On election tickets, the presidential candidates usually get all the glory. They, after all, are the top names, the main acts, the men who are fighting for the chance to lead America. The bottom of the ticket, on the other hand, is usually filled with someone a little further out, a pinch-hitter brought in to garner a few votes or sew up a key constituency. But when it comes to debates, the bottom of the ticket is often where the action is. After all, the president has to look presidential -- dignified, responsible, above the fray. The vice president, on the other hand, can have some fun.
This certainly appears to be the case this year, as Paul Ryan, one of the Republicans' biggest economic heroes, faces off against Joe Biden, a notoriously outspoken (and gaffe-prone) Democrat. Pundits on both sides are already handicapping the contest, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates and waiting for what -- finally -- promises to be a barnburner of a debate.
In honor of tonight's festivities, we've put together a collection of candidate trivia, a glimpse of the ways the candidates differ -- and the surprising similarities they share. If you're interested in the two men who are fighting to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, or just looking for something to do until the start of the "Thrilla in Vanilla," here is our comparison of America's candidates for the second-highest office in the land!
Joe Biden and Paul Ryan: The Candidates You Don't Know
For years, Biden has been dogged by rumors about his beauty routine, from suggestions that he has had hair plugs to claims that he botoxes his forehead. And as far as his gleaming chompers are concerned, there's even a website, Joe Biden's Teeth, that asks contributors to explain how the sight of the vice president's shining smile has inspired them.
When it comes to improving his body, Ryan takes a more natural approach. A former fitness trainer, the congressman regularly leads about a dozen of his fellow Congressmen and congressional staffers in a grueling, highly-regimented P90X routine.
The son of a car salesman, Biden has long been a fan of American rolling steel, and still fondly remembers one of his first cars -- a 1951 Studebaker. In fact, one of his regrets at being vice president is that the Secret Service won't let him drive his favorite car: a 1967 Corvette.
While in college, Ryan spent his summers working as a traveling salesman for Oscar Meyer. While selling lunchables to local groceries was far from glamorous, the job had one great side benefit: it gave the future Congressman the opportunity to drive the famed Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.
Biden raised eyebrows in 2008, when he responded to claims that Obama was pro-gun control: "Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey," he said. "If he tries to fool with my Beretta, he's got a problem."
A noted bow hunter, Ryan managed to combine his vocation and his hobby by sponsoring a 2008 law that cut taxes on hunting arrows.
Elected to the Senate in 1972, Biden was 30 years old when he took office -- the legal minimum age. He's the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, Ryan was 28 when he took office, making him the second-youngest congressman at the time.
The first Catholic vice president in U.S. history, Biden was a regular parishioner at St. Joseph Brandywine Catholic church in Greenville, DE; since assuming the vice presidency, he has been seen at Holy Trinity Catholic church in Washington, DC, the same church that John F. Kennedy attended. On the other hand, his stance on abortion has drawn the ire of the church, and Biden has been barred from speaking at Catholic schools in Wilmington, DE.
A former altar boy, Ryan is still attends mass at St. John Vianney Catholic church in Janesville, WI. Ryan also has what some experts have called a "Catholic problem": his budget plans, which cut entitlements and social services, have drawn the ire of Catholic bishops, priests, and scholars at Georgetown University, the nation's oldest Catholic college, who claim that the Congressman budget reflects "the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand (pictured), rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Given his much-touted Irish heritage, it's hardly surprising that Biden's Secret Service nickname is "Celtic."
Ryan's macho lifestyle, a large part of his mythology, is on display with his Secret Service nickname, "Bowhunter."
An inveterate football player, Biden's first taste of gridiron glory came at Archmere Academy, where he played halfback/wide receiver. He later joined the freshman football team at the University of Delaware.
Although he has become better known for his love of extreme outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, Paul Ryan played on the soccer, skiing and track teams in his high school, as well as a Catholic intramural basketball team.