Biden puts the fire back into Obama's re-election campaign


Danville, Kentucky

Paul Ryan and Joe Biden yesterday fanned out to the vital battleground state of Ohio, each seeking to capitalise on their rambunctious and compelling vice-presidential debate here, generally judged to have been – in football parlance – a high scoring draw.

In their 90-minute match-up each did what he had to do. Mr Biden thrilled Democrats by doing what Mr Obama so conspicuously failed to in his encounter with Mitt Romney last week. He took the battle to Republicans, challenging Mr Ryan at every turn, from foreign policy to health care and the economy, even on the delicate and highly personal issue of abortion.

But the Republican, who is 27 years Mr Biden's junior, would not be browbeaten, scoring several sharp hits of his own in his first appearance on so daunting a national stage. He also avoided any major mistake that might have taken the wind out of Mr Romney's sails, when the latter has drawn even in national and state polls, even taking a slight lead in some.

On the issues, both Mr Ryan and the vice-president set out the positions of their respective campaigns that offer American voters one of the starkest choices of any recent election. But their styles were very different.

Mr Ryan was more measured and analytical, as befits a fiscal expert and chairman of the House Budget Committee; Mr Biden came across as a mixture of weathered elder statesman and folksy attack dog. Frequently interrupting his opponent, he smirked and smiled, sometimes breaking into sardonic laughter to emphasise his dismissal of what his opponent was saying. "With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey," was Mr Biden's response when Mr Ryan condemned "the unravelling of Obama foreign policy" laid bare by recent events in the Middle East.

Post-debate reactions mirrored that contrast. "These guys have been peddling shell games and lies," Maryland's Democratic governor Martin O'Malley said of the Republican candidates, "and Biden called them out." Republicans focussed more on Mr Biden's demeanour, arguing he had damaged his own side.

Karl Rove, the former top strategist of George W. Bush, compared the vice-president's laughter with Al Gore's sighs during his debate against Mr Bush in 2000, for which the former was widely criticised. Minutes after the debate was over, the Republican National Committee released an online video, "Laughing at the Issues."

On one thing most commentators were agreed, the raucous proceedings in Danville were great entertainment. How many minds will have been changed is another matter. Historically, vice-presidential debates have been a B-feature. The snap verdicts were mixed.

A CNN instant survey of registered voters had Mr Ryan the narrow victor by 48 to 44 per cent, but a similar exercise by the CBS network had Mr Biden a convincing winner. The latest crop of polls confirms that the presidential race is neck and neck, not only at a national level, but in the handful of battleground states, above all Ohio, Florida and Virginia, where the result on November 6 will be determined.

Intrade, the predictions market which has an impressive record tracking US elections, yesterday put the likelihood of an Obama win at 63 per cent, down from almost 80 cent before the president's poor showing in his first debate and the ensuing poll boost for Mitt Romney.

The focus now shifts to the next presidential debate, at Hofstra University on Long Island, New York next Tuesday. Mr Obama took yesterday off from the campaign trail to hone what is sure to be a more aggressive performance than last week, when he let many dubious assertions by Mr Romney pass without objection, to the dismay of his supporters. For a few days that void has been filled by Mr Biden's feisty performance here.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral