Vice Presidential Nominees Get Testy In Debate Without Winner
Following the positive momentum shift for Mitt Romney after the first presidential debate, focus on the vice presidential debate Thursday night centered on whether Paul Ryan and Joe Biden's performances would affect Romney's surging poll numbers.
Though it's unclear who "won" Thursday's debate, Biden strongly defended the middle class throughout the night while Ryan sought to offer the a glimpse at what Americans "deserve" that the Obama administration hasn't given them.
Biden's sarcastic smiling and chuckling throughout the debate drew criticism from Republicans while Ryan's glare and sarcasm came off as stern and vindictive.
The intimate table setup of the debate gave moderator Martha Raddatz's pointed questions an extra edge.
The debate started with a question about Libya, with Biden stating how Mitt Romney's campaign has not had a clear vision regarding America's foreign wars.
Ryan rebutted by saying that the Romney/Ryan campaign shouldn't be blamed for the "unraveling" of the Obama campaign's foreign policy.
He repeatedly highlighted the failure of the White House to supply the Libyan embassy with marine protection when it had requested it, especially when the embassies in countries like France have marine protection.
Biden, who's seen as a middle class icon, said "That's a bunch of malarkey" right after Ryan finished--"malarkey" being the word the Irish use, Biden said.
In fact, Biden smiled and chuckled throughout most of the debate, mostly when Ryan was laying down criticism.
Biden also referred to Ryan in his responses as "my friend."
The vice president dismissed the idea that Obama's administration had made foreign affairs more dangerous, invoking the widely criticized statements Romney released about the Libyan embassy attack.
"Even before we knew what happened at the embassy, the governor was holding a press conference. That's not presidential," Biden said.
In terms of Iran, Ryan said that the Obama administration has given Iran too much space to make nuclear weapons, while also claiming that the Romney campaign wants to avoid war.
Biden said that the sanctions against Iran are going to cripple the country enough.
Biden used his extensive political experience to make it assert an appearance that he has a better vantage point on the issues than Ryan.
He referred to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu by his nickname "Bibi" and said they had been friends for 30 years.
At 69, Biden was significantly older than the 42-year-old Ryan.
During the discussion on domestic jobs, Biden reminded everyone of his roots, saying that those people he grew up with who are working hard and fighting overseas make up Romney's "47 percent."
Ryan said that he is from a town like Biden's, and that the unemployment rate has gone from "8.5 percent to 10 percent" in his hometown since Obama took office.
Trying to soften Romney's image, Ryan told a story about how Romney helped a family who had been affected by a tragic car crash by paying for the children's college.
He said that nobody knew more than Biden that sometimes the wrong words come out of your mouth.
"If you heard those comments about the 47 percent and thought he made a mistake, then I have a bridge to sell you," Biden said.
Biden reminded everyone that he had experienced a tragic car crash in his family, and that he doesn't doubt Romney's personal integrity, but that he knows Romney doesn't care for the auto industry on a large scale.
On the polarizing issue of Medicare, Ryan talked about how Medicare has helped his mother and grandmother, segueing into a critique of Obamacare for taking millions of dollars from Medicare.
Biden said that the American Association of Retired Persons AARP supported Obamacare because it provides more benefits to seniors.
Ryan claimed that his plan is a bipartisan movement, with support from a Democrat in Oregon, but Biden said that "not one Democrat" supports it.
Biden appealed to the "folks" behind the television screen to use their instincts on who to trust, since Republicans have always been against social security.
Moderator Martha Raddatz said she wanted a "simple" response to her next question on taxes.
Biden said simply that under the Obama administration the middle class will pay fewer taxes and millionaires will pay more.
In response, Ryan continued where Romney left off in the last debate by hitting the issue of small business, which he said would be hurt by Obama's tax plan.
When Ryan focused on the bipartisanship of Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, Biden said that he was there for those conversations and that Reagan, unlike Romney and Ryan, are willing to give specifics about his plan.
Ryan claimed that under Obama's plan for defense cuts, the military will become as small as it was before World War I, weakening the country's safety.
Biden said the military even asked to be "smaller" and "leaner" with more focus on special forces.
Ryan continued by saying he doesn't want the military to lose the gains its gotten in the past decade, and that defense cuts would allow for a "launching pad for terrorists."
On that point, Biden said that the purpose of the war was to cripple Al Qaeda, and that they have.
Continuing to give personal context for his beliefs, Ryan said that his best friend is in Afghanistan, and that he knows that soldiers should come home as soon as possible.
He said that by putting a timeline on the withdrawal tells America's enemies when they should come back.
When the topic shifted to Syria, Biden said that America's military cannot get involved in another ground war of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
Ryan said that nobody is proposing to send American troops to Syria.
He did say that he wouldn't refer to Assad as a reformer when he's using Russian weapons to kill his own people, and that the longer the struggle goes on, the more foreign groups like Al Qaeda will come into the country and ruin the U.S.'s chances of assisting a diplomatic end to the conflict.
Biden said that all the U.S.'s allies supported what his administration has done.
Raddatz asked what would happen if Assad doesn't fall, and Ryan warned that it would give Iran its greatest terroristic ally in the region and would harm American credibility worldwide.
Ryan said that his criteria for foreign invasion is the "strategic" interest of the American people.
Framing the abortion issue around the fact that both VP candidates are Catholic, Raddatz prodded Ryan to reveal his personal sentimentality about his first child, who he still nicknames "Bean" after the shape the fetus was in in an ultrasound.
Even Biden said that his religion defines who he is, saying that Catholicism has taught him to care for those who can't care for themselves.
In one of the savviest answers of the night, Biden said that though he holds the Catholic Church's stance on abortion in his personal life, he feels that he cannot impose those doctrines on non-Catholics.
Ryan suggested that states should decide abortion laws, while Biden outlined how a Romney/Ryan administration would threaten Roe v. Wade.
When asked if he's ever embarrassed by the negativity of the campaign, Biden said that he'd hope that troops who return from serving overseas should not feel disenfranchised by the Romney campaign's attitude about the 47 percent and the middle class.
He admitted that he is sometimes embarrassed by the negativity.
Ryan said that he would tell a returning soldier that his administration wouldn't leave him out to dry like the Obama administration has done in the last four years, and that he wouldn't cut defense spending and put his life in further danger.
Raddatz asked both men to say what they could give the country that no one else could.
Ryan really didn't answer the question, referring to things he'd do as a politician.
Biden said that his record can speak for his commitment to the middle class.
In closing statements, Biden restated how the Romney campaign's disrespect to middle class people personally offends him because this disrespect refers to people like Biden's own family.
Ryan looked straight at the camera and asked Americans if they want to continue on the path of the Obama administration.
He said that Americans "deserve better," and that the choice to vote for Romney is "clear."
The Obama campaign said they did not expect Joe Biden to make up for Obama's disappointing performance in the first debate.
Biden spent four days in Delaware prepping for the debate.
According to CNN, Paul Ryan carried a "well-worn brown briefcase that holds about 40 pounds of paperwork that he's been studying nonstop to prepare for his debate."
"This stage is kind of new for me and I'm taking it very seriously," he said. "I'm just doing my homework and studying the issues and I know [Biden will] come and attack us. The problem he has is he has Barack Obama's record to run on."
Known to be deeply conscientious, Ryan gave the impression that he would aim to overwhelm his opponent with details and statistics.
In 2008, Biden appeared to hold his ground in an election focused on the buzz surrounding Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.
Biden has earned a reputation for putting his foot in his mouth, but has hardly ever done long-standing damage to Obama's campaign.
During the VP debate in 2008, anticipation for Palin's performance outweighed Biden's stable showing.
But then, he only had to keep the ship afloat and not screw up.
Now, Biden and Ryan's names are being Googled at a similar rate leading into election day, and the stakes for Biden's performance increased.
While Biden had a one-percent lead over Ryan in approval rating going into the debate, his percentage was the lowest pre-debate favorable rating of any Democratic vice presidential nominee of the past six elections.
President Obama was on a plane from Miami to the White House during the debate, arriving right as it finished.
Romney attended a rally in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple hours before the debate began.
Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the debate here.
Reach Assitant News Editor Michael Juliani here.