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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.

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Again and again, Biden emphasized his (and Obama’s) commitment to the middle class, contrasting their political philosophy and policies with that of Romney and Ryan – specifically Romney’s recent controversial comment about the “47 percent” as well as the impact on working Americans of the budget plan Ryan (who chairs the House Budget Committee) has crafted.

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“You’ve probably detected my frustration with their attitude about the American people,” Biden said. “He’s talking about my mother and father. He’s talking about the places I grew up.”

As he and Obama have done regularly in their campaign, Biden hammered the Republican ticket for what he said its policies would mean to the middle class on taxes and entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

Ryan reeled off the failings of Obama’s four years in office as he and Romney see it – everything from jobs and economic growth to not doing enough to head off Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon.

"It makes us look more weak," Ryan said. "It projects weakness."

In the last minutes of the debate, moderator Raddatz asked both men to talk personally about how their religion – they’re both Roman Catholics – has informed their position on abortion.

Biden said that while he accepts his church’s position that life begins at conception, “I just refuse to impose that on others.”

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that women can’t control their body,” he said. “It’s a decision between them and their doctor.”

In the past, Ryan has opposed all abortion, but in the debate he stressed that “the policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”

When Ryan raised the issue of “unelected judges” deciding such matters, that quickly got into a brief discussion of a president’s power to nominate US Supreme Court justices and the future of the landmark 1973 decision Roe v. Wade.

Unlike the first presidential debate, which virtually all observers said Romney had won, instant analysis showed the Ryan-Biden encounter ended up a near-draw.

Forty-eight percent of registered voters who were watching said Ryan won, while 44 percent said Biden won, according to a CNN/ORC International Poll. The sampling error was 5 percent.

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