The rolling, live blog from the evening’s fireworks:
Updated at 10:28 p.m.: We’re into closing statements. The quick 90-minute assessment? No one embarrassed himself.
Joe Biden surely gave Democrats confidence that the Barack Obama campaign hasn’t cratered — giving a good account of himself as a defender of the middle class. Best move: Staring straight into the camera and advising voters to “follow your instincts.”
Paul Ryan held his own, and wasn’t intimidated on foreign policy — a potential weak spot. His line of the night: “This is not what a real recovery looks like.”
From Nick Miller, the Emory University debate coach:
“I think Biden comes out ahead simply based on tone. Substantively, the debate was close, and Ryan came off as quite reasonable, but Biden brought the aggression that Obama lacked. Sometimes he verged on condescension, which could play poorly with undecided voters, but in terms of a demoralized Democratic base it will help. Biden’s personality won’t determine the election–his role was attack, and he performed that in both style and substance.”
Updated at 10:21 p.m.: Are you ever embarrassed by the tone of this political campaign?
Biden responds with a promise to take care of U.S. veterans. And says the military shouldn’t be thrown into the category of the 47 percent. Points to Super PACs. “It’s an abomination.” Segues into the economy and protecting the middle class. Accuses Romney of “slipshod” comments.
Ryan promises not to impose “devastating cuts on our military.” Accuses Obama of running a campaign of “attack, blame and defame.” And that promise to not raise taxes on the middle class? Most of Obamacare tax increases hit the middle class.
Replies Biden: “The two budgets the congressman has introduced everything the middle class cares about.”
Updated at 10:15 p.m.: Question for the two Catholic candidates: How does your religion determine your position on abortion?
Says Ryan: I can see how someone separates their private life from their public positions. Tells of going to get the ultrasound for their first kid. “I believe that life begins at conception,” he said. Says a Romney administration would upholds abortion exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother — which would make him pro-abortion in the eyes of Georgia Right to Life.
Accuses Obama of being “extreme” for semi-endorsing China’s one-child policy.
Says Biden: I refuse to impose my Catholic beliefs on others. Rebuffs any accusations of an Obama assault on the Catholic church. Notes that Ryan has tried to draw distinction between rape and forcible rape.
Ryan doesn’t respond to that. Repeats: “Exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother.”
Says Nick the Debate Coach:
At last, Biden varies his tone. Abortion is of course the necessary place to do so, but he sustains it on campaign tone questions. 90 minutes of anger is too much. Ryan has done a good job maintaining a level attitude. Like in Denver, it’s cool versus fiery, but the roles have been reversed.
Updated at 10:07 p.m.: We interceded in Libya. Why not Syria?
Says Biden: Because it would blow up into a regional war. Condemns “all this loose talk” by Romney and Ryan. Almost quotes the Princess Bride: “The last thing this world needs is another ground war in the Middle East.”
Says Ryan: “No one is talking about sending U.S. troops into Syria.” Condemns out-sourcing of foreign policy to the U.N., where Vladimir Putin can control through vetoes.
The U.S. could more easily have identified friends and enemies a year ago, Ryan says.
What happens if Assad does not fall?
Says Ryan: “We should not have waited for Russia to give us the green light.”
Says Nick Miller of Emory:
“Biden is spending too much time directing his aggression toward the moderator instead of Ryan. Partially a problem with the seated format, which makes it difficult to directly address an opponent, partially its that Biden needs to vary his tone a little more, lest his aggression seem shrill.”
Updated at 10:02 p.m.: Paul Ryan on Afghanistan: A President Romney wouldn’t want to stay beyond 2014. But doesn’t want to set a firm timeline.
“What we don’t want to do is give our allies reasons to trust us less,” Ryan said.
Biden: “Forty-nine of our allies signed onto this.” The vice president says the timeline is necessarily to get the Afghan government to step up.
Updated at 9:52 p.m.: Flashback! Paul Ryan says both Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy lowered taxes, resulting in an increase in federal revenue.
“Now you’re Jack Kennedy?” Biden shoots.
Note from Shirley Franklin:
“Biden has been in key policy-making meetings for 20 plus years. he’s comfortable with topics, the policies, discussions. He remembers what Ryan said and has done. He remembers who said when and why.”
Ryan very impressive in name-dropping names of Afghan tribes.
Says Miller of Emory:
“I would have to think that Biden’s interruptions are a conscious tactic. Obama was flustered and didn’t respond well to comments that his campaign later said were false. Biden’s personality won’t swing the election either way–i think he’s willing to come off harshly if it allows him to challenge Romney/Ryan talking points.”
Updated at 9:45 p.m.: Who will pay more in taxes, and who will pay less if you’re elected?
Biden is up first: The middle class will pay slightly less, the rich will pay slightly more. Accuses Republicans of holding middle-class tax cuts “hostage” to tax cuts for the rich.
“This is unconscionable,” Biden says.
Ryan: “Our entire premise is to grow the economy and create jobs. We think the government taking 28 percent is enough.”
Moderator: You have refused to say what you will cut to provide your 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you have the numbers, or are you still working on them?
It’s an excellent question, and Ryan says “We want to work with Congress on how best to achieve this.”
Late note just arrived from Shirley Franklin, the Democratic former mayor of Atlanta:
Wow. Just tuned in. Ryan asks for stimulus money and now explains he always supports constituents. Really?
Updated at 9:35 p.m.: Medicare comes up. Says Paul Ryan: If you change the program for younger people like him, you can save it for old geezers for me.
“They haven’t put a credible solution on the table,” says Ryan to Joe Biden.
Biden stares straight into the camera and asks the elderly: “Do you have more benefits today?”
Ryan counters, Biden interrupts. Says Ryan: I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground.
Says Biden: “We will be no part of a voucher program (Medicare) or the privatization of Social Security.”
Ryan says: “Let younger Americans have a voluntary choice.”
Updated at 9:33 p.m.: Joe Biden on Paul Ryan: “On two occasions, he sends me letters asking for stimulus money to create jobs.”
Ryan concedes he’s right.
But then the Wisconsin asks whether it was right to spend money on cars in Finland or windmills in China.
Updated at 9:24 p.m.: We shift to domestic policy. How quickly can we get unemployment to 6 percent?
Biden almost immediately raises the 47 percent issue. It’s on. Paul Ryan’s turn to smile and wait for a chance to jump in.
Ryan: Did they inherit a difficult situation, sure. He brings in Scranton, Biden’s home town. Says unemployment has gone up there since ‘08. “This is not what a recovery looks like.” Ouch.
Ryan begins a defense of Romney, talking about his largesse and his helping neighbors. Ryan says to Biden, you should know that sometimes words don’t come out of your mouth right.
Replies Biden: But I always said what I meant. This is getting interesting.
Says Nick Miller the Emory debate coach:
Biden’s opening salvo on the economy was impressive–he quickly went where Obama wouldn’t–Hitting hard on “47%” and tax rates.
I’m also enjoying Biden’s non-verbal reactions to Ryan. In 2008, Biden tried to seem subdued. It seems they’ve let Biden operate in his own aggressive idiom this time around, especially post a sleepy performance from Obama.
Updated at 9:20 p.m.: From the AJC’s Daniel Malloy:
Biden pulls the whippersnapper card: “I’ve been friends with Bibi Netanyahu for 39 years.”
The vice president mutters, “Oh, God,” as Ryan begins to respond.
An emailed note from Nick Miller, the debate coach for Emory University:
“Interesting decision by the moderator to start with foreign policy. I expected an immediate continuation on the issues of the Presidential Debate. This certainly favors Biden,based on his expertise, and it shows–the gloves are off early, calling Ryan’s (obviously scripted/practiced) comments a “bunch of malarkey.”
Martha’s follow up questions are excellent–she’s been a very quality moderator thus-far–incisive and totally in control.
Updated at 9:12 p.m.: How effective would be a military strike be on Iran?
Ryan doesn’t answer head on, emphasizes the need to stop a nuclear Iran. And he says sanctions have been imposed despite the Obama administration. “Watered-down” sanctions.
“Incredible,” says Biden. Imagine House Republicans drawing up sanctions, the vice president said. Would anybody have joined us?
So far, Biden doing a far better job than his boss did last week.
Updated at 9:03 p.m.: And we begin. First question to Joe Biden: On Libya, which Republicans have hammered on for the last month. “A pre-planned assault.” Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure?
It was a tragedy, Biden said. Let the facts come as they will they will be investigated. Quickly shifts to Iraq and Afghanistan. Sixty seconds in, Biden brings in Osama bin Laden.
Says Paul Ryan: It took the President two weeks to admit that this was a terrorist attack….”This is becoming more troubling by the day.”
Ryan claims that “what we’re seeing on TV is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
Says Biden: “With all due respect, this is all a bunch of malarkey.” Defends foreign policy: “These guys bet against America all the time.”
Next question to Paul Ryan: Should we apologize for U.S. troops urinating on Taliban bodies, for burning Korans? Ryan says, “Heck, yeah.”
Updated at 8:47 p.m.: Frank Fahrenkopf, former RNC chairman and one of the debate gurus, has ordered audience not only to stay silent, but not to use Twitter. Sure, Frank.
Updated at 8:25 p.m.: One more thing for Joe Biden to worry about tonight:
Barack Obama’s lackluster debate performance last week has dramatically altered the presidential race in Florida, with Mitt Romney opening up a decisive 7 percentage point lead, according to a new Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll.
The survey conducted this week found 51 percent of likely Florida voters supporting Romney, 44 percent backing Obama and 4 percent undecided. That’s a major shift from a month ago when the same poll showed Obama leading 48 percent to 47 percent — and a direct result of what Obama himself called a “bad night” at the first debate.
Updated at 8:07 p.m.: Via CNN, Paul Ryan on Vice President Joe Biden: “He clearly goes into this with a whole lot more experience than I do.”
He mentions his mom and grandmother on Medicare.
Updated at 4:15 p.m.: Politico.com has produced this tidbit:
When Paul Ryan and Joe Biden take the debate stage tonight in Danville, Ky., the form of address the vice president is supposed to use with his opponent is “mister” instead of “congressman,” two sources [said]…
The form of address is part of the detailed memorandum of understanding between the two camps, according to the sources familiar with the document. Such MOUs detail specifics ranging from how footage of the debates can be used to podium placement, and so forth.
Why would Ryan require this form of address? Possibly to avoid reminding people that he is a member of an institution that’s held in relatively poor regard by the public.
Updated at 2:55 p.m.: Over at the Marietta Daily Journal, Jon Gillooly has just posted this preview of tonight’s vice-presidential debate from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson:
”I was elected the same year as Paul Ryan was elected. He is a very smart, very articulate, he’s a great guy. Joe Biden is one of the most enjoyable people – he was my chairman on Foreign Relations for four years. Joe is smart, he’s witty, but he will stick his foot in his mouth from time to time and his biggest problem is he’ll chew once he gets it in there.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider