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VP debate tees up closing issues for Romney, Obama

By Nancy Benac and Philip Elliott

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:10 p.m. HST, Oct 12, 2012

DANVILLE, Ky. » In a spirited debate that laid out stark choices, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan teed up pointed arguments on the economy, social policy and America's place in the world that President Barack Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney now will drive forward into the campaign's final stretch.

With just 25 days to go in Campaign 2012 and throngs of people already voting, Obama and Romney will try to answer two questions that their running mates posed to the tens of millions of Americans who watched Thursday's hard-fought, 90-minute debate.

"Who do you trust?" Biden asked.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a job-creator in the White House?" asked Ryan.

Biden, eager to make up for the president's lackluster performance in his first debate with Romney, played the aggressor throughout. And the president gave his running mate a quick thumbs up for delivering with the energy and feeling that he did not.

"His passion for making sure that the economy grows for the middle class came through so I'm really proud of him," Obama said after watching the debate aboard Air Force One on the way home after a day of campaigning in battleground Florida.

Ryan came back at the vice president with harsh talking points, a flurry of statistics and a sharp economic warning: In another Obama term, he said, "Watch out, middle class, the tax bill's coming to you."

Romney, who watched the debate at the end of a campaign day in North Carolina, got on the phone to Ryan immediately afterward to congratulate him. Ann Romney told a rally in the western Michigan town of Hudsonville today that the debate showed why her husband chose Ryan as his running mate.

"What he saw in Paul was a level head, very smart. You can tell, it came through, the kind of character that this man has," Mrs. Romney said.

Attention now shifts to the two remaining debates between Obama and Romney: Tuesday's "town hall" style faceoff in Hempstead, N.Y., and a final showdown, over foreign policy, on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.

And the campaigns get right back into the thick of it today, looking for ways large and small to shift more voters their direction in the small number of states whose electoral votes are still up for grabs: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Romney headed to Virginia and after was linking up with Ryan in Ohio. Biden and wife Jill will woo young voters at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Obama will spend a rare day in Washington, preparing for the next two debates and taking campaign contest winners out to eat.

With so little time left in the countdown to Nov. 6, "every day, every hour counts," said Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago mayor who served as Obama's first White House chief of staff. "Everything counts."

The president has set aside a serious chunk of time for preparation after being faulted for underestimating the importance of his first debate with Romney. He'll be hunkered down in Williamsburg, Va., from Saturday until Tuesday rehearsing with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, acting as a proxy for Romney.

Romney's return to Ohio this weekend signals the importance of a state seen by both sides as decisive to the whole election. Obama holds the edge there, polls show.

Obama had to hope that Biden's solid showing on Thursday was enough to shift a campaign dynamic that has had the momentum moving Romney's way since the first debate. Romney, for his part, had to hope Ryan's performance would keep up the good karma for the GOP.

The running mates clearly sensed that the stakes were higher than usual for their faceoff, and both played hardball throughout, frequently interrupting one another and challenging one another's assertions.

On television's split screens, Biden's body language — a montage of pained smiles, winces, head shakes and eye rolls — often screamed incredulity when Ryan was speaking.

"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground," Ryan shot back at Biden at one point, "but I think people would be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other."

In one of the night's lighter moments, Ryan helpfully provided a translation of one of Biden's putdowns.

"This is a bunch of stuff," Biden said of Ryan's dismissive characterization of the president's Iran policy.

"What does that mean, a bunch of stuff?" asked moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

"It's Irish," Ryan offered.

"It is," Biden agreed, to laughter from the audience. "We Irish call it malarkey."

At another point, Ryan used Biden's own history of gaffes to explain away Romney's much-criticized comment dismissing the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes, a comment Biden brought up repeatedly after Obama had failed to mention it in his debate.

"I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way," Ryan said.

There were spirited exchanges on taxes, abortion, Medicare, Libya, and more. It may not have broken new ground, but the conversation gave viewers a clear illustration of the sharp choices before them come Election Day.

"In case you haven't noticed, we have strong disagreements," Biden said in his closing statement. And then he distilled the Democrats' campaign pitch into a simple bid to give anxious Americans "a little bit of peace of mind."

Ryan then spoke of the "big choice" in this election, and argued that Obama had had his chance and failed.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like," he said. "You deserve better."

For all the political back-and-forth during the past two months, the race essentially stands where it was in August, before the two national political conventions, with the two candidates running about even in national polls.

There's been no shortage of drama in between: the revelation of Romney's caught-on-tape comment about the 47 percent, Biden's remark that the middle class has been "buried" in the past four years, Obama's weak showing in the first debate, the ongoing tussle over the administration's handling of the attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi, Libya, and more.

With turnout critical, both campaigns are devoting considerable energy to ensuring that supporters are registered to vote and taking advantage of the early voting options available in many states. Nearly a million Americans already have voted.

The Democrats' monthlong "gotta vote" bus tour will be in Milwaukee today, just in time to rev up supporters for the opening of Wisconsin's early voting season on Monday.

And both sides are keeping up the push for campaign contributions to keep the battleground-state airwaves full of political ads. Within a few hours of the debate, Romney, Obama and Biden all emailed supporters asking for more cash.

Benac reported from Washington.

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false wrote:
Ryan was so inexplicit. How can you can trust that team when Romney does 180s. Biden did great and Obama is still digging us out of the trenches Bushes left. Listen carefully to the rhetoric of hole digging the pretty boy twins R&R want to dig. Wake up already.
on October 12,2012 | 05:54AM
palani wrote:
"Inexplicit"? What is that? Biden was rude, offensive, and disrespectful of Ryan, the audience, and the process. He would have been right at home in a third grade classroom, making faces and laughing at everything the teacher says. What a buffoon!
on October 12,2012 | 06:31AM
Malani wrote:
Palani, you took the words right out of my mouth, rude. Biden constantly interrupted Ryan. No wonder he and Obama get along. Both mouthy.
on October 12,2012 | 09:09AM
Jonas wrote:
I think "inexplicit" meaning he never gave details on much of anything. Perhaps Biden was disrespectful, but I think rude and offensive are a little over the top. What do you do when your opponent spreads misinformation and doesn't answer direct questions? I would be rolling my eyes too.
on October 12,2012 | 09:13AM
Grimbold wrote:
Religionist Ryan would like to become the next imam. I don't like the socialist moneygrabbing and re-distributing Democrats, but Religionist are worse. They are people wthout common sense . And In the name of God or some book written by fanatic humans who knew no more than anybody else., Religionist would force their nonsense on us. Biden is a ZERO too, so there is no good choice this November.
on October 12,2012 | 06:00AM
palani wrote:
And the liberal theology that divides, demonizes, and denigrates is somehow preferable?
on October 12,2012 | 06:33AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Your use of the term "buffoon" above is not divisive and denigrating?
on October 12,2012 | 10:57AM
Aquarius1 wrote:
Yes, pretty scary that a man should decide what a woman does with her body. I thought we were out of the dark ages.
on October 12,2012 | 08:02AM
tiki886 wrote:
It's scary that Obama and his minions are sympathetic to the Muslims who treat their women as property and 2nd class citizens.

The Prophet (p.) said, “if a man invites his wife to sleep with him and she refuses to come to him, then angels send their curses on her till morning.” (Bukhari: vol. 7, bk. 62, no. 121, Khan)

I'm surprised that Moochele doesn't run around with a burka or at least a hijab in the White House.

on October 12,2012 | 10:25AM
IAmSane wrote:
I'm an independent voter, and comments like this is why I have hard time considering giving my vote to a Republican candidate or take most of you seriously. I can't tell if you are trolling or if you possibly have dementia. This isn't political; I think there might be a mental health issue here.
on October 12,2012 | 12:14PM
Grimbold wrote:
Why are Romney and Omama always laughing while the country and the world are in deep trouble? Bunch of actors.
on October 12,2012 | 06:03AM
Grimbold wrote:
Why are Obama and Romney always laughing? Nothing but actors.
on October 12,2012 | 06:04AM
false wrote:
Romney doesn't act. He clowns.
on October 12,2012 | 06:19AM
Graham wrote:
Obama is a clown...
on October 12,2012 | 08:16AM
Malani wrote:
Yeah, and we need to be careful of clowns. When they take their mask off the real, watch out.
on October 12,2012 | 09:11AM
tiki886 wrote:
...a Communist clown.
on October 12,2012 | 09:50AM
palani wrote:
Did you even watch the debate? Biden was like an immature third grade version of Jack Nicholson in The Shining. His constant smirking and bullying deserved a smackdown from the moderator.
on October 12,2012 | 06:36AM
Grimbold wrote:
I never liked Biden either. Would not trust one like that to become presidentone day. So the lesser evil may be Romney after all.
on October 12,2012 | 07:56AM
Aquarius1 wrote:
It's amazing that Ryan, who constantly touts his 'middle class' upbringing would begrudge other social assistance. Now that he is making money and living a comfortable lifestyle, it's too bad, so sad for others, help yourself and don't think that government assistance should be there for you. Greedy.
on October 12,2012 | 08:05AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Hard to connect your comment with anything Ryan has said, last night or before. His main point, regarding entitlements, is that they are going broke. Medicare in less than a decade and Social Security in a couple of decades. For short term thinkers, that may not sound like a problem, but it is. In the case of Medicare, fewer and fewer doctors are willing to accept Medicare patients. This will only get worse as Medicare's bankruptcy nears. It will also worsen as Obamacare's 15 member payment advisory board begins to limit treatments and cost of Medicare payments to doctors. ------- Social Security's failure is further over the horizon, but when it arrives, ALL beneficiaries, including those in retirement will have their payments cut by 25%. The sad thing is that the Obama administration has done nothing, has no plan, to address the coming failure of these programs. So the reality is, that other than lying about the Romney/Ryan position on the matter, demonizing the one and only effort to shore up these "social assistance" programs as you call them, Obama has done absolutely nothing about the problem, has no proposal to do anything about them. So, tell me again who is failing to take care of our social assistance programs?
on October 12,2012 | 08:24AM
Jonas wrote:
we will see. But the republican answer is not sufficient. Unfortunately, no answer will be.
on October 13,2012 | 12:11AM
Jonas wrote:
Oh, and the Romney/Ryan proposal is not the only effort out there. There are other proposals, none of which solve the problem completely.
on October 13,2012 | 12:13AM
BTO wrote:
A persons compassion is seen what he does with his treasure. I heard a touching story of one of the candidates last night who paid for college for two children who were going through a rough time and gives 30% of his income to charity. And I have heard the story of the other candidate, whose half brother is living in poverty in a hut in Nairobi, and he gets no support from him?? Real character shows in our actions and not our speech. I am struggling to vote with speeches as my guide. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqvEiKN2jUE
on October 12,2012 | 09:06AM
desertpup wrote:
Wow. This is a perfect way to sum up the differences between these two men. Personal character matters. Treating one another with compassion and respect is what is so lacking in America today. It is no wonder there is so much gridlock. "Get out of my way" is not how you start a project when you mean to work together. In all honesty, how can anyone believe the current leadership has any interest in bipartisanship after watching that debate? We need civility, not arrogance and condescension. It surprises me that Hawaii is so strongly for Obama when Romney seems to actually espouse the values of the ohana that are the foundation of thinking and culture here. Where is the humility?
on October 12,2012 | 09:38AM
tiki886 wrote:
The choices are distinct. One professes and practices that the local community or individuals be empowered to voluntarily take care of their neighbors. The other, relies on the power of government to confiscate from your neighbor to redistribute to others you don't know and shuns responsibility of judging whether help is needed or not. Of course the benefit of that approach is you create a dependent class of voters who will keep you in power to continue their 'gravy train'.
on October 12,2012 | 10:03AM
Jonas wrote:
Are you referring to the 47% as the dependent class?
on October 13,2012 | 12:09AM
Jonas wrote:
The problem is that Romney does SEEM to show these values, but the truth behind his history is that he cares nothing about the middle class and his tax plan favors more tax breaks for the wealthy. I agree that we do need civility, but the reality is that you cannot find that in politics - whether Republican or Democrat. And it is hard to respect someone who only tells the people what they want to hear in order to win.
on October 13,2012 | 12:07AM
Malani wrote:
Hey, nose to nose Ryan didn't have to stoop to Biden. He held his own head up and showed that he got what it takes to face off with Biden.
on October 12,2012 | 09:14AM
HD36 wrote:
Politicians : Who lied the best?
on October 12,2012 | 09:16AM
Maipono wrote:
Vice President Biden's behavior was embarassing, with the constant interuptions and the inappropriate laughing and grinning. When you are the VP of the USA, you represent all of us, like other public servents, you should respect the office and act accordingly. Unfortunately, with VP Biden, although he is a very experienced politician and should know this, he doesn't. What is frightening is that he did a better jobl than the president in the debates. God help us if the Obama/Biden team gets re-elected.
on October 12,2012 | 10:46AM
Jonas wrote:
I think Biden showed how misguided the statements from Ryan were. Ryan is just towing the party line as shown on FOX news aka FAUX News or FOX Noise. Biden is experienced and knew his facial actions were being recorded. He did have to come out swinging after Obams's flat debate. But the Mormon God help us if Romney/Ryan get elected!
on October 13,2012 | 12:01AM
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