WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- The two U.S. candidates for vice president are slated to face off in a debate Thursday night just as Republican challenger Mitt Romney surges ahead of President Barack Obama in the polls on Wednesday.
Indeed, Romney's strong performance in last week's first presidential debate caused him to creep ahead in polls over the past week, culminating in a 1.5-point lead over Obama on Wednesday, according to Real Clear Politics' poll average -- the first time Romney has leapt ahead of the incumbent.
But the question remains whether Romney will be able to maintain that lead after Thursday's vice presidential debate, the only one of its kind, between Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as two more presidential debates later this month.
"I think if Congressman Ryan does particularly well, it has a decent chance of helping Governor Romney's bounce," said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress. "However, that impact is still limited given that, in general, there is less public attention towards the vice presidential debate."
Still, Thursday's debate may be different than vice presidential face offs of past elections.
"The vice presidential debate will attract a lot of attention because it is a close race and everyone wants to know if Republicans have fundamentally redefined the campaign," said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
CHARGES OF LYING
While the climb may become easier for Romney, boosts from single debates tend to be short lived, since later debates, attack ads and events can derail those gains, some analysts said.
To counter Romney's recent gains, team Obama has launched a spate of counter strikes in the form of online videos that charge the challenger with lying about issues from taxes to health care.
So far, the attacks have not worked, and might not be the right plan, said some experts.
West said it is not enough for Democrats to call Romney a liar. They must show voters how he has altered his position on taxes, health care, education, and the deficit. That involves comparing a year of past statements to what he said during the debate.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THURSDAY
Mahaffee noted that Biden and Ryan have the largest age gap between the candidates -- 28 years -- in the history of the vice presidential debates.
Ryan is expected to try to emphasize that his plans for Social Security and Medicare will not affect current seniors and ensure that these programs exist for future generations, Mahaffee said.
The gaffe-prone vice president will have to avoid any verbal faux pas and try to tie Republican plans for Social Security and Medicare to his party's message that the GOP will gut important safety net programs, Mahaffee said.
Some analysts are expecting a bar room brawl -- a feisty and less civil exchange than last week's, in which each candidate aims to give the other a tongue lashing. The two are expected to mix it up over economic issues -- no problem for Ryan, one of the most knowledgeable in Congress on the issue. What's more, he is able to break down complex issues into terms easy for laymen to understand.
But in the debate on foreign policy, Biden has an advantage, as he is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.