The controversy: Just in time for Thursday's vice-presidential debate — the most publicized moment in the campaign for Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan — TIME has posted a series of photos showing Ryan, a fitness buff, pumping iron and flashing a goofy smile. (See all the photos here.) The images were outtakes from a series the magazine took last year when Ryan, then most widely known as the chief Republican budget hawk in the House, was a runner-up for TIME's Person of the Year issue. "It was Ryan's fitness regime (and Herculean strength on all things fiscal) that inspired the workout-themed sitting," TIME says.

The reaction: Each of these "pictures is more ridiculous than the next," says Noreen Malone at The New Republic. "I can't decide which is my favorite: the one where he's doing a pretty good facial impression of Screech from Saved by the Bell, or the one where he's saying, 'Shhh, baby, don't talk' to the photographer?" Publishing these "unflattering photos" at such a critical juncture is pretty underhanded, says Eddie Scarry at The Blaze, especially coming just days after The Associated Press released a tasteless image of Mitt Romney. On the bright side, tweets The Weekly Standard's Mark Hemingway, at least Republicans "know Paul Ryan won't be outgunned" by Joe Biden. Candidates often "think it advantageous to portray themselves as being in 'fighting shape,'" says Liz Marlantes at The Christian Science Monitor, but these are so over-the-top they could send a very different message. Think Michael Dukakis in a tank, or John Kerry windsurfing. See the photos here.

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.