Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan came ready to rumble. And it showed.
The dueling running mates turned the lone vice presidential debate into an uncharacteristically feisty affair Thursday night, scrapping over everything from the economy to Libya to taxes.
The candidates interrupted each other. They talked over each other. Biden chuckled through many of Ryan’s responses. Ryan claimed his opponent was simply under “duress.”
The 90-minute session was a turnaround from last week’s opening presidential debate, a policy-focused bout in which President Obama was panned for his lackluster performance. On stage Thursday night in Kentucky, both vice presidential contenders aggressively challenged each other and came armed with a stack of talking points.
Ryan accused Obama of “projecting weakness” with his foreign policy, particularly in his response to the terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. At home, he accused the administration of presiding over a shoddy recovery.
“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” he said.
Biden went after the Romney/Ryan ticket with a directness that Obama did not a week ago in Denver. Notably, he hammered Romney over his secretly videotaped comment in which he said he doesn’t have to worry about the “47 percent” of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes.
“These people are my mom and dad, the people I grew up with, my neighbors,” Biden said, adding he’s “had it up to here” with those kinds of comments.
Ryan shot back, in reference to Biden’s tendency to make gaffes: “As the vice president very well knows … sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
“But I always say what I mean,” Biden responded. “And so does Romney.”
Ryan opened the vice presidential debate with tough criticism of the Obama administration over its handling of the Libya terror attack.
“What we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy,” Ryan said.
With the moderator, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, opening the debate with a question about the Libya strike, which happened a month ago Thursday, Ryan criticized the administration for waiting more than a week after the strike to call it a coordinated terror attack.
“This is becoming more troubling by the day. They first blamed the YouTube video. Now they’re trying to blame the Romney/Ryan ticket for making this an issue,” he said. Ryan was referring to a claim by an Obama aide earlier Thursday that the only reason the attack had entered the political debate was because of Romney’s criticism – a claim Romney rejected.
Biden was quick to retort: “With all due respect, that’s just a bunch of malarkey,” he said, on the debate stage in Kentucky.
“This talk about this weakness, I don’t understand what my friend’s talking about,” he said.
Biden also criticized Romney for making a “political statement”on the night of the attack, a reference to Romney’s criticism of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s early response to protests there.
The face-off Thursday night was taking on outsized importance for a vice presidential debate.
After Obama’s debate performance last week, the pressure was on Biden to recapture the momentum – while equally on Ryan to prevent the Obama ticket from blunting Romney’s surge.
In a matter of days, Romney has picked up steam in both battleground and national polls. The latest Fox News national poll of likely voters showed Romney edging Obama, 46 percent to 45 percent.
Obama has acknowledged he had a “bad night” at the first presidential debate, but the campaign indicates it will be more aggressive going forward.
There are two final presidential debates, on Oct. 16 and Oct. 22. The next one will be a town hall format focusing on a range of issues, and the last one will focus exclusively on foreign policy.
(Source: Fox News)