LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Just a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will face off in their only head-to-head meeting of the presidential race tonight as the Democrats look for a boost after President Obama's lackluster effort in Denver last week and Republicans seek to maintain some momentum after Mitt Romney's command performance.
Apart from what happens on stage this evening, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter points out that tonight's event comes on the heels of a round of new polls showing last week's debate did not completely transform the race, but it did provide Romney the opportunity to improve his battered image.
In every state poll released today, Romney saw his favorables tick up -- not a lot -- but some. This means voters are now more receptive to what Romney has to say at the next debate.
Meanwhile, Ryan is still something of a mystery to swing state voters.
A whopping 27 percent of Colorado voters and 28 percent of Virginia voters in today's New York Times-CBS News-Quinnipiac University poll said they don't know enough about him to offer an opinion.
Biden doesn't fare much better. In most of these states his favorable ratings are lower than the president's. And, even after four years in office, plenty of voters still don't know enough about him to have any opinion of him at all.
That puts lots of pressure on both men to not only define and defend their running mate, but to make a solid first impression of themselves as well.
TUNE IN TODAY: ABC NEWS' COVERAGE OF THE DEBATE. ABC News will provide comprehensive coverage of tonight's vice presidential debate, moderated by ABC's Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz, as well as the remaining two presidential debates.
ON TV: Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos will anchor special coverage of the debate from ABC News Election Headquarters in New York from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET tonight. Sawyer and Stephanopoulos will be joined by members of ABC's political team including: Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper; "ABC World News" weekend anchor David Muir, who covers the Romney campaign; Senior Political Correspondent Jonathan Karl reporting live from ABC's Fact or Fiction Desk in Danville, Ky.; and ABC News political analysts.
ONLINE: ABC News Digital will provide live debate coverage anchored by ABC News Political Director Amy Walter and "Good Morning America" Weekend Anchor Dan Harris from 8:00-11:30 p.m., ET. The coverage will be live-streamed across several platforms including ABCNews.com, Yahoo!, Yahoo! News, GoodMorningAmerica.com, ABC News' iPad & iPhone apps, as well as on ABC News affiliate websites. ABC News Digital coverage will also serve as the official provider of the debates on YouTube's Elections Hub. ABC News Digital will have a one-hour pre-show at 8:00 p.m., ET and a one hour post-show each night of the debates, as well as a 30-minute noon show.
ON THE AIR: ABC News Radio will provide live coverage of each debate from 9:00-11:00 p.m., ET including 30 minutes of post-debate analysis. ABC News Radio Correspondent Aaron Katersky will anchor ABC News Radio's coverage from each debate site. He will be joined by ABC News Radio White House Correspondent Ann Compton, ABC News Radio correspondents Vic Ratner, Steven Portnoy and Alex Stone. In addition, Katersky will anchor a one-hour preview before each debate from 8:00-9:00 p.m., ET.
Some other elements from the Morning Note to consider:
BATTLEGROUND POLLS SHOW TIGHT RACE. A bevy of new polls shows Mitt Romney virtually tied with President Obama in swing states.
--COLORADO: Romney leads 48 - 47 according to NYT/CBS/Quinnipiac http://nyti.ms/RhWON3
--FLORIDA: Obama leads 48 - 47, according to NBC/WSJ/Marist http://on-msn.com/Q0RhWL
--WISCONSIN: Obama leads 50 - 47, according to CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac http://nyti.ms/RhWON3
--OHIO: The president has held onto a distinct lead in the Buckeye State, NBC/WSJ/Marist shows, with Obama leading Romney 51 - 45 http://on-msn.com/STz5hT
MORE FROM DIANE SAWYER'S INTERVIEW WITH THE PRESIDENT:
--OBAMA INSISTS 'FUNDAMENTALS' OF THE RACE FAVOR HIM. President Obama told ABC's Diane Sawyer: "I think what's important is that the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed. Governor Romney went to a lot of trouble to try to hide what his positions are because he knows that those ideas have been rejected--they won't work. And if he's making an honest presentation about what he's proposed, he will lose, because the American people are not going to go back there. What this comes down to is how are we gonna grow an economy in which everybody gets a fair shot, and Governor Romney's prescription is that if we cut taxes by $5 trillion, skewed towards the wealthy, and we roll back regulations that I've put in place that somehow the economy's going to grow. And I fundamentally disagree with that." http://abcn.ws/WTAk5M