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Biden, Ryan hold their own in tough vice presidential debate (+video)

Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan went at it in a strong, substantial debate Thursday night. Both men succeeded in articulating their campaign's main talking points, and both likely helped boost the candidacies of their presidential ticket partners.

By Staff writer / October 12, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin shake hands after the vice presidential debate at Centre College, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Danville, Ky.

Michael Reynolds/AP

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In a strong, substantial debate marked by testy exchanges as well as mutual personal respect, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan spent 90 minutes Thursday night arguing about everything from the nation’s economy to abortion to Iran and Syria.

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Vice President Joe Biden and rival Republican Paul Ryan discuss foreign policy and the economy in a high-stakes debate as the election campaign continues. Sarah Charlton, Reuters, reports.

If the job of both men was to support and boost the candidacies of their respective presidential ticket partners, then both succeeded in what likely will be seen as the most important vice presidential debate in US political history.

Mr. Biden strongly questioned the major policies espoused by Mitt Romney, injecting vigor and humor into a campaign tripped up by President Obama’s lackluster and somewhat sour performance in his first presidential debate. Mr. Ryan held his own in the rhetorical cut and thrust of political disputation with his far more experienced opponent, showing what some analysts found to be a surprisingly detailed knowledge of foreign policy and national security issues.

Much of the success of the debate was attributed to moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News, who deftly kept the two men on track through the nine subjects covered in 10-minute segments – permitting enough back-and-forth to keep it a real debate without allowing the disputants to take over, as many observers had noted about the first presidential debate moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS.

In terms of style, both Biden and Ryan seemed to be natural. At times, Ryan – who acknowledges his love of Power Point presentations – bordered on wonkishness. Some post-debate analysts found Biden bordering on condescension to his much younger opponent, chuckling and rolling his eyes at times as Ryan spoke.

"That is a bunch of malarkey," the vice president declared as Ryan criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policies. "Not a single thing he said is accurate," Biden said when Ryan had laid into the administration for what he said was its failure to provide adequate security at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel were killed last month in a terrorist attack.

For his part, Ryan looked squarely at Biden when he said, “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 interrupt each other” – the reference to “lost ground” being Obama’s drop in most polls since the presidential debate. Still, Ryan himself did not hesitate to butt in from time to time, although both men were quick to shut up when Ms. Raddatz respectfully but sternly moved them on.

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