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 53.

    "US running mates clash..."

    Biden and Ryan aren't running mates. That refers to Biden & Obama or Ryan & Romney. The headline isn't accurate, BBC. Thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The debates are one thing.

    The reality is another...

    If you are one of the 47%, do you think Romney deserves your vote? He cant magic away what he said with a false smile!

    Would you like yet another war in the Middle East? Romney seems to, but he wont have to go will he?

    8 yrs of republicanism under GW Bush saw the US go from strong economy to a mess. Do you trust them to fix what they broke?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Ryan was absolutely correct on lack of protection for consulate in Benghazi. Our State Department owes us and the familes of the 4 slain Americans the truth of why, in such a place, they did not get adequate security

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    From the comments I've read, it has nothing to do with issues. Sounds like people who want to be right. And those referring to lies. Better get on the net and listen to Romney in the past 12 years. I once admired him. Now? He disgusts me. And in this debate there was enough rudeness to go around. Dr.guy

  • Comment number 49.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    American elected presidents are stuck in a continuous loop. Every time a republican is elected they bring the country to the brink of destruction. War after war, republican after republican. Vote in the democrats for more then a couple terms in a row and we might see some progress... They might be able to pull themselves out of the shit storm placed so effortlessly by the republicans!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    The problem that most Brits don't realize is that to get anything done over here in the US you need a president that can bring both Dem & Republicans together. President Obama rose to power on that hope he has however proved that even when the Dems had both houses he could not do this. I know the rest of the world has been struck with the fact of a Black president but it's time they elect a leader

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    In reality, GOP stopped being a credible political party and started resembling more like an activist group with White supremacy, Christian fundamentalism (with Jesus's value replaced by money & power) as primary goal. Check the figures. Since 1921, only 6 Blacks were nominated in US Congress/Senate by GOP, while the corresponding number for Dems is 103.
    Is it simple coincidence? Probably not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Joe Biden tonight was like a kid who has been beaten on the playground and later sent out by his mom or dad with the advice: "don't let him get at you; throw the first blow in his eyes". Obviously he needed to redeem Obama, so he must have come onstage with enthusiasm. But constant interruptions do not convince TV aor radio audience that you are making sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The problem is that the VP debate means very little to us Americans. The VP is really of little consequence and does very little after the election. The VP is not who this election is about. Frankly, I have not seen more than one or two articles in the FOUR YEARS that Biden has been VP about what he has done - the same can be said for virtually every VP since I was old enough to remember.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    People of America:

    For over 30 years we in the UK have been fed the lie that Corporate is great and Public sector is evil.

    As a result all our infrastructure has been sold off to the highest bidder, usually foreign.

    As a result we have a transport system that barley works yet charge eye watering prices.

    Our utility companies charge what they like, prices always go up.


  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    No interruption = Ryan gets away with lie after lie after grossly manipulated fact aka malarkey.

    Truth was eliminated in the first debate,Joe did EXACTLY what he had to. Ryan had no credible answers on Iran, medicare, Afgn. and particularly how their supposed 5 step plan can in ANY way not INCREASE the deficit without severely harming the middle class. He's the Math man, in that he's poor at it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I think Biden said what Obama should have said and cleared lot of cloud created due to Obama's poor showing and tilted the needle slightly towards Obama side. Biden more than convinced Ryan's claims were false and exposed many of Ryan/Romney's accusations/loose arguments just headlines/stats picked of Fox news with no substance. I think Biden exposed some of on the fence stand of Romney & Ryan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    This electoral run by the GOP like the one in 2008 makes me wonder: Why did the GOP paint itself into a corner with very extreme positions that are forcing the candidates like Romney and Ryan to lie, bluster, obfuscate? I still don't know anything about these two fellows though they have had ample opportrunity to tell us what they are actually going to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It's really refreshing to see Ryan during the debate- his giggles, his uneasiness, frequent drinking (4 glass in total). We need to keep in mind that Ryan is "the number guy" with "solid head" in GOP camp, as Reps describe him.
    It'll be much trustworthy if Mitt-Ryan say, "Give us ur vote & tell how much money you want".
    Of course, they will not tell how much you will pay them back, once they win!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The female vote is vital to either side and even though both had good debating points that would appeal to women,what woman likes a smirking,condescending male.Biden negated his substance with his demeanor

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I don' know how anyone who knows anything about debating thinks Ryan won. He answered no direct questions, he mouthed a lot of rhetoric. He backed no comment with example or proof. No wonder Biden was frustrated. Like take presidential poll, Ryan spouted a lot of contradiction when compared to the campaign trail, which also changes to say what they think the voters want to hear. "No conviction"

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Well it looks like it's going Romney's way. Both Romney and Ryan look like calm intelligent people , achievers not chaterrers and yet persuade you in a debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Obama took over a failing economy as well as an illegal war started by Bush jnr and his puppet Tony Blair In 4 years he has been very limited in what he could achieve and has had very little help from the house. I believe he has made strides during one of Americas most difficult times he now must persuade those voters to give him another term in office to complete the task in hand I hope they do

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    This debate has reinforced the deep passion the Democrats have for the welfare of the poor, the middle class. What struck me is the humane attitude of the Democrats versus a clear materialistic attitude of the Republicans. The central theme was a kinder, gentler America leading the world was reinforced by Biden. Tough, pragmatic policies against terrorists were spelled out.. Empathy was evident.


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