Tonight's vice presidential debate was livelier than last week's presidential debate, and better moderated. Martha Raddatz was able to keep Joe Biden and Paul Ryan focused on specifics and her questions were pointed and appropriate. Over the course of an hour and a half, the candidates discussed Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, social issues, and of course the economy, focusing primarily on the unemployment rate, Medicare, Social Security, and taxes.
On each of these issues Biden outperformed Ryan in both style and substance. He spoke with authenticity and depth, citing facts and figures while harshly criticizing Representative Ryan and his running mate. There could not be a sharper contrast between Biden's demeanor in this debate and President Obama's in the last debate. He called out Romney/Ryan on Romney's "47%" comment as soon as he got the chance, and in a devastating argument, pointed out that Congressman Ryan himself had requested stimulus funds for his district despite his continuing stance that government shouldn't use fiscal stimulus as a means of growing the economy.
That being said, Ryan held his own in his first nationally televised debate. He never lost his composure in the onslaught of bluster and bombast that is Joe Biden. Ryan's failure to draw sharp distinctions between Obama/Biden and a Romney/Ryan administration on foreign policy left him looking shaky in that area, but on the economy he was stronger, revisiting the $90 million that the Obama administration paid to green energy companies in the form of subsidies. Still, this figure paled in comparison to the numbers Biden had mentioned right before: $800 billion towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $1 trillion in tax cuts, both of which Ryan voted for in Congress.
I don't see how anyone could argue that Ryan won tonight's debate, but it will be interesting to see whether Biden convinced any undecided voters. While substantively he made stronger points, his histrionics will probably turn off as many people as they excite. My guess is that Vice President Biden has reignited the democratic base, but as for countering the resurgence of Romney, he'll be lucky if he has stopped the bleeding.