For 90 minutes tonight, the presidential-election road show will plant its big tent in Danville, Ky., where Vice President Joe Biden will take on Rep. Paul Ryan and a rising tide of support for Mitt Romney's Republican ticket.
New polls released today and Wednesday show Romney pulling near even with President Obama in a number of battleground states, all but erasing a deficit that had been building since the conventions and spiked with the release of the infamous "47 percent" video in late September.
Tune in to ABCNews.com today for live-streaming coverage of the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate moderated by ABC's Martha Raddatz in Danville, Ky. Coverage kicks off with ABC News' live preview show at noon, and full debate coverage begins at 8 p.m.
The Romney revival has been pegged to his performance –- and Obama's lack thereof -– during their showdown last week.
"I had a bad night," the president told ABC News' Diane Sawyer Wednesday when asked about his the Denver debate. "It's not the first time I've had a bad night."
Obama said "the fundamentals of what this race is about haven't changed" and, when asked whether he thought he'd win re-election, said, simply, "Yes."
While Obama primes himself for next week's rematch, both campaigns are working hard to manage expectations before tonight's encounter. The Obama campaign wrote up and circulated a four-page memo called "What to Expect From the Marathon Man," a document listing "four of the biggest lies Ryan has told in the past that we will likely hear again" during tonight's exchanges.
The letter puts a target on Ryan's past claim that Obama "funneled" $716 billion out of Medicare to fund the health care law.
"Ryan's claim is more than just dishonest," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter writes, "it's also deeply hypocritical because Ryan's own budget included the identical policy."
Ryan told Detroit radio station WJR Monday that Romney had "raised the bar" last week and said he was feeling the "pressure" to keep the momentum going.
"Because [Obama] had such a bad debate, Joe Biden is just going to come flying at us," Ryan predicted. "It seems pretty clear that their new strategy is just basically to call us liars, to descend down into a mud pit, and hopefully with enough mudslinging back and forth -- and distortion -- people get demoralized and they can win by default."
For his part, Ryan showed that he was battle-ready Wednesday afternoon. When asked by reporters to name "Joe Biden's greatest weakness," he replied coolly, "Barack Obama's record."
If the Wisconsin congressman has a sharp wit on his side, Biden has experience. He spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate before joining Obama in the White House. During an appearance on CNN this morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Biden had the advantage because he's "been doing this since the 1800s."
Priebus' hyperbole aside, the Romney team is working hard to use Biden's own words against him. They've been poring over tapes of his past debates, from his 1988 presidential run all the way through his meeting, four years ago, with then-vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
Unlike Palin, Ryan won't be asking Biden's permission to call him "Joe." They've both held jobs in Washington since Ryan arrived in 1998.
"We've gotten along quite well over the years," Ryan said on CNN Wednesday night. "You know, I like Joe personally quite a bit. I just disagree with his policies."
The process, according to Ryan aides, began about a month ago, after the conventions, and has included two full-length mock debates. His sparring partner has been former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, a well-known Washington lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court on multiple occasions.
Biden's "debate camp" also included two dress rehearsals, with Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen standing in for Ryan and the vice president's communications director, a former Washington Post reporter, Shailagh Murray, playing the role of ABC News' Martha Raddatz, who will moderate the debate.
Ryan has less on tape for the Democrats to study, but campaign sources say he has been reading up on his young challenger, who co-authored a book, "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders," in 2010.
This will be Biden's first time taking questions on national television in five months. He has not, by choice or chance, appeared since a May visit to "Meet the Press," when he described himself as being "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage.
President Obama, who had not yet publicly come out in favor, followed Biden's lead a few days later.