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.

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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 73.

    Name Number 6:

    1) Move abroad and think again - UK services are incredible compared to elsewhere.
    2) Econ 101 - supply & demand - privatisation and markets LOWER prices (unions=problem). As long as free-riders can be excluded it's in OUR interest for services to be private and only govts interest for them to be public (so they can continue claiming endless tax money) - hence all Obamas lies

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    People talk about what will happen if Romney / Ryan win; war with Iran, destabilising the situation further in the middle east, US posturing and interference etc.

    Well, what really scares me is the increasing belief I have that all these things will happen no matter who wins.

    If you think these things are decided by who gets to wear the president's suit for four years, you're deluded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    If Romney wins expect another war, probably Iran, by the sound of ryan it is already decided. Mind you building bombs and bullets always helps the economy especially for a massive arms producing Nation. And for the Americans who thinks this election is none of non Americans business, it is because we'll be dragged into your wars again. Non Americans (except Israelies) are all praying for OBAMA!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Biden did a fine job of bringing fact based rhetoric to the issues of the day, while his smiles and head shakes were necessary to politely alert viewers to the "happy talk" distortions that flow so easily from the lips of Romney and Ryan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    At least Romney isn't as skin crawlingly embarrassing to Americans as GW Bush!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I really enjoyed this debate. I really don't care how less civil Biden was. he showed he was not letting any lies go unchecked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    You said it for me: excellent observation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    What scares me as a European is not what Romney/Ryan say, but what they will do if they get into power - war with Iran and inevitably other Islamic countries, turning the US into an extremist religious state - very worrying for world peace and security.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Mitt Romney's son, Tagg Romney, has been engaged in a contract with a surrogate mother with the stipulations that if the child being carried was not up to the Romney's specifications, that the Romney family would have the final say if the child would be aborted or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    god help america if the rebulicans get in they are exactly the same as the tories over here and will make the 99% pay so the 1% can keep on getting richer at a time when everyone should be helping to turn around their country rather than helping the already megga wealthy only.
    look to britain to see what awaits america if rebulicans get in atleast with the democrats you do have economic growth

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    "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.
    Actually they are both running mates. Just not with each other. Sorry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    If congress does not get its act together and find a way to keep the old tax laws in place established by George Bush than the United States economy is going to fall of a cliff. Neither candidate really talked about this. If congress doesn't extend the tax laws which are set to change by the first of 2013 the United States and the EU will go into a deep recession or an economic depression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    CNN ran poll results claiming Ryan won the debate. In the fine print, they say less than 400 people were polled, and it skewed 33% Republican to 31% Democrat. All over twitter, people now retweet that headline as a clear indication of what the nation is thinking. If you don't think Joe Biden tarred and feathered Ryan in that debate, you're out of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    So what was Libya. Oh yeah he went behind congresses back and attacked Libya... Even GWB didn't do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Joe Biden mocked Romney-Biden to bits, showing the world they're mouth pieces for the very rich to keep alive their money laundering loopholes. They're also war fanatics and frighteningly out of touch with reality in so many ways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Joe Biden, the clear winner! His authoratitive grasp of the facts was clearly communicated, and was much more credable than Paul Ryan. And as Joe said, if they would "just get out of the way" the government would run more smoothly for the american people...It also shows that team Obama and Biden can be trusted and is more qualified to lead the United States for another 4 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    The presidential debates remained independent throughout most of its history --until 1987 when the Republicans & Democrats set up their own debate commission excluding all third party candidates from participating.

    Recently, the Libertarian Party (the 3rd largest political party in America) filed an anti-trust lawsuit claiming a "monopoly".

    It's time for a third party!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I am tired of all this class warfare. If I hear "promote middle class" one more time I will throw up. We are all Americans, poor, rich, and all in between. The goals of the politicians should be to benefit all people, not just the middle class, and not just the poor. You can have policy that helps everyone, not just pandering to the majority for more votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    47. mick
    I know the rest of the world is struck with the fact of a Black president but it's time they elect a leader.


    President Obama is respected worldwide, & he hasnt started any new wars.

    The US cant ignore how its perceived, & Romney sends shivers down our spines as we see yet another right wing Republican who seems to think the only game in town is another war in the Middle East!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Andy unless I am mistaken Ryan categorically said that there would be no war in Syria, however Obama is happy to let 30000 people be massacred. The root of the financial crash can be traced back to the policies of Clinton which encouraged people to buy houses with money they could never pay back.
    As Biden said in 2008 "The presidency is no place for on the job training".


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