DANVILLE, KY. Oct. 12, 2012 – In the nation’s first and only vice presidential debate Vice President Joe Biden was in fighting mode last night, delivering the type of feisty and spirited performance that many found lacking when President Barack Obama debated Gov. Mitt Romney a week earlier. Sharing the stage at Centre College in Kentucky, the vice president provided a sharp contrast in demeanor from the calm and reserved Ryan, who is 27 years his junior.
Split screens of the debate frequently showed Biden being dismissive towards his opponent, with a big grin on his face, often laughing and wagging his head in disapproval, and frequently interrupting Ryan’s answers.
At one point, Ryan said, “Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other.”
Biden brought up many of the attack lines that the Democratic party faithful had hoped to see from President Obama last week, including the “47%” remark that Gov. Romney made during a fundraising event where he referred to 47 percent of Americans who believe they are “victims” and entitled to government help. Romney has since disavowed those comments, saying they were a mistake.
Biden says Republican Mitt Romney's opposition to the auto bailout and government steps to prevent foreclosures "shouldn't be surprising" given his comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income tax.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., took aim at the stimulus law’s energy programs, which he described as “$90 billion in green pork to campaign contributors and special interest groups.”
Biden defended the stimulus and pointed out that Ryan twice requested funding from Energy Secretary Steven Chu for a pair of organizations in his state.
“I love that. I love that. This was such a bad program and he writes ... the Department of Energy a letter saying the reason we need this stimulus….it will create growth and jobs,” Biden emphasized. “His words. And now he's sitting here looking at me.”
Moderator Martha Raddatz asked both men if they would “level with the American people: Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?”
“I don't know how long it will take. We can and we will get it under 6 percent,” Biden said, while pointing to the poor economic conditions the Obama Administration inherited and then the actions his team has taken to rescue General Motors and help homeowners facing foreclosure.
Biden also launched into a series of talking points aimed at portraying his GOP opponent as a supporter of the wealthy versus the middle class.
“Instead of signing pledges to Grover Norquist not to ask the wealthiest among us to contribute to bring back the middle class, they should be signing a pledge saying to the middle class we're going to level the playing field; we're going to give you a fair shot again; we are going to not repeat the mistakes we made in the past by having a different set of rules for Wall Street and Main Street, making sure that we continue to hemorrhage these tax cuts for the super wealthy,” Biden said
Ryan countered that both men are from similar towns, with Biden growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin. He pointed out that the unemployment rate in Scranton is at 10 percent today, versus 8.5 percent when Obama and Biden took office.
“That’s how it’s going all around America,” Ryan pointed out. “Look, did they come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely. But we're going in the wrong direction. Look at where we are. The economy is barely limping along. It's growing a 1.3 percent. That's slower than it grew last year and last year was slower than the year before.
Biden countered that Ryan must not be reading the statistics.
“That's not how it's going. It's going down.”
For better or worse, neither man made a major gaffe or generated an “Aha!” moment for many viewers.
One of the funniest moments in the debate was when Ryan defended Mitt Romney's 47 percent remark by pointing out in a rather deadpan fashion that "the Vice President knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."
But Biden quickly responded, saying he “I always say what I mean, and so does Romney.
Whether or not the debate swayed any likely voters, especially during a night when many viewers were compelled to watch one of four baseball playoff games instead of the two candidates, remains to be seen.
A poll taken by CBS news after the debate showed that fifty percent of uncommitted voters who tuned into the debate said they saw Biden as the winner over Mitt Romney's GOP running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., according to an instant poll taken by CBS News.
But an instant polls conducted by CNN/ORC indicates the debate was more of a mixed bag, with 48 percent saying Ryan won and 44 percent saying. Biden won.
A CNN focus group conducted by CNN during the debate indicated similar results: A third of the 31 undecided voters participating said they thought Ryan won, a third said Biden won, and a third were undecided.
One undecided voter in the CNN focus group was unmoved, noting: "I did not think either candidate did well. I felt like I watched 90 minutes of campaign ads."
The Frank Luntz focus group for Fox News found that the debate did not move a single undecided voter.
For the full transcript of the debate click here
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