Irish American politicians Paul Ryan and Joe Biden gear up for their first major battle

Incredible, but the presidential race could come down to the debating skills of two Irish Americanpoliticians who were viewed as bit players just a few weeks ago.

Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan were supposed to be the afters, while the main course was Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

However, after Romney’s sensational knockout of Obama in the first presidential debate the Ryan/Biden stand-off in Kentucky suddenly looms large.

The polls are essentially tied which means that any major mistake or a similar poor showing by Biden could doom the Obama campaign suddenly on the back foot.

For Paul Ryan, a complete unknown to most Americans, it will be the first and only chance to introduce himself. Is he the cost cutter and right-wing ideologue that the Democrats paint him as or a visionary young politician who will loom as a giant some day as Republicans believe?

Biden, whose secret service code name is “Celtic” will be trying to stop the rot that suddenly pervades the Obama campaign after the president’s faux pas in the first debate.

Paul Ryan, descendant of Tipperary Famine era immigrants, will seek to continue the upward momentum and the suddenly kinder, gentler image of the Romney/Ryan campaign.

The two men could not be more different. Biden is the Irish politician of legend; warm, gregarious, and downright sentimental at times. Ryan is a more withdrawn number cruncher, bright as all hell, and someone who sees politics as a battle about ideas not sentiment.

But those stereotypes will only carry both men so far. This presidential election is a battle about core ideas and both men personify the difference even more than the presidential candidates.

It is the small government, cut and slash spending view as against the traditional model that we can solve issues through government and private partnership.

This is what will make this debate so fascinating. The American people are finally engaged after the first debate and it is game on with polls showing the race the closest since Kennedy/Nixon and Bush/Gore.

Ryan has the tougher task, introducing himself to the American people under the harsh spotlight of a desperately close presidential campaign.

He is not in Wisconsin anymore and there has to be a sense of nervousness and anxiety heading into his big night.

Biden on the other hand has been known for his verbal gaffes and has to watch that Irish gift of the gab which isn’t such a gift on occasions.

Biden was chosen in 2008 by Obama to reach that Catholic working class voter who is so crucial in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Ryan was also picked in part because of that profile and both men will be aiming directly at the undecided vote, which contains so manyCatholic working class voters.

They say Vice Presidential debates do not decideelections, but in one as close as this it could have a massive impact.

After Obama’s poor performance the pressure on Joe Biden is greater than he has ever experienced in a long political career.

But I have a funny feeling it will be the old dog for the hard road when the smoke clears.

Read more: New information on Vice President Joe Biden’s Irish roots uncovered

Read more: The Paul Ryan American dream -- fleeing famine in Ireland to Vice Presidential ticket