"You know, I haven't. I really don't know her. I only met her once and that was about two years ago," Ryan said.
Palin famously asked Biden if she could call him Joe at the beginning of their debate. According to Palin aides at the time, she did that because she kept accidentally calling him "O'Biden" during her debate prep.
Ryan said he knows Biden pretty well because they served in Congress together for years, and he does call him Joe.
"I like Joe personally quite a bit, I just disagree with his policies," said Ryan, who also said he would only call Biden "Joe" if the vice president decides to be "casual."
Meticulous approach comes from teenage tragedy
"Life is short, you've got to make the most of it. And so you attack it with all the enthusiasm that you can," Ryan said. "That's just kind of the way I approach life."
Seizing the moment is a lesson teenage Ryan learned from tragedy: his father's untimely death at 55.
Ryan talks often about being forced to grow up fast to help take care of his mother and ailing grandmother. But Ryan was also playing out the advice his father repeatedly impressed upon him.
Tobin Ryan recalls their father, an accomplished attorney also named Paul, telling them to "stretch your mind" and saying "you need to absorb."
"Paul grew up in an environment where if you made a comment, you know, our dad would tell us further, 'What do you mean?' Why do you mean that? Are you thinking big enough?' So I have a feeling that Paul, in that sort of discourse, he's latched in to the whole debate process."
In high school, after his father died, Ryan dived into his studies and extracurricular activities. He was in 10 clubs; he was class president; he was prom king.
He was also voted "biggest brown-noser" his senior year.
The ambition that may have won him that moniker stayed with Ryan into his early adulthood.
While living and working in Washington as a twenty-something, he sought out high-profile Republicans as bosses and mentors who were like-minded about supply-side economics and espousing what Ryan has called individualism over collectivism. Ryan became extremely close with former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and former Education Secretary Bill Bennett when he wrote speeches and did research at their think tank, Empower America.
When asked what made him think, in his twenties, that he was qualified to go back to Janesville and run for Congress, Ryan said Kemp and Bennett helped give him the confidence, after teaching him about the importance of what he calls the "power of ideas."
"What Jack, and Bill Bennett as well, taught me was that the power of ideas is great -- that if you really believe in a cause you can make a difference in this country. I learned at a young age that if you apply yourself, you can actually make a difference."
Ryan also cultivated important Republican players back home, like Steve King.
King said he chose to back Ryan as the GOP candidate in the open congressional seat in 1998 over other more experienced candidates.
"One or two were frankly not happy with me. And one was kind of a close personal friend," recalled King, who said his decision to back Ryan shattered that friendship.
But King said he never regretted it, because from "day one" it was clear that Ryan was an "old soul."
"He gets it," King said.
Ryan also had something others considering a run for Congress in the 1st District of Wisconsin didn't: the Ryan name.
His large family has been in the area since the 19th century. His uncle founded Ryan Inc., a highly successful dirt-moving company. Until Ryan's father died, his name was on the law firm that towers over the center of town.
Luck of the Irish tie
Mitt Romney noted to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Ryan has never debated in the kind of forum he will be in against Biden, but Ryan has had election year debates as a candidate for Congress.
We showed Ryan a photograph of one of his debates against his Democratic opponent during his first campaign, against Democrat Lydia Spotswood.
He noticed that he was wearing what he called his "lucky Irish tie," a green one that he wore on most of his election nights during his seven congressional campaigns.
Will he wear it during his debate with Biden?
"I don't know. I have to see if I can dig it up," he said with a laugh
'I'm not intimidated'