6:04 p.m.: Martha Raddatz opens on Libya, and whether it was a massive intelligence failure, a question that puts Biden on the spot. Biden says, “We will find and bring to justice the men who did this…whatever mistakes were made will not be made again.” He quickly uses the question to get to comparisons between Obama and Romney on Iraq and, of course, how the President got Osama bin Laden. This is a pretty forceful message that Romney cannot be trustedbecause he does not have a steady hand.
“It took the president two weeks to acknowledge this was a terrorist attack,” Ryan responds. “They first blame the YouTube video, now they blame the Romney-Ryan ticket.” Ryan also says the ambassador to France has more security than Chris Stevens did. A note: The ambassador in Paris is Charles Rivkin, who is a former entertainment executive, having headed the Jim Henson Co.
6:11 p.m. “With all due respect that is a buch of malarkey,” Biden says. His strategy is to smile as Ryan talks.
“These guys bet against America all the time,” Biden says, while defending Obama’s record.
6:14 p.m.: Ryan hits Biden on why they didn’t give ambassador in Bengazi a Marine detachment.
6:16 p.m.: Biden is smiling as Ryan speaks — and judging by Twitter it is not the reaction he should have.
6:18 p.m.: Biden: On Iran, “there is nothing more that they say we should do than we have already done.” He says that Iran is a “good way away” in getting nuclear material. “Both Israelis and we know they will be in the process of building a weapon,” he says. “What more can the president do.”
6:20 p.m.: Raddatz is much more engaged as a moderator than Jim Lehrer.
6:22 p.m.: Ryan’s strategy seems to be to be calmly alarming, while Biden, with his smile, seems to be, what the heck are you talking about?
6:23 p.m.: Biden says, “If we ever have to take action, we will have the world behind us.”
6:26 p.m.: Shift to domestic issues. Biden is making a spirited defense. Even if he loses the debate, this is the type of rhetoric that is to rev up the Democratic base, which is dejected after last week’s debate.
Biden is actually cross talking, which is something that Obama certainly didn’t do, and other VP debaters didn’t do either.
6:29 p.m.” “This is not what a real recovery looks like,” Ryan says. More to the point, he brings up Biden’s home town of Scranton, Pa. to make the point that unemployment is worse now than when he took office.
6:30 p.m.: “I think the vice president knows the words don’t always come out of your mouth in your right way,” Ryan says.
“But I say what I mean,” Biden says.
Biden is now talking about when he first was elected, when his wife and daughter were killed in an auto accident. It is a wrenching story, which he has often told, and perhaps it makes up for his smiling earlier in the debate.
6:34 p.m.: This argument over the stimulus is perhaps the spot that shows off all of the pre-planned debate lanes. It’s paying for the debate consultants.
6:37 p.m.: I have to say that Ryan is well-versed, although the letter that he sent to Biden is probably the closet thing to knocking him off his game. But Biden is not letting much slide.
6:38 p.m.: “I heard that death panel remark from Sarah Palin.” Biden is now referring to the losing ticket of 2008.
Ryan makes a spirited pitch for his Medicare plan, including vouchers.
He now attacks Ryan’s voucher Medicare plan, as “knowingly adds $6,000 a year more in Medicare plan.” he also says that he will not privatize Social Security.
“They eliminate the guarantee of Medicare,” Biden said.
What neither Biden nor Ryan is doing is personalizing it. Rather, this debate is largely in the details of numbers and political wrangling.
6:44 p.m.: Biden really has decided to try to steamroll Ryan by interrupting him. I’m not sure if it works, but his negatives are up anyway.
6:47 p.m.: Biden now appears visibly angry — “the families I come from…”
6:54 p.m.: “Oh now, you’re Jack Kennedy.” Biden is smug, fiery, and in this case, evoking Dan Quayle in the 1988 debate with Lloyd Bentsen. This will not raise Biden’s approval ratings, but it is going to ignite the liberal base.
6:57 p.m.: One of the knocks on these presidential debates has been their format doesn’t allow for back and forth. This debate is proving that the candidates — or maybe Biden — will just do it anyway. Ryan is just waking up to the fact that he can break the rules, too.
7:07 p.m.: The talk of Afghanistan is interesting from the standpoint of how little this 11-year war has been invoked throughout the campaign. Biden is defending the administration and the plan for withdrawl, while Ryan is pretty much resigned to withdrawal but attacking the specifics of how the war is being waged.
7:09 p.m.: Biden actually has extended the debate to sparring at points with Martha Raddatz.
7:11 p.m.: My brother’s note: Is that Dad yelling at Paul Ryan? The generational difference is on full display here, and I’m note sure in whose favor it works.
7:17 p.m.: Paul Ryan has made a very personal connection to his opposition to abortion, perhaps in a way that he hasn’t done all night. He acknowledges that people may disagree with him, essentially keying it up for Biden to not come across as so combative.
7:20 p.m.: “My religion defines who I am and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life,” Biden says. His demeanor is notcebly changed, which is the tone that he probably should have in response.
7:25 p.m.: Ryan: “that’s what we are getting in this administration, speeches.” The challenge for Obama next week will be to show that this is not an administration that is out of ideas.
7:30 p.m.: Biden, again, “Everybody knows whatever I say I do.”
7:32 p.m.: Biden’s final remarks were much more personal in nature, to convey a sense of genuineness and authenticity, while Ryan’s statement was much more from the stump speech and about conveying the campaign message.
Biden got a bit too fiery — and his smiles were a bit off-putting — but he certainly spoke in personal terms, didn’t let much go unchallenged and, as Ryan inferred, didn’t make any verbal gaffes (or maybe we need to look at the tape again). Ryan was exacting and, in the face of Biden’s charged, calm and even collected. He was caught off guard at points, but this was far different than it was four years ago, isn’t it? The question isn’t about Ryan’s qualifications but the validity of his ideas.
What was especially interesting was the dynamic: A senior debating a Gen Yer. Biden tried to use his experience to his advantage, projecting confidence and comfort while belittling his opponent. As I said, Ryan tried to convey youth in the sense of being alarmed at what the future holds. If there was any surprise of either of them, there wasn’t a whole lot of optimistic rhetoric but rather it was about trust and fear.
Biden did something that Democrats often lack — emotion. Compare this to Michael Dukakis in 1988 or Jimmy Carter in 1980. That in and of itself should settle down some of the Obama supporters’ fears, at least until the next presidential debate.
Raddatz also is a superior moderator in the sense that her concern isn’t so much time but at least making an attempt to keeping the candidates to the question at hand. She surely didn’t succeed, but what she did was ask pointed questions, not softballs.