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Biden steadies Obama election ship in vice presidential debate

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Republican Paul Ryan

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Republican Paul Ryan

  • by RICHARD LUSCOMBE
 

JOE Biden clashed with Republican candidate Paul Ryan in a feisty television vice-presidential debate.

• Confident Biden performance in Ohio steadies Democrat campaign following President Obama’s lacklustre debate against Romney

• Ohio seen as key state in election which will be held on November 6

The Democrat incumbent laid into Mr Ryan over Mr Romney’s foreign policy credentials during the 90-minute television clash on Wednesday night.

Observers say Mr Biden’s performance has restored morale in the Obama camp, a week after he is held to have lost to Mr Romney in the first presidential TV debate of the campaign.

Mr Ryan, though, is widely thought to have held his own in fiery exchanges with Mr Biden who accused him of talking ­“malarkey” in criticising Mr Obama’s defence cuts and former Massachusetts governor Mr Romney’s reaction to the terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi last month in which the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed.

“You know, usually when there’s a crisis, we pull together. We pull together as a nation. But even before we knew what happened to the ambassador, the governor was holding a press conference. That’s not presidential leadership,” Mr Biden said.

He also defended the administration’s stance over sanctions on Iran, which Mr Ryan said had failed to stop Tehran amassing enough fissile material for five nuclear bombs. “When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough nuclear material to make one bomb. They’re ­racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability,” Mr Ryan said.

Mr Biden dismissed this as “bluster”, saying Iran was not close to turning the material into a weapon. “What more can the president do, stand before the United Nations, tell the whole world, directly communicate to the ayatollah, we will not let them acquire a nuclear weapon, period, unless he’s talking about going to war?” he asked.

The angry exchanges, which also covered the economy, tax policy, healthcare and both candidates’ Catholicism, were in marked contrast to last week’s first head-to-head with Mr Romney during which Mr Obama appeared subdued.

“Historically, the vice-presidential debate is not as influential in the campaign narrative but this was unique because Obama performed so badly and Biden had to come out on the attack,” Benjamin Knoll, professor of government at Centre College, Kentucky, where the debate took place, said.

“He scored more on style over substance but he did what he needed to do to give the demoralised Democrats reason to be excited again. It was sufficient to slow the momentum Romney had been building but Obama needs to come back strongly in next Tuesday’s debate.

“Ryan’s objective was to show he was able to hold his own. He did about as well as could be expected. He was hesitant and nervous but got into his stride.”

Senior Republicans complained that Mr Biden, 69, interrupted Mr Ryan, 42, dozens of times during the debate, which journalism professor Alan Schroeder said resembled: “a testy verbal brawl between father and son”.

“I think he found one more forum in which to embarrass himself,” said Texas ­congressman Jeb Hensarling. “The vice-president of the United States, who didn’t know his facts, could not decide whether or not to giggle, shout, and he settled for interrupting all evening.”

 

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