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VP Debate: Biden, Ryan at each other on everything

By David Espo and Matthew Daly

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:40 p.m. HST, Oct 11, 2012

DANVILLE, Ky. » At odds early and often, Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan squabbled over the economy, taxes, Medicare and more Thursday night in a contentious, interruption-filled debate. "That is a bunch of malarkey," the vice president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration's foreign policy.

"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," Ryan later scolded his rival, referring to Democratic pressure on Biden to make up for President Barack Obama's listless performance in last week's debate with Mitt Romney.

There was nothing listless this time as the 69-year-old Biden sat next to the 42-year old Wisconsin congressman on a stage at Centre College in Kentucky.

Nearly 90 minutes after the initial disagreement over foreign policy, the two men were still at it, clashing sharply over rival approaches to reducing federal deficits.

"The president likes to say he has a plan," said Ryan, a seven-term congressman. But in fact "he gave a speech" and never backed it up with details.

Biden conceded Republicans indeed had a plan. But he said that if enacted it would have "eviscerated all the things the middle class care about," including cutting health care programs and education.

As Biden and Ryan well knew, last week's presidential debate has fueled a Republican comeback in opinion polls.

Republicans and Democrats alike have said in recent days the presidential race now approximates the competitive situation in place before the two political conventions. Obama and Romney are generally separated by a point or two in national public opinion polls and in several battleground states, while the president holds a slender lead in Ohio and Wisconsin.

With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so. He supplemented his criticism by periodically smiling mockingly, wagging his finger and raising his arms in mock disbelief as his rival spoke.

Ryan, sitting on the national debate stage for the first time, settled on a smirk for parts of the debate. He sipped water and cleared his throat through many of Biden's answers.

Unprompted, Biden brought up the video in which Romney had said 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, view themselves as victims and do not take responsibility for their own lives.

"It's about time they take responsibility" instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said — of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.

Ryan was ready with a response. "This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined," he said of the man at the top of the Republican ticket. "Mitt Romney's a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And with respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."

The serial disagreements started immediately after the smiles and handshakes of the opening.

Ryan said in the debate's opening moments that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had been denied sufficient security by administration officials. Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.

"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Biden shot back.

Both the president and Romney campaigned in battleground states during the day before ceding the spotlight to their political partners for the evening.

"I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight. I could not be prouder of him," Obama told reporters after watching the debate aboard Air Force One.

Likewise, Romney called Ryan and congratulated him on his performance, a campaign spokesman said.

Obama and Romney hold their next debate on Tuesday in Hempstead, N.Y, then meet again on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

In Kentucky, Biden and Ryan seemed ready for a showdown from their opening moments on stage, and neither seemed willing to let the other have the final word. They interrupted each other repeatedly — and moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC as well.

With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so.

Ryan focused on dreary economic statistics — 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like."

Medicare was a flashpoint, as well. Ryan said Obama's health care plan had diverted $716 billion from the program for seniors and created a new board that could deny care to patients who need it.

Democrats "haven't put a credible solution on the table," he said. "They'll tell you about vouchers. They'll say all these things to try to scare people."

Biden quickly said that Ryan had authored not one but two proposals in which seniors would be given government payments that might not cover the entirety of their care. Otherwise, he said, the Romney-Ryan approach wouldn't achieve the savings they claimed.

Unlike Obama, Biden had no qualms about launching a personal attack on Romney.

After Ryan argued that Romney's plan would pay for reduced tax rates by eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy, Biden noted that on a recent interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," Romney defended the 14 percent tax rate he pays on his $20 million income as fair, even though it's a lower rate than some lower income taxpayers pay.

"You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes?" Biden asked, addressing the national TV audience, his tone of voice indicating he did not.

But Ryan said he and Romney believe "taking 28 percent of families' and businesses' income is enough."

"What we're saying is lower tax rates across the board and close loopholes primarily on the higher income people," Ryan said. He said that instead of specifying what loopholes and other tax breaks would be eliminated, Romney preferred to lay out broad principles in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement.

Across 90 minutes, the two men agreed precisely once.

That was when Ryan, referring to the war in Afghanistan, said the calendar was the same each year. Biden agreed to that, but not to his rival's underlying point, which was that it was a mistake for Obama to have announced a date for the withdrawal of the remainder of the U.S. combat troops.

The fiercest clash over foreign policy came in the debate's opening moments, when Ryan cited events across the Middle East as well as Stevens' death in Libya as evidence that the administration's foreign policy was unraveling. The Republican also said the administration had failed to give Stevens the same level of protection as the U.S. ambassador in Paris receives.

Biden rebutted by saying that the budget that Ryan authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee had cut the administration's funding request for diplomatic security by $300 million.

On the nation's economy, both men were asked directly when his side could reduce unemployment to 6 percent from the current 7.8 percent. Both men sidestepped.

Biden repeated the president's contention that the nation is moving in the right direction, while Ryan stated the Republican view that economic struggle persists even though Democrats had control of both houses of Congress during the first two years of Obama's term.

"Where are the 5 million green jobs" we were told would be created? Ryan said to Biden.

Obama campaigned in Florida during the day. Mocking recent changes in Romney's rhetoric, he told a rally in Miami rally, "After running for more than a year in which he called himself severely conservative, Mitt Romney is trying to convince you that he was severely kidding."

Romney visited with 93-year-old Billy Graham in North Carolina before speaking to an evening rally in Asheville, N.C. "Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me," he told the evangelist.

For Biden, Thursday night's debate was his first since the 2008 campaign, when he shared a stage with Sarah Palin, then John McCain's running mate.

Ryan spars frequently with Democrats during debates on legislation on the House floor and in the House Budget Committee, which he chairs, but not in a one-on-one encounter covering 90 minutes and a virtually unlimited range of topics.

For all their differences, the two men shared a common objective, to advance the cause of their tickets in a close race for the presidency. And they appeared to avoid any gaffes that might forever seal their place in the history of debates.


Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Kentucky, Ken Thomas in Florida and Kasie Hunt in North Carolina contributed. Espo reported from Washington.

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HOSSANA wrote:
Obama is the President and yet he has to rely on his VP, who is an idiot, to bail him out of his disastrous performance in the first presidential debate. Something is wrong here.
on October 11,2012 | 08:11AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Why must Obama rely on his VP to make-up for his disastrous performance in the 1st presidential debate? Something is wrong here.
on October 11,2012 | 08:12AM
ufried wrote:
on October 11,2012 | 08:13AM
palani wrote:
Well, I'm sure that crazy Uncle Joe will have viewer jaws dropping at his outrageous responses, but it is unlikely that the media will call him out. After all, the ABC "moderator", Martha Raddatz, enjoyed then Senator Obama as a guest at her wedding back in 1991. Coincidentally, Ms. Raddatz' (former) husband is Julius Genachowski, whom Obama appointed to head the Federal Communications Commission.

Biden lost badly to VP candidate Sarah Palin the last time around in 2008. Now he's up against an infinitely more knowledgeable opponent, but hey, let the Dems pin their hopes for redemption on the buffoonish Senator from Delaware.

on October 11,2012 | 08:18AM
maafifloos wrote:
Biden can not win it for Obama, but he could lose the campaign with another one of his famous "flubs".
on October 11,2012 | 08:44AM
Grimbold wrote:
Watched the debate? Ryan was deplorable, and I am leaning right.
on October 11,2012 | 04:34PM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
How so?
on October 11,2012 | 05:21PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Get real...you are definetly in denial...you have got to accept the world as it is.
on October 11,2012 | 11:17PM
SteveToo wrote:
Ryan is gonna eat him up and spit out little pieces. Bye bye Obama san
on October 11,2012 | 08:58AM
serious wrote:
SteveToo, correct. Biden without a teleprompter??? I don't think Ryan san will take prisoners.
on October 11,2012 | 10:14AM
false wrote:
Biden------ooooh I cringe at the thought.
on October 11,2012 | 09:57AM
Anonymous wrote:
Hah! Paul Ryan can out talk both Obama and Biden and Obama wants to gain momentum? Hah!
on October 11,2012 | 11:15AM
false wrote:
yeah, that the trouble he can just talk!
on October 11,2012 | 01:33PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Give me a break...you are definitely in denial BIG TIME
on October 11,2012 | 11:07PM
DiverDave wrote:
Can anyone really imagine Biden as President? That alone is enough not to vote for the Obama ticket, besides Obama being on it too.
on October 11,2012 | 12:04PM
Grimbold wrote:
Ryan said: 30% are takers. Is that true? I think it is less, but about 20% are takers and of those 10% are criminals or insane. But with a guy like Ryan I say: Poor Republicans. He is not electable to a majority of us. He makes m no smart statements at all.
on October 11,2012 | 04:33PM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
Grimbold. I watched the debate and it's pretty obvious he's smart, experienced and ethical. You should make an effort to think, before you speak. Unless you just like the sound of your own voice attacking what you don't like or understand.
on October 11,2012 | 05:25PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Well the pundits gave it to Biden...Ryan was stumbling. I look forward to the fact checkers.
on October 11,2012 | 05:23PM
niimi wrote:
Ryan leads the polling by 4 points and CNN is calling it a draw.
on October 11,2012 | 05:33PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
CBS Poll has it at 50% for VP Biden, 31% for Rep. Ryan and 19% tied.
on October 11,2012 | 09:13PM
niimi wrote:
I noticed after I got home that CBS had released their polls. I was surprised that Ryan was leading in the CNN poll; however, they do tend to garner the attention of a lot of independent voters. The CBS poll actually does not surprise me as most viewers to that network are staunchly to the left. I'm curious to see where Fox News will have their polls. If they show only a moderate win for Paul Ryan, then that may make the CNN Poll valid. It may also be fair to say that it was a "push" given the CNN poll is within the sampling error. No question Biden wanted to bring energy and in that way he really delivered.
on October 11,2012 | 10:04PM
niimi wrote:
Actually, both men were prepared and focused, which was refreshing to see. Each really chose different styles for this debate, as VP Biden was boorish in his approach to this debate. By contrast he was forceful and confident but a bit more civil in his debate with Governor Palin. Maneki-Neko in the thread below alluded to a gamble. I'm anxious to see how the independent voter will react. Certainly the left of center is really energized from this performance, as they should be. They needed.that energy and Biden delivered. Biden may have foot-in-mouth disease on-par with former Vice President Dan Quayle, but he makes no apologies and is confident enough to overcome the mis-statements he makes on occasion. Again, a boorish approach backfired for Al Gore in his debate against George W. Bush. Biden may have to be concerned in that he really took a bold, brash approach tonight. That's going to be the key exiting these debates.
on October 11,2012 | 10:16PM
niimi wrote:
CNN's own polls say Ryan won 48% to Biden's 44%.
on October 11,2012 | 05:27PM
niimi wrote:
Paul Ryan had a home run of a closing statement. Biden's closing was pretty good, too. Biden came across as strong but maybe too aggressive to the point where he really seemed rude, much as Al Gore looked really rude when debating George W. Bush. They may not come across well to many people. VP Biden was much better prepared than Obama was for his debate. Biden kept interrupting too much, like at least 50 times. Moderator Martha seemed much better than Jim Lerhrer was thought at several times I wondered if she was debating Congressman Ryan. Overall this was a much more interesting debate than the first Presidential debate. CNN's poll had Paul Ryan beating Joe Biden 48% to 44% with a 5% sampling error.
on October 11,2012 | 05:30PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I got the sense somebody told Joe he had to be an attack dog. It may have backfired.
on October 11,2012 | 07:08PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Not for the base. Glad to see VP Biden not let Rep. Ryan's shibai go unchallenged. And then to watch Rep. Ryan back down.
on October 11,2012 | 09:14PM
niimi wrote:
DTG may be right in that the left wing base will be energized by his spirited performance. Exiting the 1st Presidential debate Democrats needed an emotionally energizing performance from Biden and he delivered. There were no gaffes that I could readily discern. I'm in the middle, so seeing that energy is good. But seeing Congressman Ryan's demeanor as focused, much more even keeled, and civil made a better impression to me. Post-debate analysis in 2000 showed that when Former Vice President Gore was condescending to Governor Bush that really turned off a lot of the independent voters in the middle. As ManekiNeko may be implying, this was certainly a gamble and we'll soon tell where things stand in the polls.
on October 11,2012 | 10:00PM
niimi wrote:
Joe Quayle or Dan Biden? Biden recently said, "it comes down to a 3 letter word --jobs. J O B S!" The fellow can't even count letters up to 4 properly.
on October 11,2012 | 05:31PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
It was interesting because in some ways it was a generational debate. If Biden had said "get off my lawn you darn kids" it would have fit right in. Joe worked up a good head of steam but (imho) blew it with inappropriate laughter and snide looks and the incessant interruptions. On the other hand there were some long silences and tippy-toe dancing when Ryan did not have the facts and details to support his rhetoric. End of day it was not a game changer but it nicely teed up the next Prezzy debate. Overall, slight margin to Ryan but probably not enough o sway a single vote.
on October 11,2012 | 07:07PM
niimi wrote:
I was trying to be nice in my comments, but, yes, the laughter sometimes by Biden were condescending, boorish and snide in nature. And, yes, those interruptions were so frequent it will be looked upon as bullying. I would say that women voters would be sensitive to such browbeating by Biden. While I gave the edge to Ryan, I'd say that Obama-Biden will get some momentum because perhaps the expectations were higher for Paul Ryan than Joe Biden. Fascinating, yes?
on October 11,2012 | 10:20PM
312guy wrote:
no specifics and a lot of water drinking from Ryan, R&R running on no big government but it's ok for government to cut a woman's right to choose on having an abortion, and it's okay to put my son in harms way after training Afghanistan troops.. check who's name is on the budget cuts for Ambassy security.
on October 11,2012 | 07:27PM
tiki886 wrote:
Who refused to provide security for the embassy in Benghazi? Either Obama or Hilary killed our Ambassador. Obama's foreign policy is failing around the world and for political reasons, he has compromised the safety of our diplomats. Either Obama is going to get impeached for the cover up or Hillary will take the fall.
on October 11,2012 | 08:05PM
buds4life wrote:
Lies are now called half-truths. Shame on all of us to let our leaders get away with self serving lies, self serving half- truths. No wonder our young has lost respect for the American way.
on October 11,2012 | 08:04PM
Nevadan wrote:
The smirk on Biden's face reminds us why this administration is unable to work with the Republicans. Of course, according to Obama, it is all their fault.
on October 11,2012 | 09:33PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Let's face it Hawaii...Obama is not a local boy.
on October 11,2012 | 11:11PM
Hullstown wrote:
Wow. What an epiphany!
on October 12,2012 | 12:01AM
false wrote:
Republicans had their chance with the Bushes. Wake up. No more Republican fiascos. Obama is sweating to dig us out of the holes they left behind, Wake up and smell the coffee. Biden did great,
on October 12,2012 | 05:50AM
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