Biden and Ryan's vice-presidential debate evenly matched

Joe Biden and Paul Ryan in vice-presidential debate in Danville, 11 October 2012

This was a serious, substantive debate between two men who were well briefed and on their game.

It also had a superb moderator, Martha Raddatz, holding the ring between them covering a range of subjects from taxation to Iran, from abortion to Afghanistan.

Most politically committed people will claim their man won and the argument can be made both ways.

Mr Biden won on points, perhaps, but his manner may have put off some undecided voters.

He was stronger, more aggressive, more certain of his position - but chuckled, laughed, smiled, grinned at his opponent, in a way that was certainly condescending and that some will have found irritating.

Ball in Obama's court

Paul Ryan, for someone with no foreign policy experience, put on a good show but was unable to answer some tough questions, particularly on Afghanistan and Syria.

His weakness was caused directly by an ideological desire to attack President Obama for being weak, without having decided what a stronger policy would actually look like.

He couldn't say what he would do differently in Syria, what would cause troops to stay in Afghanistan or indeed what tax loopholes he would close.

The debate on unemployment and taxation was generally much more evenly matched. Mr Ryan has been painted as a bogeyman by Democrats but came across generally as serious and likeable.

The Beltway crowd persist in seeing Mr Biden as a clown. He might have laughed too much but the man on stage was no fool.

This debate probably won't change much - the ball is still very much in Mr Obama's court next week.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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