Democrats are starting to go into panic mode as Mitt Romney continues to surge in the wake of President Obama's widely panned performance in the first presidential debate, pulling ahead in the Real Clear Politics polling average for the first time. Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly practicing hard in the hope that he can stop the Republican ticket's momentum in his match-up with Paul Ryan on Thursday. Is there any way he can do well enough to reverse Obama's sagging fortunes?

Joe can turn the tide: A big Biden win really could "begin to right the Obama ship," says Ed Rogers at The Washington Post. Biden has long been admired, "even by Republicans," as an effective leader who's not "gratuitously partisan." And if Biden can manage to take Ryan, a rising GOP star, "down a peg or two," he could simultaneously "disillusion Republicans and embolden worried Democrats." That could really "reverse the course of the train wreck the Obama re-election effort has become."
"Obama needs Joe Biden"

But VP debates are rarely game-changers: Biden can't rescue Obama, says Ed Morrissey at The Week. "Voters don't choose presidents on the basis of the bottom of the ticket." That point has been made clear time and again — remember how "Lloyd Bentsen humiliated Dan Quayle" in a 1988 debate only to go down in flames with his running mate, Michael Dukakis? The best Obama can hope for is that people will stop talking about his lousy performance. If he wants to truly "reverse the slide," he'll have to do it himself.
"Joe Biden can't save Barack Obama"

Biden could solve Obama's problem — or exacerbate it: Pundits long assumed that the veep debate wouldn't matter, says David Freedlander at The Daily Beast, but Obama's "bumbling" turned it into "Slugfest, Part II." Now, a triumphant Biden could at least stop the incumbent's unraveling, and the VP will surely hammer Ryan on Medicare, the budget, tax cuts, and the congressman's rather short resume. The rub is that gaffe-prone Joe is as likely to "implode Obama's chances" as he is to save them.
"Biden's mission impossible: Stop Obama free fall with Ryan debate"

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