It's the young political "wonk" armed with conservative philosophies taking on the blustery veteran politician with a reputation of verbally shooting from the hip. Political pundits and, most importantly, millions of undecided voters will be locked into the expected fireworks of tonight's one and only Vice Presidential debate.
But Tennessee Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, in Memphis for a speaking engagement on Thursday, is sure GOP candidate Rep. Paul Ryan is fully aware of his mission in going head to head with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
"Paul Ryan's goal is not to win the debate for Paul Ryan. It's to win the debate so more people will vote for Governor Romney," Sen. Alexander said. "If Paul Ryan can show in the debate that his plan for reducing the debt is reasonable then that will help Gov. (Mitt) Romney. Because President Obama is trying to say that Romney's got a Ryan debt plan that will hurt people."
Aides say Ryan has been intensely working in preparation for taking on the seasoned Biden. Ryan is confident he can handle questions on federal spending, taxes and the economy, but it's his lack of a resume in regards to foreign policy that will come under heavy fire from his opponent. Biden is considered as knowledgeable as anyone on Capitol Hill in foreign affairs. Yet, recent polls show Biden's "likeability" factor has slipped just as President Obama's shrinking leads in key battleground states.
"He not only shoots from the hip," Sen. Alexander said. "He speaks a long time. He'll be a good debater. But, I think Paul Ryan has a chance to have people come and say, I'm impressed with him. In the same way they did with Gov. Romney."
While the debate and the rest of the campaign will be fueled by partisan politics, Sen. Alexander says what awaits the winners is a task of urgency all members of Congress will have to grapple with.
"We're one budget agreement away from getting our economy moving again, and that's going to take Republicans and Democrats working together."