DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan pull up a couple of chairs for a vice presidential debate that has mushroomed in importance since Mitt Romney's strong showing in the first presidential faceoff.
This time, it's the Obama team looking to put the brakes on the other guy's momentum.
The veep showdown Thursday night at Centre College in Danville, Ky., matches up two skilled politicians with strong policy credentials and very different styles.
It's 69-year-old Biden's folksy appeal and solid vice presidential portfolio vs. 42-year-old Ryan's intensity and extensive knowledge of the federal budget and economy from 14 years in Congress.
Like the second installment in a miniseries, it will help to shape the campaign narrative until Romney and Obama themselves meet up again Tuesday.
Biden faces the greater burden as he seeks to use the election's only encounter between presidential running mates to slow Romney's momentum and reset the campaign storyline in time for the next Obama-Romney debate.
In the aftermath of President Barack Obama's startlingly lackluster showing against Romney in last week's debate, Biden's job is to forcefully confront Ryan, and by extension Romney, while making a case for Obama's policies that strikes an emotional chord with voters.
Thursday's debate comes at a volatile moment in the election, putting the contrasting political skills of Biden and Ryan on display for millions of viewers less than four weeks before Election Day.
Ryan, whose upbeat campaign style has been a Romney asset, must fend off attacks on the conservative fiscal policies the Wisconsin congressman has promoted as chairman of the House Budget Committee. He also has to embrace or answer for the more moderate tone Romney is employing as he seeks to attract independent and undecided voters.
The vice presidential debate occurs as national polls show a tightening race, a new momentum for Romney and pressure on the Obama camp to halt any erosion of support.
WATCH PARTIES IN HAMPTON ROADS:
-Peninsula Democrats: 8:30 pm at Crown Plaza Hotel, Salon A, in downtown Hampton
-ODU hosting event for undecided voters with CNN anchor Erin Burnett.
-Romney supporters: 8:30 a.m. at the Virginia Beach Victory Office, 911 First Colonial Rd.