One day after Mitt Romney announced that hotshot young Congressman Paul Ryan would be his vice-presidential candidate, the pair sat down for their first joint interview on tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes. The duo sat next to each other, modeling an identical political uniform (jacket, flagpin), genially parrying interviewer Bob Schieffer’s most penetrating questions. Herewith, the three best rhetorical bouts in an interview with two men who could wind up running the country:

1. Schieffer got visual when he asked Ryan what his role would be in the Romney campaign: “Are you gonna be the attack dog?” Ryan responded directly: “I’m gonna help him win the race.” An excellent response that allowed Ryan to have his cake and eat it, too. His response sounded low-key, but he didn’t actually say no. (Translation: “Attack dog? Psh. I’m an attack elephant with a chaingun-trunk.”) Ryan followed that up by concluding, “It was one against two for awhile, and now it’s two against two.” (Translation: “Joe Biden is Rocky Balboa, I’m Clubber Lang, and the veep debate is going to be the first half of Rocky III.”)

2. Schieffer asked Ryan: “How many years of tax returns did you turn over to the campaign?” This was a question loaded with plenty of unsubtle cannonfire, with Romney’s publicly released tax returns (or lack thereof) a frequent topic of media conversation. Ryan seemed to stumble at first, saying: “I’m going to release the same amount of years as Governor Romney has.”

“And how many was that?” Schieffer pounced, his grandfatherly smile shading into self-satisfied Waterston attack-frown.

Ryan was uncowed: “I’m gonna be releasing two, which is what he’s releasing. But what I hear from people around the country, they’re not asking where are the tax returns. They’re asking where the jobs are.” Juke! Ryan continued talking, making claims about the President’s failed polices, but that particular battle had already been won. Henceforth, if you ask about tax returns, you are a job-killing anarcho-fascist.

3. Schieffer concluded the interview with a laugh, asking Romney about his gaffe yesterday, when he announced Ryan as “the next President of the United States.” Romney laughed about it, before noting: “I understand that President Obama did the same thing when he introduced Joe Biden.” That’s true, although the circumstances were a little different: Obama quickly corrected himself, whereas Romney didn’t realize his mistake until his son and wife notified him offstage. Still, this was an excellent use of the oldest rhetorical trick in the opposition candidate’s book: When someone asks you about your mistakes, start talking about the President’s mistakes.

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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