VP Debate: Biden Came on Strong, Ryan Pushed Back

Vice presidential candidates — Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) debated for a lively 90 minutes last night. The exchange was moderated by Martha Raddatz of ABC News and focused on both domestic and foreign policy issues. Described by the New York Times as an aggressive quarrel, neither candidate hesitated to harshly criticize or scoff at the other.

Ryan and Biden’s clash of philosophies centered around multiple topics, including healthcare, Libya, tax cuts, the Middle East, defense cuts and Social Security. Throughout the night, there was little that the candidates agreed upon – Ryan made a strong case for conservative policies, whereas Biden sharply criticized Ryan’s proposals and advocated a liberal Democratic agenda.

Medicare in particular was a fiercely debated topic. Biden argued, “Their [Republican] ideas are old and their ideas are bad, and they eliminate the guarantee of Medicare.” Ryan countered that Democrats “got caught with their hands in the cookie jar, turning Medicare into a piggybank for Obamacare.”

The candidates also contrasted sharply when Raddatz asked what role their Catholic faith had played in shaping their views on abortion. Ryan, who identifies as pro-life, made it clear that his faith and politics are intertwined, saying that he was not able to see how persons could separate their public life from their faith. Biden stated that although he has considered himself a practicing Catholic for his entire life and accepts the Catholic Church’s position that life begins at conception, he refuses “to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. . . [He does not] believe that we have a right to tell other people that – women they can’t control their body.”

Foreign policy further emphasized the divide between the candidates. Ryan was critical of the way the Obama administration handed the terrorist strike in Libya, saying he was unsatisfied that “It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack.” He questioned why the United States lacked protection for the diplomatic compound. When Ryan went on to further criticize the Obama administration’s response to the Middle East, Biden retorted that his criticisms were “a bunch of malarkey,” causing the phrase to significantly trend online.

Throughout the debate, Biden had no shortage of quips for his opponent, and his smirk at Ryan was a constant presence. As the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Biden showed no hesitation in hectoring, heckling and interrupting his challenger.” Biden’s sharp responses included “These guys bet against America all the time” and “But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney.”

Biden’s demeanor was a popular topic on social media. “Malarkey” was trending on Twitter, and images of the smirks he gave Ryan were prominent on Tumblr. Sam Youngman, a campaign correspondent for Thomson Reuters, tweeted, “People who like Biden will think this is the greatest debate ever. Folks who don’t will find him at his most obnoxious.”

While Biden definitely made a strong impression, polls were divided as to who won the debate. A survey by CNN declared Ryan the winner; another survey by CBS News called it a clear victory for Biden. The CNN survey stated that 48 considered Ryan the winner of the debate, while 44 percent said that Biden was the winner. CBS News found that 50 percent thought the night was a win for Biden.


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