Or . . . c) the Joe Biden that can fire up a union hall with talk of his Irish-American roots in blue-collar Scranton, a happy warrior who blasts the Republican ticket for wanting to replace Medicare with "Vouchercare" and defends the Obama administration with the line that "Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive"?
OK, it definitely won't be (a), which is the fictional – albeit hilarious – "Biden" as portrayed by the humor publication The Onion, and conservatives who expect the gaffe-prone (b) as celebrated by right-wing websites like the Drudge Report may not get their wish, either. But how much of old-school Democratic brawler (c) makes it to the Centre College auditorium in Danville, Ky., may determine whether the Obama-Biden ticket can stop the bleeding of the last week.
"This year, the debates have the ability to really shake up the race," said Christopher Malone, who chairs the political-science department at New York's Pace University, marveling at how Republican nominee Mitt Romney erased an early deficit with a strong debate showing against Obama last week. "If you're keeping score, going down two-nothing with two debates left would not be good for the Democrats."
It's a far different scenario for the vice presidential debate from what was expected this summer, when most of the attention was on Romney's pick: young, policy-oriented Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. The showdown in Kentucky was once expected to showcase the buzzworthy newcomer Ryan against the experienced and familiar Biden, first elected to the Senate in 1972.
But although Sarah Palin's showy persona drew high TV ratings for her 2008 debate with Biden, Ryan's bid for the vice presidency has been surprisingly low-profile. That may reflect worries from Team Romney that his stark proposals in the past to slash programs like Medicare might alienate senior citizens or other key voting blocs.
Instead, the pressure is all on Biden, who needs to play the dog - loyal, likable, messy and occasionally on the attack - to erase an Obama performance that was all cat, cool and disinterested.
"Tomorrow, he [Biden] has more of a responsibility in this debate than any other vice presidential candidate that I can think of," said G. Terry Madonna, the political scientist and pollster from Franklin & Marshall College. "What he needs to do is put Ryan back on the defensive, on Medicare, on health care and the Ryan budget."
The question for Biden is how best to do that. Malone said that rather than engage Ryan on the hard numbers - a strong point for the Republican - he'd do better to challenge Ryan, and thus his ticket-mate Romney, on the issues of "character and trust," going after Romney's effort last week to recast himself as a centrist.
Of course, an epic Biden gaffe, and all bets are off. Whatever happens in Danville, it probably won't be boring.
And if it is, there'll always be the bizarro-world version in The Onion.
Contact Will Bunch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-2957. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Bunch. Read his blog at Attytood.com.