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Armed with facts and a smirk,Biden edges past Ryan in debate

It was the debate that President Obama and Mitt Romney did not have a week ago.

Written by New York Times |
October 13, 2012 12:54:58 am

It was the debate that President Obama and Mitt Romney did not have a week ago.

Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr and Representative Paul D Ryan fiercely quarreled at the vice-presidential debate here on Thursday night,with Biden using the cutting attack lines against the Republican ticket that Obama did not and Ryan delivering a spirited case for conservative policies that Romney had soft-pedaled.

Instant polls conducted after the debate suggested something between a tie and a modest win for the vice-president.

The 90-minute debate,which unfolded in rapid tempo,offered a spirited airing of the sharp contrasts over the administration’s handling of the terrorist attack in Libya,the pace of the economic recovery at home and the role of government in addressing the nation’s fiscal burdens.

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While Obama and Romney were not on stage,they were at the centre of the conversation as their running mates made certain the evening was squarely focussed on defining those men. But,under pressure to pass the test,Ryan displayed a proficiency in areas like foreign policy and kept pace with Biden,27 years his senior.

It was Biden,a smirk constant on his face,who sought to quiet the rising clamour among Democrats that the president was not assertive enough with Romney at their debate last week in Denver. A day after Obama conceded he was “too polite”,Biden showed no hesitation in hectoring,heckling and interrupting his challenger.

Within a single minute,Biden worked in three attacks on his rivals,referring to Romney’s opposition to the auto industry bailout,his statement that the foreclosure crisis would have to “run its course” and his comment about “47 per cent” of Americans who he said were overreliant on government benefits.

“These guys bet against America all the time,” said Biden,whose temperature was running close to boil for most of the evening.

Ryan,who kept his composure for most of the night,suggested that Romney misspoke when talking about the 47 per cent. He added pointedly,“I think the vice-president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”

But Biden retorted sharply: “But I always say what I mean. And so does Romney.”

Ryan offered a point-by-point rebuttal of Biden,accusing the administration of lacking “credibility” in its international approach to Iran because it sent mixed signals and asserting that the tough sanctions came about only because of the fortitude of Congress,as the administration sought to “water down” the trading restrictions.

He sharply criticized the administration’s handling of the terrorist strike in Libya that killed the American ambassador,saying: “It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack. Look,if we’re hit by terrorists,we’re going to call it what it is,a terrorist attack.”

Throughout the evening,Biden made maximum use of the split-screen shots,winking at the audience at home as he stage-laughed at the assertions Ryan was making or shook his head in disbelief,grinning broadly.

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