US running mates clash in debate


In a pointed barb, Biden called Ryan's attack on the administration's handling of Libya 'malarkey'

US vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan clashed sharply in their only debate, amid tightening polls ahead of the 6 November election.

Thursday night's head-to-head saw feisty exchanges on national security, the economy, taxes and healthcare.

Mr Biden, a Democrat, was aggressive, frequently interrupting his rival as he defended President Barack Obama.

Mr Ryan, a Republican Wisconsin congressman, was comparatively calm in his first debate on the national stage.

The head-to-head came as Democrats try to rejuvenate their campaign after what was widely seen as a poor debate performance by Mr Obama last week.


The Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor and businessman Mitt Romney, has gained steadily in the polls as a result.

The president has acknowledged he was "too polite", and it appeared his campaign unleashed Mr Biden on Thursday night to attack Mr Romney on taxes, government spending, the economy and other issues.

Start Quote

This was a serious, substantive debate between two men who were well briefed and on their game. It probably won't change much - the ball is still very much in Mr Obama's court next week”

End Quote

The vice-president repeatedly cut off Mr Ryan, chuckling, rolling his eyes and raising his hands in apparent exasperation, even as he referred to his rival as "my friend".

But Mr Ryan seemed not to be rattled. His goal was to defend Mr Romney's recent gains against a renewed onslaught from Mr Obama, analysts said.

On stage at Centre College in Kentucky, the vice-presidential candidates jousted as moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News sought to keep order.

The debate opened with an exchange on Libya, where a US ambassador was killed last month in what the Obama administration now calls a terrorist attack.

Mr Biden defended the Obama administration's handling of the situation, as well as its initially inaccurate characterisation of the incident as a reaction to an anti-Islamic video made in the US.

And he pivoted to attack Mr Romney, saying the Republican's decision to hold a political press conference the morning after the attack was "not presidential leadership".

Ryan teased Biden's propensity for verbal blunders

In one of many barbs, he said Mr Ryan's criticisms of the administration's handling of the crisis were "a bunch of malarkey. Not a single thing he said is accurate".

Mr Ryan, meanwhile, said the administration had disregarded diplomats' requests for more security in Libya.

And in a charge he repeated later, Mr Ryan said: "What we are watching on our TV screens is the unravelling of the Obama foreign policy."


The men argued about Iran and the US relationship with Israel, but showed little substantive difference between their tickets' respective policies.

"When Barack Obama was elected, [Iran] had enough fissile material - nuclear material to make one bomb," Mr Ryan said. "Now they have enough for five."

Presidential debates 2012

  • 3 Oct Denver, Colorado. Domestic policy. Moderated by Jim Lehrer (PBS)
  • 11 Oct Danville, Kentucky. Vice-presidential debate. Moderated by Martha Raddatz (ABC)
  • 16 Oct Hempstead, New York. Town-hall style foreign policy debate. Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN)
  • 22 Oct Boca Raton, Florida. Moderator: Bob Schieffer (CBS)

Commission on Presidential Debates

Mr Biden said international sanctions against Iran had crippled that nation's economy, and challenged Mr Ryan to clarify where Republican policy on Iran differs from the administration's.

"So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk, what are they talking about?" he asked.

On the economy, Mr Biden said the president had inherited a nation teetering on ruin - a result, he said repeatedly, of the Republican policies of George W Bush.

And he defended the president's remedies, especially a programme - that Mr Romney opposed - to save US auto manufacturers from bankruptcy.

"We knew we had to act for the middle class," Mr Biden said. "We immediately went out and rescued General Motors."

He added: "What did Romney do? Romney said, 'No, let Detroit go bankrupt.'"

Mr Biden also unleashed a broadside against Mr Romney's recently publicised comments that the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax are dependent on government, consider themselves victims, and should take responsibility for themselves.

"I've never met two guys who are more down on America across the board," he said, referring to Mr Romney and Mr Ryan.

'Wrong direction'

Mr Ryan sought to deflect the attack with a story about Mr Romney's personal generosity and by referring to Mr Biden's own record of verbal blunders.

The Biden and Ryan families At the end of the debate, the candidates' families greeted one another on stage

He acknowledged Mr Obama had inherited an economy near collapse, but added: "We're going in the wrong direction."

He noted the continuing high unemployment rate and other grim statistics.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like," the congressman said, promising that Mr Romney's tax plans would add jobs and promote economic growth.

Later, the two outlined their competing plans on the Medicare healthcare programme for over-65s.

Mr Biden defended the administration's 2010 health insurance overhaul, dubbed Obamacare.

Election Daily Diet

5 November

Washington Redskins predict Romney win

But Mr Ryan derided it as a government takeover of the healthcare industry and repeated a disputed assertion that Mr Obama had pulled money from Medicare in order to fund it.

With the election less than four weeks away, the rivals were tasked with keeping their respective campaigns competitive, as new polls suggest Mr Romney has narrowed or erased Mr Obama's lead in several key swing states.

The two candidates are virtually tied in Florida and Virginia while Mr Obama still leads in Ohio, but by a slimmer margin.


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US Presidential Election 2012


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  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Why is it both sides ignore Native Americans.

    They were there 1st . The left ignore them , the right ignore them.

    There all immigrants accept for the native americans. Yes yes left do give me minus marks because your such hypocrites when it comes to natives americans over other minorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Does anyone know who the two contestants are next week?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    I have a Phd in both global and domestic economics. If Mayfair' whatever really believes the economy is not much better he knows very little about the issues. In 2008 we were closer to complete economic collapse than we were to nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis. I was there then too. By the way, which Romney are you supporting? Is it the one 12, 8, or 4 years ago. Or the opportunist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Enough with the Malarkey!! Biden won, clearly.

    Funny how the same people who called Obama too switched off and restrained are now faulting Biden for being too engaged and passionate.

    The CBS Poll of 500 uncommitted voters broke 50% for Biden vs 31% for Ryan. The other polls had much smaller sample sizes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Many Republicans suddenly woke up today after the debate and realized that "Biden is too rude, too aggressive.... etc etc". I am not sure if those people did not watch 1st presidential debate and how Mitt behaved and that too with totally wrong facts and knowledge about his own plan.
    Sometimes it's hard to be paid by the same coin, and supported by facts and figures, not by lies and flip-flops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Biden was the most successful at stating his ideas and arguments clearly. Though, Biden's outbursts were unprofessional and unnecessary, but the same can be said about Ryan. My largest issue with the Romney-Ryan ticket thus far has been the inability to describe WHERE the cuts are being made to make room for a sustainable US economy. If this can be outlined I would be much more inclined to listen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Joe Biden was acting like an old drunking man with feisty behavior, interupting, snarking, I feel sorry for him, barking!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Biden came across as a rude, bully....

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The VP is irrelevant unless, as in the case of Kennedy and Nixon, the President is unable to complete his term. Which, given the performance of these two non-entities, is a good thing for all of us. The really sad thing is that the two Presidential candidates are scarcely of higher calibre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    As I see it, it would definitely be in the interest of democracy if Joe Biden gave his boss a timely debate 101 class.

    On another tack unlike Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz actually has a modicum of moderating ability. Whilst no Betty Boothroyd, if she had the opportunity to moderate the remaining presidential debates I believe the interests of democracy would be better served.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    just watched the debate again biden lost clearly
    as for abortion where does life start if not at conception

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Biden came across as the crotchety old man he is. And rude, to boot, always interrupting. His boss is in over his head, always was; and he has not gotten the US back on track. More illegal military action, stabbing allies in the back, lies in order to remove people from power, spiraling debt. Sound familiar? How can people swallow the Obama/Biden nonsense? It's absolutely unbelievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    These GOP guys, Mitt-Ryan hardly have any clear path, no concrete plan for anything. They even do not have much grasp over math either. Everything will be 'done', once they win & convinced themselves of "total cooperation" from Dems! As they do to Dem & Obama now?
    They can "manage" 20% tax cut, $7tn extra spending w/o increasing debt or any reduction in current welfare, education etc! Amazing!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    The debates, are only, a show of skills in twisting the truth, (by both sides).
    In The bottom line, there are two different political philosophies; One, to give some relief to the little guy; the other, to sustain the privileges of the "American Royalty".

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    @5: Obama and Biden campaign is one based on lies.
    since the economy is not better. And voters know it.

    What lies? Romney changes what he's for depending on what town he is in. National unemployment is falling pretty much on track with a typical post-recession economy.

    I don't see how the current administration is blinding the American public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I don't agree with everything Ryan or Romney say, and though I think what Biden stands for and says holds a lot of merit, I could never vote for him. Some might think it is a show of strength to be disrespectful and uncompromising, but I think it only reflects poorly on him and his party.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I found Biden mocking and disrespectful and repeating lies they have presented as facts in the media, still pretending if repeated long enough people will eventually believe. I am independent, and seeking truth, not childish drama from either side. The more I investigate both sides, the more I find seriously twisted truths on the part of the Obama campaign. Very disturbing

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.


    If you still believe that any of this is actually real, then you should immediately seek psychiatric help.
    If this were a real debate, then Judge Jim Gray, Cheri Honkala and Jim Clymer would have been there. This is a puppet show, put on by a group of Unethical creatures.


  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Biden's debating skills are fine for a bar-room - interrupt continuously - but not for a VP debate.
    That said, a substantive discussion.
    CNN Poll suggests Ryan edged it 48:44, that is about what I would say, as well.
    As expected Ryan was very strong on economy and his focus on deficit reduction should strike gold.
    The 47% issue was cleverly batted away.
    Good to see the after debate bonhomie!


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