RENO, Nev. – With a little more than a month to go before the vice presidential debate, Congressman Paul Ryan will endure his first full day of debate preparations Sunday, but advisers are trying to keep expectations low for the only VP debate of the cycle.
According to two campaign advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Ryan will head to a remote part of Oregon Sunday -- the day before he holds two fundraisers in Portland -- with a small group of advisers and aides for the “first of many sessions” gearing up for the Oct. 11 debate with Vice President Joe Biden.
“I think what we will be doing is just working through some of the most likely topics, some likely questions and just working through answers, counterpoints to Vice President Biden’s arguments and answers,” one adviser said about the structure of Sunday, noting the VP nominee will get a short break to watch his beloved Green Bay Packers play in their season opener.
The campaign appears to be downplaying expectations of the upcoming debate for the House Budget chairman.
“Vice President Joe Biden served over 30 years in the United States Senate; he has run for president twice and has served as vice president for the past four years. He is one of the most experienced debaters in American political life and we definitely don’t take the challenge lightly,” an adviser said.
The advisers did point out, however, Ryan “knows a lot about a lot of things. It’s not so much a crash course on how to get smarter in a particular policy area as it is how to think about debating someone who is extremely experienced.”
'Running against Obama'
Debate strategy was not discussed with the press during the briefing in a Reno hotel or if there are any topics Ryan is spending more time studying than others. It was mentioned that they are focused on “running against the Obama record and we are running to advance the Romney-Ryan agenda.”
The Biden stand in – the person who will “play” the current VP – has not yet been publically announced and will not be on hand in the Beaver State this week as no mock debate will take place. Ryan did say in an interview with Fox and Friends this week, this person will be announced “shortly.”
Mitt Romney spent several days this week doing debate prep of his own in Woodstock, Vt. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who was once considered a frontrunner to be the Republican VP, will play President Barack Obama. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) will play Ryan in debate preps with Biden.
Campaign aides told the Ryan traveling press corps late Friday that Ryan will “do something similar” to Romney’s debate camp and this weekend’s events lend clues to what may occur in the future now that they’ve moved into a new phase: “to focus quite intensely on debate prep.”
“Look at what we are doing Sunday,” an adviser said. “We are doing it somewhere remote, we are doing it somewhere where there aren’t distractions and that obviously is the model. Where geographically the debate camp will be, I am working on that right now.”
Debate prep day
Sunday will not mark Ryan’s first day studying for the VP debate, which will take place in Danville, Ky. The seven-term Wisconsin congressman has been going thru large white binders – “organized by issue areas” -- of policy information, research, and news of the day since the Republican National Convention ended a week ago. Ryan himself has had a very hands-on roll thus far.
“By the time he had wrapped up the convention, he was able to start absorbing a lot of those briefing books and weighing in on them. Editing them, restructuring the format along the lines that works for him,” an advisor said, shedding the first real insight into what Ryan has been doing on his campaign plane and during down time on the road.
The congressman’s debate prep day comes amidst a fundraising swing out West which precludes him from doing his typical Sunday routine of flying to his hometown of Janesville, WI, to spend time with his wife and three children. Last Sunday, when Ryan was home, advisors said he watched the 2008 vice presidential debate between Biden and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.