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vp debate 2012 Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan during the vice presidential debate at Centre College, Thursday, October 11, 2012, in Danville, Kentucky. (Photo: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

VP Candidates Square Off

Biden and Ryan meet for first and only debate

By Ben Frigon | null null , null

DANVILLE, Kentucky — The two men seeking the vice presidency squared off in their one and only debate last night.

Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan met at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and debated topics both foreign and domestic.

All eyes were on this debate, with many hoping it would be more exciting than the first presidential debate last week.

"In a lot of ways, all [Biden] has to do is come out and have the conversation the President left on the floor the last time," former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told the Kids Press Corps before the debate. "I think Ryan, similarly, will challenge the administration and the Vice President on some of their assertions about the economy, the growth of jobs, et cetera. It should be a very spirited debate."

It was certainly that, with Biden and Ryan talking over each other at times as they argued about the economy, taxes, Medicare, international crises, and the size of the military.

A Lively and Snippy Debate

Moderator Martha Raddatz from ABC News opened with a question on the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Biden called the attack a "tragedy" and vowed the Obama Administration would bring those responsible to justice.

"We will find and bring to justice the men who did this," Biden said. "We will get to the bottom of it, and wherever the facts lead us, we will make clear to the American public, because whatever mistakes were made will not be made again."

Ryan took an aggressive standpoint. He called Biden and Obama "weak" for not wanting to take immediate action on the issue.

"This is becoming more troubling by the day," Ryan said. "They first blamed the YouTube video; now they're trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for making this an issue."

Biden shot back, curtly, "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey."

The Vice President took a combative tone with his Republican challenger all night. This was especially true when the debate moved to topics of the economy.

After taking office, "We knew we had to act for the middle class," Biden said. "We immediately went out and rescued General Motors. We went ahead and made sure that we cut taxes for the middle class. What did Romney do? Romney said, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.'"

Ryan responded by saying the economy was moving in the wrong direction under Obama. He quickly added that the campaign has a five-point plan for economic growth, but he didn't offer any specifics.

Despite the argumentative tone of the debate, Biden and Ryan found moments of agreement. One was on the planned 2014 withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

But even then, the candidates found ways to jab their opponent.

"With respect to Afghanistan and the 2014 deadline, we agree with a 2014 transition," Ryan said. "But what we also want to do is make sure that we're not projecting weakness abroad, and that's what's happening here."

Who Won, Who Lost, and Does It Matter?

As soon as the debate ended, the analysis began. And not only in the media. Supporters of both Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan campaigns had opinions about who won the debate.

"I think Biden came out a little bit on top," said Ben Bright, a Romney supporter from Danville. "It definitely slowed down a little bit the momentum the Romney campaign had going into it. Biden did exactly what he needed to do to slow down some of the hype."

Bill Miller, an Obama supporter from Louisville, agreed.

"I think it was great. I think Joe Biden won by a long shot," Miller said.

But they also agreed that this debate won't matter much in the long run.

"These vice presidential debates don't really make all the difference in the world," Bright said. "Really, I thought the star of the debate was the moderator. I think she was on top of her game the most."

The debate didn't sway Miller, but he said it might have had an impact on independent voters. At least, those being polled by cable news stations.

"Judging by what they showed on TV, every time Mr. Biden made a good point it upticked well, so," Miller said.

Since the first vice presidential debate in 1976, these events have had a history of being mundane and insignificant to the overall election. Tonight's debate bucked the trend by being snippy and energetic.

It's impact on this election won't be known until the first post-debate poll results are announced in the coming days. But what is certain is that it provides plenty of material for both Obama and Romney as they prepare for their second debate. That happens on Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.


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