Joe Biden was just that during Thursday night’s debate against Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, attacking the youthful Wisconsin Congressman with a flurry of combative verbiage and dismissive gestures to pick up a dispirited Democratic base.
Biden’s performance in the nationally televised 90-minute face-off comes on the heels of last week’s disappointing debate effort by President Barack Obama against GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney that galvanized the Romney campaign as it appeared the presidential race was slipping away.
Ryan repeatedly sought to focus the debate on the Obama-Biden record of the last four years, arguing the administration’s policies hindered economic recovery and weakened the nation’s standing and influence in the world.
For his part, Biden tried to frame the election as a choice between differing directions for the country by contending policies of the Romney-Ryan ticket would hurt the middle class and move the nation backward on social issues such as gay rights and abortion.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News aggressively moderated the debate, challenging both candidates on some claims while moving on to various topics covering both domestic and foreign policy.
Ryan criticized the Obama administration for its failure to protect four Americans killed in the Libya attack last month and for mixed messages about what transpired.
“This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in and of itself,” he said. “But unfortunately it’s indicative of a larger problem.”
Biden mockingly smiled and shook his head as Ryan delivered his criticism, then responded that “not a single thing he said was accurate.”
On Iran, widely-backed international sanctions pushed by Obama and backed by allies have devastated the Tehran economy, Biden said. He also rejected assertions that Obama wasn’t working closely with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or that the United States wasn’t fully committed to making sure Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear weapon.
“This president doesn’t bluff,” Biden said.
Ryan, however, insisted that Iran was closer now to having a nuclear weapon than it was four years ago. He bluntly said that Tehran could not become a nuclear power.
“This is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism,” he said. “And if they get nuclear weapons, other people in the neighborhood will pursue nuclear weapons as well. We can’t live with that.”
On the economy, Biden blasted remarks from Romney in which the Republican presidential nominee described 47 percent of Americans as Obama supporters who saw themselves as “victims” and dependent on government.
“He’s talking about the people who built this country,” Biden said. “All they’re asking for is a fair shot.”
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, repeatedly criticized the Obama administration as taking the nation in the wrong direction by hindering economic recovery and weakening its influence around the world.
Biden called several of Ryan’s remarks “malarkey” and challenged Americans to trust their common sense when judging proposals by the Republican challengers.
The tax and entitlement reforms proposed by Romney and Ryan would harm the middle class and favor the wealthy, Biden warned in seeking to depict Republicans as protectors of the privileged.
“You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes?” Biden asked.
Obama was chided by critics and supporters alike for being passive. He said he was too polite. Polls conducted after the debate indicate the White House race is now extremely tight ahead of the election.
Key surveys indicate that Obama and Romney are knotted up in the battleground states of Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado. Most experts believe that nine swing states will determine the next president.