Usually that headline would have been singular ("Biden's job tonight is to..."). But he actually has four that I can think of, one of which was thought of by someone else, as I'll explain.
1. First and foremost, I think he needs to reset and reframe the basic story of where this country is right now economically. The economic story that emerged out of the first debate was, well, this thing happened, it was Obama's job to fix it, he hasn't, and we need to change.
Biden really has to tell a different story, which goes something like this: "Friends, let's look back over our recent history. A president took office 12 years ago saying he was going to cut taxes and reduce regulations on Wall Street and the banks, and we were gonna get more revenue, and the economy was going to go gangbusters. That's the story the American people were told.
"Well, he did those things, and instead of gangbusters, we went bust. Less revenue. Record deficits. The biggest financial collapse in 80 years. Doggone near a global financial meltdown. The president has spent four years trying to clean up the Republicans' mess, and we're finally now back to the point--with no help at all from the other side, I might note--where unemployment is down to what it was four years ago.
And now these guys come along, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan--and the congressman, by the way, voted for every one of those tax cuts and deregulations that helped create the mess--and they want you to forget how this crisis happened, and they're peddling the same ideas, cut taxes and deregulate the banks, except that their tax cuts is weighted even more heavily toward the rich than President Bush's was, that created the crisis in the first place.
"They want you to forget. We want you to remember. No, it hasn't been a pain-free four years, we know that well. But we're moving forward. They'd get in there and put in place the same policies that caused the problem."
Something like that. That's the basic Democratic economic narrative. It's true, and it needs to get lodged in people's minds by someone other than Bill Clinton, who's great but is retired, after all.
2. Matt Miller had an excellent column in The Washington Post detailing how Biden should talk about Romney, summed up in this graf, but it's worth a click thru: “That’s the point. It’s impossible to know Mitt Romney’s real values. But it’s entirely possible to understand the conservative forces Romney has pandered to and empowered in his thirst for office. They’re the same extremists who will be calling the shots if you send him to the White House."
3. He needs to show that Ryan is a liar without calling him a liar. When Ryan said the other day that Democrats' new strategy was to call him and Romney liars, that was obvious pre-inoculation, so that if Biden utters the word, Ryan and the right can say Aha!, see, we told you, that's how desperate they are, etc.
The simple thing here is just not to use the word. Congressman, the facts suggest otherwise. Congressman, several studies all say. Congressman, I'm sorry, but that isn't the reality for most Americans. And so forth.
4. Get specific about the Ryan Budget's impact on various areas, especially on issues of concern to women and the elderly. This means Biden really needs to have done his homework in these areas--especially on Medicaid, which helps millions of working-class and working-poor women and seniors (with nursing home money) in a range of ways. Ryan will lie like crazy about the implications of his budget. Biden just needs to have facts facts facts and repeat them.