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US Congressman from Wisconsin and Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan (left) and Democratic US vice-president Joe Biden conclude their debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, yesterday.
DANVILLE / Kentucky: A feisty Vice-President Joe Biden came out swinging against Republican rival Paul Ryan in a fierce debate, determined to regain momentum after Barack Obama’s listless display last week.
Democrat Biden and Ryan, nearly 30 years his junior, clashed sharply on Iran, Libya, Afghanistan and top domestic issues including health care, abortion and taxes on a combustive evening in Kentucky.
Biden also savaged surging Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney over his remark to rich donors that 47 percent of Americans were “victims” reliant on government, an attack Obama avoided in his loss to Romney in their first debate, to the fury of Democrats.
In a crackling showdown, Biden, 69, came under intense pressure from Ryan on the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis sparked by the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi on September 11.
“We will find and bring to justice the men who did this. Whatever mistakes were made, will not be made again,” a steely Biden vowed, and then swiftly went on offense, touting Obama’s record on national security.
Passionate and adamant, Biden was on a mission to reverse Romney’s polling surge and steady worried Democrats. He drew on his years as a foreign policy expert to repel his well-briefed opponent’s attacks.
But his constant quirky smirking and guffaws on a split screen when the earnest Ryan, 42, gave his answers risked distracting millions of television viewers watching at home, and could dominate the post-debate fallout.
Polls released immediately after the debate were mixed.
In a CBS News poll of undecided voters, 50 percent felt Biden won, 31 percent felt Ryan did, and 19 percent said the debate was a tie. A CNN survey found viewers evenly divided on who won the showdown, with 48 percent giving the debate to Ryan and 44 percent to Biden, well within the margin of error.
Biden highlighted Obama’s honored promise to end the war in Iraq, his effort to bring troops home from Afghanistan by 2014 and his decision to make the hunt for Osama bin Laden a top priority.
“The president of the United States has led with a steady hand and clear vision. Governor Romney, the opposite,” he charged.