it, because that's how important Ryan himself has taken the prep for tonight's debate.

BALDWIN: Can we talk about some of the pictures in "TIME" magazine here? Let's show some of the pictures. Here we go a couple of hours before tonight's debate, we're going to show these images. "TIME" magazine released these images appearing in the issue hitting stands tomorrow.

And do you think -- is it unfair if we have the pictures? Here we go. Is it unfair to release them now? Here, he's clothed in a suit. Here he is pumping iron. What about the timing?

BASH: You know, they're being very careful inside the Ryan camp not to publicly get upset about it.

In fact, I want to read you a quote from Paul Ryan's spokesman, Michael Steel. He says, "Paul Ryan takes his health seriously. Clearly, judging by these silly pictures, he doesn't take himself too seriously," trying to stay tongue in cheek publicly.

Privately, they're certainly not happy that these pictures were put out today, but the backstory here, Brooke, is that these photographs were taken by "TIME" magazine about a year ago when they were preparing for their person of the year. Paul Ryan was a final contender, so they went and did this photo shoot just in case and Ryan and his aides agreed to do these in the words of Ryan's own aides silly photos, certainly not the kind of imagery when imagery really matters so, so much in any political campaign, particularly when you're running for vice president.

Not the kind of imagery that they want out, particularly on today, a day like today, but "TIME" magazine they're in the news business. We are in the news business. They clearly thought they had something newsy and why not put it out to make a splash on a day that everybody is focused on Paul Ryan?

BALDWIN: Yes. And there you go.

Dana Bash, thank you.

Just for anyone who would like to see your interview, your full interview with Congressman Paul Ryan, you can watch it tonight and we will air it during our coverage leading up to the vice presidential debate. Of course, the pregame if you will begins at 7:00 Eastern here on CNN and


BALDWIN: I'm about to give you five things to watch for tonight, including whether the vice president will go where his boss did not. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The news is now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they take the stage at Centre College down the street...

BALDWIN: Behind the scenes of the places you won't see on TV tonight.

BALDWIN: Plus, regardless of who wins, does momentum shift? A CNN political power couple weigh in live.


PAT SMITH, MOTHER OF SEAN SMITH: I see bloody handprints on walls, thinking, my God, is that my son's? I don't know if he was shot.

I don't know. I don't know. They haven't told me anything.

BALDWIN: The mother of an American killed in the Benghazi attack accuses the Obama administration of lying to her.



BALDWIN: When Joe Biden won his first Senate race in 1972, Congressman Paul Ryan was just 2 years old.

But if you think Ryan will be out of his league tonight when he debates the vice president, think again. Remember the young Senator Obama just 47 years old in 2008 when he faced Senator John McCain who was 72 at the time? Needless to say, then Senator Obama held his own.

But there's no telling who will win tonight. One thing is for certain, though. Both Biden are both equally passionate, equally energetic when it comes to winning voters over to their party come November 6.

And with me right now from Danville, Kentucky, this dynamic duo. You have CNN political reporter Peter Hamby and political editor Paul Steinhauser.

Guys, good to see you.

Paul, let me begin with you. First things first, when we're talking about specifically the controversial Romney 47 percent comments, do you think Biden will go there tonight, where his boss did not?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think a lot of Democrats want that to happen, Brooke.

There was a lot of disappointment, Peter, I think that's pretty obvious, with Democrats after last week's debate in Denver that the president wasn't going very aggressively against Mitt Romney over as you mentioned the 47 percent controversy, over Bain Capital, over Mitt Romney's tax returns.

I think Vice President Biden has not been shy at all on the campaign trail, Brooke. That's pretty fair to say. He's very aggressive on the campaign trail. What we're going to be looking at tonight is, is he going to as aggressive going after not the guy sitting next to him, but the guy -- his boss, Mitt Romney?

You know what? I think Obama campaign officials are quietly saying that that's a very distinct possibility.

BALDWIN: Peter, what about the wonk trap or the wonky budget talk? You point out here that really is -- we know that -- he is a numbers guy. But how far should he go tonight? Will money talk translate to voters, people watching?


I mean, the mission for Paul Ryan since he was picked was to stop talking like, you know, a denizen of the Beltway. You know, he's spent his entire career in Washington in think tanks, on the Hill, and he's done a good job of it on the campaign trail, frankly, messaging for Mitt Romney.

However, tonight is a much bigger audience and Paul Ryan is still introducing himself to the American public. Polls show that voters have a slightly more favorable view of Ryan than they do Biden. Google just released some data today that there are far more Google searches for Paul Ryan than Joe Biden.

Yes, you're right. The mission for Paul Ryan tonight is to talk about the budget and about numbers and all those things he loves and Medicare but do it in sort of a clear and concise way that synchs with the Romney campaign and just talk to voters tonight and not just talk like he's talking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Sure, as a denizen within the 202 area.

Let me throw one at both of you all. Much ado about Paul Ryan's age. We talked about this age gap. You know, Biden has nearly three decades on Ryan. Ryan needs to convey that he's ready to fill in as president if and when something happens to Mitt Romney. This is to both of you all. How does he do that?

STEINHAUSER: Well, you know, this is interesting.

As the running mate to the challenger, this is probably Paul Ryan's most important thing tonight, to convey that if Mitt Romney is elected president and if something happens to Romney, is Paul Ryan ready to step in, in the top job?

I talked to some Romney campaign officials and they are very confident that Ryan will be able to do that. Why? Because it's just what Peter was talking about, his command of the issues. He's the House Budget chairman, his command of the issues. They feel this will allow him to portray himself as ready to fill in, in the top spot if needed, and that's a big test for him.

HAMBY: The flip side of the age difference, Brooke, is, yes, this is the biggest age difference between two V.P. candidates in over a century, I believe.

But Joe Biden's a voluble guy. He's very energetic. He's out there on the road campaigning and getting his picture taken with bikers and hanging out at Dairy Queen. He comes off a lot younger than he actually is and Paul Ryan is a serious man who comes across as a little older. So, I think the age difference thing might be a little bit overblown, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I was talking to his first real congressional -- major congressional opponent back in 1998, Lydia Spottswood yesterday, and she actually pointed out during the debate on the stage she said to him I could be your mother, and obviously we know how well that race ended up for Paul Ryan.

Paul Steinhauser and Peter Hamby, guys, enjoy the debate tonight. I will certainly be watching. Thank you so, so much. Just to remind all of you, the big debate, the only vice presidential debate tonight live right here on CNN and Our coverage, please join us two hours in advance, at 7:00 Eastern.

The Romney campaign certainly got a big lift from the first debate last week. So, what are the expectations for Paul Ryan tonight?

Congressman Jeb Hensarling tells me next.


BALDWIN: Joining me from the debate site in Danville, Kentucky, we are happy to have Congressman Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas. He speaks for the Romney campaign.

Congressman, welcome. Good to see you again here.


REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: Thanks. Appreciate it.

BALDWIN: I know you have worked closely with Paul Ryan on debt and deficit matters. Have you ever found yourself debating him, you know, taking opposite sides on something, let's say, and if so, was he a tough debater?

HENSARLING: Oh, wow. You have me scratching my head on that one.

It's -- it would be a pretty odd day that Paul Ryan and I would disagree on anything. I mean, what I know about Paul, he knows his budget better than just about anybody. He has got a plan along with Governor Romney for economic growth. And although Vice President Biden is a veteran of 18 different presidential and vice presidential debates, he may score well on style, but he's got the Obama record to defend and so it not going to be an easy evening for him on substance.

And I think people are going to be very impressed with Paul Ryan. I mean, here's a guy from the heartland of America. He knows the values and challenges of middle-income families. And he's got a plan, along with Governor Romney, to put America back to work and to quit spending money we don't have so our children can have better opportunities than we have had.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in.

HENSARLING: So, I'm looking forward to tonight.

BALDWIN: Let me jump in, Congressman, because on that plan, the question then is, does Paul Ryan need to be more specific tonight in his answers than he was 11 days ago, when he was asked by an interviewer to explain Mitt Romney's tax plan and he said, well, I don't really have time to do that.

Does he have -- can he do better than that? HENSARLING: There will be plenty of time.

Here's the tax plan, fairer, flatter, simpler, more competitive tax code. We broaden the base by getting rid a lot of these special interest deductions, exclusions. By one estimate, a third of the tax code is what is known as tax expenditures.

BALDWIN: So, why couldn't Paul Ryan explain that -- why couldn't he explain that 11 days ago?


HENSARLING: Well, my guess is he could if he had had time.

But we did this in '03. It was done in the Reagan administration. It was done under President Kennedy, under JFK. And guess what? When you follow this recipe, you get more jobs, more economic growth and more tax revenue that actually helps fight the deficit.

And that's in contrast to what the president is offering us, which is another tax increase on small businesses, almost a million small businesses, which Ernst & Young said will cost us 700,000 jobs. So it's going to be a real choice election when it comes to the economy, not to mention the debt, not to mention foreign policy.

BALDWIN: OK. So, Congressman, let's just stay on point with your guy, because one thing we do know is that Romney and Ryan say that they will reduce income taxes. The number is 20 percent they have been giving across the board, 20 percent.

But we have this graphic. And so, you know, if you look at recent history, the Reagan tax cuts, the Bush II tax cuts, both coincided with massive growth of the national debt. The debt rose nearly 200 percent under Reagan, nearly doubled under Bush, at least partly because the Reagan and Bush...


BALDWIN: Hang on, hang on, sir.


BALDWIN: Let me finish, with all due respect, at least partly because the Reagan and Bush tax cuts reduced government revenues.

You are a debt and deficit hawk, Congressman Hensarling. Do you worry talking -- looking ahead, do you worry about the debt under Romney might explode again similarly?

HENSARLING: Well, number one, the deficit is the symptom. Spending is the disease.

I mean, since World War II, revenues have averaged about 18.5 percent of the economy. Spending is at 20 percent. And now due to the president's policies, we have revenue that's actually gone down due to less economic growth, but it's spending that's skyrocketing.

He has it up to almost 25 percent of the economy and it's on automatic pilot to go to 40 percent. That means middle-income families will suffer.


HENSARLING: It is a spending-driven problem. The deficit again is the symptom. Spending is the disease. You have to take care of it on the spending side.

And once again, Brooke, if you go look at IRS data, you will see that revenues actually increased when we brought down rates because we had more economic activity.

BALDWIN: But, Congressman, why would...


HENSARLING: So I don't buy into your proposition.

BALDWIN: Why would the trickle-down theory work this time, when it's produced record debt two times before?

HENSARLING: Because we haven't controlled spending.

The key is controlling spending. Again, I don't know how many times I can repeat it. Look at the data. You may have a theory, but look at the data, and the data is we received more revenues, more revenues from economic growth. You're saying we received less. We didn't.

Spending is skyrocketing. You can't have programs that are growing at 6 percent, 7 percent, 8 percent a year, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, federal retirement, which are all going broke, and the president isn't doing anything about it, and then have economic growth at a languishing 1.3 percent.

The math doesn't work. Our challenge is on the spending side. And so I don't think the American people believe they're undertaxed. I think they believe that Washington spends too much. And I don't know any economist in America who thinks we're going to create more jobs by increasing taxes on small business. I don't know anybody who believes that their unemployed sister-in-law is going to get a job if they raise taxes on their employer.

It just -- it defies common sense, much less economic science and history.

BALDWIN: Congressman, let me just move along. I want to ask about Romney and how he seems...


BALDWIN: Laugh if you will, but I want to move along, because this is such an important point that I know a lot of Americans want an answer to, because he seems to be moving towards center. Right?

He's moderating some of his positions. We saw recently that made the headlines yesterday what he said about abortion, for example, on health care reform, parts of which he's embracing, on Wall Street reform, foreign policy, where just yesterday he was emphasizing diplomacy with regard to Syria.

Are you hearing worries among the Republican base that he might be going wobbly in this effort to reach voters in the middle?

HENSARLING: Oh, I think -- listen, Republicans are very excited at the presentation that Governor Romney had in the last debate. It was the first opportunity for many Americans to see him unfiltered, with all due respect, by the media, unfiltered by the negative campaign ads.


BALDWIN: But, Congressman, I'm not asking how he did in the last debate. I'm asking, on all these topics in which he's moving to the middle, and I'm just curious what Republicans are saying about that.


HENSARLING: Republicans are very excited about Governor Romney, very excited.

And if anybody has gone a little wobbly, you know, you look at the president, who said essentially all is well, we have got -- you know, we're more secure nation, and now we have our foreign policy that's literally going up in flames in front of us on our television screens.

That's what -- you know, that's what the American people are wondering about.

BALDWIN: Congressman Jeb Hensarling, thank you so much for joining me from Danville, Kentucky. Appreciate it.

Big debate tonight, 9:00 Eastern time.


BALDWIN: Joe Biden, Paul Ryan, pressure's on. It's on both on the right, it's on the left in tonight's V.P. debate.

So, how can each side make the age gap work for their campaign? My favorite married political power couple here, Margaret Hoover, John Avlon, they weigh on with a little advice for both of these guys next.


BALDWIN: We have the preview no pundit can match because it comes from the candidates themselves. Think about it. Months on the campaign trail, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan have been debating all along, but at different times and different places. Right now, listen to the point-counterpoint on four major issues currently facing America. We're calling it "The Debate Before the Debate."


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The Romney-Ryan tax plan will raise taxes on middle-class families with a child, one or more children, by an additional $2,000 a year.

How -- no, no, all kidding aside, without the boos. I mean, you stop all that malarkey.

Look, guys, they think of -- this is deadly earnest, man. This is deadly earnest. How they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years, how in Lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts?

REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Vice President Biden just today said that the middle class over the last four years has been, quote, "buried." We agree.

That means we need to stop digging by electing Mitt Romney the next president of the United States.

Of course, the middle class has been buried. They're being buried by regulations. They're being buried by taxes. They're being buried by borrowing. They're being buried by the Obama administration's economic failures.

They've tried the attacks on our solutions to protect Medicare and Social Security, but they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar by turning Medicare in to a piggybank for ObamaCare.

We want this debate. We need this debate. And when people realize the damage that ObamaCare places on Medicare, we will win this debate because the best way to save Medicare is to repeal ObamaCare.

BIDEN: Ask yourself, if what the Republicans have -- if what Romney and Ryan are saying about Obama and Biden is true on Medicare, why would the American Medical Association endorse our position?

Why would the national -- the American Hospital Association? And most importantly, why would AARP endorse where we are?

They have no credibility.

RYAN: If you don't stand up to countries who are stealing our intellectual property, who are stealing our products then that sends a green light to all the other countries around the world that it's however you want it. It's wild, wild west.

BIDEN: Mitt Romney ran Bain Capital. By the way, he did it honestly, fairly, and according to the rules, but "The Washington Post" said, while he was at Bain, they were a pioneer in outsourcing to China and to other places.

They voted against every single solitary opportunity to reduce the national debt if, in fact, it contained one thin dime in additional revenue that people making over a million dollars would have to pay. There are the facts.

RYAN: This debt crisis is most predictable economic crisis we have ever had and the president has not done a single thing to prevent it. In fact, he's spending us closer toward a debt crisis. We cannot afford four more years like the last four years.


BALDWIN: "The Debate Before the Debate" and, now, the president, here he is, speaking to a crowd. This is Coral Gables, Florida. Let's listen.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We've got too many families who can't pay the bills, too many homes that are still underwater, too many young people still burdened with debt when they graduate from college.

But if there's one thing I know, Florida, it's this. We have come too far to turn back now. The American people have worked too hard to get to this point after all that we've been through together. After all that we fought through together, why would we go backwards?

The last thing we can afford, Florida, right now, is four years of the very same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. I won't let that happen.

We can't let that happen. That's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States of America.

Florida, I have seen too much pain and too much struggle because of bad economic policies that happened before we got elected to let this country go through another round of top-down economics.

The centerpiece of Governor Romney's economic plan is a new $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthiest Americans. Don't boo. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Now, Governor Romney has been pitching this plan for almost a year now. He stood up on the stage in one of his primary debates, proudly promised that the new tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts would include the top-one percent.

Now, you wouldn't know this from listening to the new, latest version of Mitt Romney. He's trying to go through an extreme makeover. After running for more than a year in which he called himself severely conservative, Mitt Romney's trying to convince you that he was severely kidding.

Look, what he was selling was not working because people understood his ideas wouldn't help the middle class, so these days Mitt Romney's for whatever you're for. Suddenly, he loves the middle class, can't stop talking enough about them. He loves Medicare, loves teachers. He even loves the most important parts of ObamaCare. What happened?

Now, what does he have to say, this new version of Mitt Romney, about all the things he's actually promised to do as president? Tax breaks for outsourcers? Never heard of such a thing. Saying we should cut back on teachers? Doesn't ring a bell.

Don't boo. Vote.

Kicking 200,000 young Floridians off their insurance plans. Who me?

And when he's asked about the cost of this tax plan, he just pretends it doesn't exist. What $5 trillion tax cut? I don't know anything about a $5 trillion tax cut. Pay no attention to the $5 trillion tax cut on my website.

Look, Governor Romney thinks we have not been paying attention for the last year and a half. He is going to say whatever it takes to try to close the deal and he's counting on the fact that you don't remember that what he's selling is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

And, so, Florida, you've got to let him know we remember. We know full well that, if he gets a chance, Governor Romney will rubber stamp the top-down agenda of this Republican Congress the second he takes office and we cannot afford that future.

His plan will not create jobs. It will not help the middle class. It will not speed the recovery. It will slow down the recovery. It will not reduce the deficit. It will not expand opportunity.

We can't afford it. We're not going back. We are moving forward and that's why I'm running for second term as president of the United States.

BALDWIN: President Obama, getting that University of Miami crowd fired up, flanked by students. He knows -- both sides know they need, they would like that youth vote. And, of course, the president would like a repeat performance from what he got in 2008. He would love to win that key, key state of Florida.

Keep in mind, early voting begins in the state of Florida this coming Saturday.

Meantime, back to the Vice President Joe Biden, v.p.-hopeful Paul Ryan, the right and the left, they're making their case today before the world.

My favorite married political contributors here, Margaret -- Margaret Hoover, excuse me, John Avlon, weighing in on what we can expect to hear tonight. They join me after this.

Sorry, guys.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: Joe Biden and Paul Ryan will be duking it out in Danville, Kentucky, tonight. You have Catholic versus Catholic, grandfather versus fitness fanatic.

We have some unsolicited advice for both Biden and Ryan from our married analysts. Margaret Hoover joins me from Boynton Beach, Florida, John Avlon in New York. Guys, welcome, as always.

Margaret Hoover, I want to begin with you because you write about this. Both of you both sort of co-authored this piece on and, Margaret, you talk about the age gap, that, you know, it could play a role. You're hoping it will play a role.

Paul Ryan, 27 years younger than Joe Biden. Your point is what? That he should make this generational pitch? How does he do that?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, remember, Barack Obama won the youth vote, two-to-one, four years ago, but there's a massive, really, disenfranchisement by this generation.

He was there at University of Miami, you were showing, talking to the students, trying to rev them up, but my appeal to Paul Ryan is, make a millennial play. Appeal to the millennial generation.

Because, like no other GOP member in the entire party, Paul Ryan has talked about the debt crisis in generational terms, that the spending policies of the last 40 years, not Democrats or Republicans, but both are actually generational theft.

And that, if there's one party or one person that has the ideas to put the fiscal course of the country back in order for the next generation so that they don't get hit with more taxes, a more sluggish economy or both, we've to fix these legacy, institution programs, Medicare, Medicaid, social security so that they're there for the most vulnerable, but then my generation is going to be stuck paying for them and paying for it in terms of a worse economy.

So, I think he has the best chance of making a millennial pitch better than anyone else in the Republican party.

BALDWIN: OK, so pitch to the millennials.

John Avlon, you point out that, between these two men, Biden, to quote you, has a "heavier lift." He has to, you know, bring back a win for the Democrats while not, you know, overshooting the mark as you write. How does he do that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I mean, he really does have to compensate for Barack Obama's weak first debate performance. He's got to bring some passion to their arguments. He's got to make clear contrasts and he's got to do that in a way that doesn't go off the rails.

As you know, Joe Biden can be gaffe-prone, as we all know, and an ill-timed gaffe can disproportionally dominated the headlines here. So, he's got to really make a case that the momentum and the content and the substance is behind the Democrats. He's got to engage the Republicans' argument.

I think Margaret makes a great point about what Paul Ryan can do and do well, but when it comes to a conversation about deficits and debt, you know, Biden could point out that the Romney-Paul doesn't really add up, that it doesn't deal with any revenues at all, that it doesn't deal with any defense spending at all and that Ryan walked away from the Bowles-Simpson plan.

That kind of engagement, that kind of clear contrast that we really didn't see in the first debate, that's what Joe Biden's got to bring.

BALDWIN: Look, Paul Ryan, obviously very smart, a lot of people use the adjective "wonky," wonky guy. John, you use the word peevish to describe his intelligence when he's questioned.

Margaret, what do you think of the word "peevish?" And, John Avlon, what's your advice for him, secondly?

HOOVER: Well, if you ask me what I think, I think peevish is a little bit snide on behalf of my husband. I think Paul Ryan is wonky.


HOOVER: But I don't know if that's a fair word. I mean, Paul Ryan is -- certainly, he's visionary. He's thinking about how to make things work in Washington. He's put constructive plans forward in the House of Representatives unlike any other member of Congress.

But I don't know if peevish does him justice. But I do think he's an idealist. He wants to make the government work.

BALDWIN: Avlon, how does he make his intelligence work, speaking to the Americans, not above?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, look, Paul Ryan is great communicator, a much better natural communicator of ideas and policy substance than Mitt Romney, for example. So, he has this great gift.

I think where we've seen both Romney and Ryan get a little peevish is when they've been questioned aggressively about specifics. How do you make the math work? And that's what I was referring to.

Look, the key for Paul Ryan is to remain friendly, approachable, to communicate policy ideas in ways that resonate to folks on Main Street. That's a real gift. It's a gift he's got, but he's got to be able to back it up with policy substance. He's got to be willing to do the math and not bristle when people ask him how his plans add up.

BALDWIN: OK, both of them have to do that tonight, speaking to ...

AVLON: Definitely. BALDWIN: ... definitely -- to Americans.

Margaret Hoover and John Avlon, thanks so much to both of you.

Again, the debate, 9:00 tonight. Pre-game on CNN at 7:00 Eastern.

And we'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Getting Americans back to work, it is a topic that will absolutely come up tonight during the vice presidential debate and, today, perhaps a little bit of ammunition for Vice President Biden as new jobless -- excuse me, jobless numbers came out just a short time ago.

Here you go. Three-hundred-thirty-nine-thousand first-time unemployment claims were filed last week. That is a four-year low and it was down 30,000 from the previous week.

Also, more for you on the housing front, good news, foreclosure filings hit a five-year low, just over 180,000 in September. That is a seven-percent decline from August.

So many of you have reached out and tweeted me about this story, this 14-year-old young woman, Malala Yousufzai, this young girl targeted and shot by the Taliban, by these gunmen, simply because she dared to defy them, speaking up, speaking about education.

Today, former first lady Laura Bush weighs in on this remarkable teenager.


BALDWIN: The teenager who terrified the Taliban is struggling to recover from their attempt to shoot her into silence. Malala Yousufzai is in critical condition. She is suffering from a swelling to her brain. She was moved to a new hospital today.

Taliban gunmen hunted her down on the bus taking her home from school and shot her point-blank. The Taliban accused the 14-year-old of obscenity because she has the audacity to proclaim her right to education.

That attack on Malala has outraged people all over the world, I know, many of them, including you.

I want you to listen to the words of former first lady Laura Bush. This is what she wrote in today's "The Washington Post."

Quote, "Speaking out after an atrocious act, however isn't enough. We must speak up before these acts occur, work to ensure they do not happen again and keep our courage to continue to resist the ongoing cruelty and barbarism of the Taliban.

"Malala Yousufzai refused to look the other way. We owe it to her courage and sacrifice to do the same." Laura Bush.

Just ahead, back to politics, to places you won't see tonight on television during the debate. We will give you a behind the scenes tour in Danville, Kentucky.


BALDWIN: For folks in Danville, Kentucky, tonight is not just a vice presidential debate. In fact, they are calling it "The Thrill in the 'Ville, Part 2." It will happen on the campus of Centre College in Danville.

Mark Preston has a behind-the-scenes look. Hey, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to Danville, a city of less than 20,000 here in South-Central Kentucky, which will be the center of the political universe tonight for the vice presidential debate, otherwise known as "The Thrill in the 'Ville 2."

BETH KING, OWNER, KARAMEL KREATIONS IN DANVILLE: The town is just buzzing. Everybody wants to be a part of it.

PRESTON: Area residents are embracing this international spotlight on the city.

SPENCER VETTER, SOPHOMORE, CENTRE COLLEGE: I'm really excited. It gives our school a lot of publicity and it gets our name out there.

PRESTON: But the candidates aren't trying to convince the voters of Kentucky to support them in November. This is Romney country. But when they take the stage down at centre college right down the street, they're going to try to convince tens of millions of people tonight to support them specifically those living in the swing states.

MELISSA CANTRELL, DANVILLE-AREA RESIDENT: It's just exciting to watch it and be a part of it, regardless of what side you're on.

PRESTON: How do you think this debate is going to be different or how is it going to be similar?

FRANK FAHRENKOPF, JR., CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: I think there will probably be more tension in this debate after what happened in Denver. I think a lot of people are going to be watching to see where this campaign is going.

PRESTON: The most important person in the audience is going to be sitting way up in the rafters. Let's go take a look to see who he is.

His name is Fred Vincent. He's a Centre College alum, a former congressman, a former treasury secretary and former chief justice of the Supreme Court, but he's a beloved figure here on campus. In fact, he's known as "Dead Fred."

This week, the fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, brought him over in a ceremonial procession to put him in his seat here in the theater to watch this debate, but when he's not here, he can be seen at the Centre College football games.

I can promise you this. He will not be applauding tonight and I bet you he doesn't have a horse in this presidential race.


BALDWIN: Mark Preston, thank you.

Quick reminder, debate pre-game, 7:00 tonight, here on CNN. Debate begins two hours later, 9:00 Eastern.

And, now, your "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer begins right now.