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 393.

    387. Lou

    There are few US events that haven't involved both dems and repubs. The fin'l crisis was no different. Blaming Bush is like blaming one cloud for the rainstorm. Wrong.

    Voting on major legislation under Obama has been extremely one-sided, tho. Unwittingly, because of his weakness, he has allowed Congress to become even more divided.

    What will change? No answers from dems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Biden was RUDE! An excitable old man who with appalling manners. What an Oaf!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Biden did a good job, in terms of what he was asked to do - ie to act as Obama's muscle and wit, with a rough edge to appeal to a segment of the working class.

    He is doing what Prescott did in the Blair era - providing the cold, stilted over-educated leaders with a bit of street-level toughness. And to think people fall for this!

    Way to go, Joe - the Dems are still eating out of your hand!

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Okay. Just to entertain your thoughts, if all of what you say is true what has Obama done within the 4 yrs he has been the POTUS to improve any of those conditions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Biden one this one and quite frankly the way he debated is how it should be done. Don't be afraid to call someone out for being wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    As a centrist, what stands out from the debate are Ryan's comments about US involvement in Eastern Afghanistan. If Romney is committed to continuing the war there, even adding more US troops, he's taking a very unpopular stance and it will lose him the election. The unending war in Iraq sunk Bush; Americans do not want a repeat in Afghanistan, a far more difficult country to control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    And you can thank the Dumbocrats for reducing the funding for military pensions and veteran's healthcare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    @382 The economic disaster is, paying for multiple wars against religious nuts, the foreign euro crisis caused partly by the U.S. subprime creators before Obama, the actual sub prime crisis caused by traders, bankers, banks, mortgage brokers in L.A.(USA) and banks world wide, banking and investment deregulation over the last 13 years before Obama, greedy corporations moving offshore before Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Biden did a good job of controlling the conversation, having some help from the mediator whether she meant it or not. However, if you’re going to talk about tough issues, like mass genocide and U.N. an American soldiers being killed on the battle field, maybe you should not be smiling from ear to ear while doing it. Journalist call the President of the united states President and not Mr. Obama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    MAKES NO DIFFERENCE! They are both owned by the Corporate Elite.
    This is just a freak show, bringing you promises which never be kept, lies which perpetuate the corrupt elite rule, and wars which will continue with no end at sight.
    These elections focus on style and eloquence not on SUBSTANCE.
    It is time to WAKE UP!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    379.Looney Limey

    "That would be 47% of the people left to their own devices with NO social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any social programs, NO Veterans Admin & NO planned Parenthood & absolutely NO Abortions under any circumstances + High Tax"

    What? No Black Plague? Surely the rascally Mormons will bring back The Black Plague.

    Your comments are like a bad Monty Phython rip off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Really!? Now this is original, since blaming Bush didn't work and blaming Romney hasn't worked the new Dumbocratic campaign tactic is to now blame the American voters for the current US economic disaster. Are you for real? Out of 100s of millions of dollars spent this is the best the Obama campaign can do. Absolutely pathetic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    The Contender always tries to look Presidential and they get their coat holders to do the real damage. That's why the VP debates are usually more entertaining. Remember "Sir, you are no John Kennedy". Zing!! I think this is going the way as Gore 2000 at the moment. Bazza needs to bring some game to the next debate ( Bin Laden and Sadam are dead so he can't pull those rabbits out of a hat ).

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    129 JohnRGreen
    “Biden argues relentlessly, interupts 82 times and laughs at answers. Okay, hang on, he's from Syracuse, New York ... this is normal. Lol”

    That’s an excellent point, but I have to tell you, it’s not normal across the country and especially in a debate setting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    364 Reiverpacific : Can you imagine the U$A four years from now after Mitt Romney (Heaven Forbid) won & converted America to his vision of what the Mormon Utopia should be
    That would be 47% of the people left to their own devices with NO social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or any social programs, NO Veterans Admin & NO planned Parenthood & absolutely NO Abortions under any circumstances + High Tax

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Slugfest - where did that word come from?

    Just a guess because I am mathematician by trade not linguist. The term comes from the sport of American baseball. A good hitter in baseball is often referred to as a "slugger". A baseball game where many runs are socred is often referred to as a "slugfest".

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    I think we all know the answer....a presidential X Factor.
    All the weepy stories about ''my dad this'' and ''these are my people'' followed by some modern tap and a sing song...

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    There are many veterans that need physical and mental help and support and housing and welfare and medical at least for a few years. There are many sick unhealthy people that need help. Many people need life skills help, others need to be forced into drug rehab help, society needs crime prevention and mental services. Super rich people don't need 10 or more luxury cars or many homes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    Biden's demented smiles and fake laughs were disturbing and inappropriate. The aggressive nature was off-putting, undermining his successes - which notably included revealing Ryan used one much-government economic scheme for 'business growth'.
    Ryan was informative and confident. Vehemently disagree with his abortion stance but he made some convincing arguments.

  • Comment number 374.

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


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