VP Debate Drinking Game: Joe Biden Meets Paul Ryan

Matt Berman
National Journal

It's not easy being vice president.

Franklin Roosevelt's first veep, John Nance Garner, once compared the office unfavorably to a bucket of warm urine. Lyndon Johnson, while serving as John F. Kennedy's VP, told his forward-looking staff to leave him, that his future was behind him, that he was "finished."

The job, in short, can be bleak. But for one day every four years, two people come together in front of a televised audience to tussle for the right to hold this dreary office. This time, the brave, doomed men who will face off in the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night in Danville, Kentucky, are the Democratic current officeholder, Vice President Joe Biden, and challenger Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

But don't let your empathy for the candidates lead you to drink yourself into a stupor. Instead, follow along with the debate responsibly with National Journal's official, comprehensive drinking game.

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1-Drink Events

  • Joe Biden says "literally" about something that is not literal.
  • The middle class is said to have been "buried."
  • Anyone says the word "wonk."
  • Joe Biden says something that makes you or your debate-watch partner physically cringe.
  • Paul Ryan uses his mother as an example to pitch Romney's Medicare plan.
  • Joe Biden tells an anecdote about a person from a swing state.
  • Paul Ryan deflects debate over the "Ryan budget" by saying he isn't running on it.
  • Joe Biden refers to Paul Ryan as "Chairman," or "Congressman," or "Guy Who Works In That Big, Unpopular Dome Down The Street From Me."
  • Anyone says "lame duck," "fiscal cliff," or "sequester."
  • Joe Biden refers to a policy or problem as being "a big … deal." Take another few drinks if those ellipses are filled in.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., gets brought up by name.
  • The war in Afghanistan, now entering its 12th year, is mentioned.
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2-Drink Events

  • Joe Biden says "literally," and he means it.
  • Ayn Rand is mentioned by either candidate.
  • Joe Biden defends the stimulus and his role in overseeing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
  • The camera cuts away to an audience member gazing dreamily at Paul Ryan.
  • Joe Biden name checks a member of the audience.
  • Moderator Martha Raddatz addresses Paul Ryan as "Congressman" or "Chairman," then immediately apologizes to "Mr. Ryan."
  • Either candidate accuses the other of making Medicare unsustainable for people under age 55.
  • Joe Biden keeps up the Obama campaign's push about Mitt Romney going after Big Bird.
  • Joe Biden accuses Paul Ryan of lying during the debate.
  • Paul Ryan brings up the contents of his iPod.
  • On Medicare, either candidate mentions the figure $716 billion.
  • Either candidate alludes to the historic age gap between them, which places Joe Biden in the Senate when Paul Ryan was only 2.
  • Anyone says "P90X."
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3-Drink, Red-Alarm Events

  • Paul Ryan or moderator Martha Raddatz says, in mock-Alaskan, "Say it ain't so, Joe." 
  • Joe Biden dons his Amtrak conductor's hat.
  • Joe Biden misstates the name of the place in which he is debating.
  • Paul Ryan pulls out a well-worn copy of Atlas Shrugged and tells America who John Galt is.
  • Joe Biden takes out his prop chains.
  • Joe Biden, unhampered by restrictions placed on Martha Raddatz, refers to Paul Ryan exclusively as "Paulie."
  • Paul Ryan is accidentally referred to as the Republican presidential nominee by anyone, including himself.
  • Joe Biden winks at Martha Raddatz. 
  • Joe Biden compliments Mitt Romney, says he's "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," or some combination thereof. 
  • Paul Ryan doubles-down and claims to have run a marathon in less time than it took Joe Biden to finish his Democratic National Convention speech.

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