It was a contentious, interruption-filled debate Thursday night between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Paul Ryan, as the two squabbled over the economy, taxes, Medicare and more.
"That is a bunch of malarkey," the vice president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration's foreign policy.
"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Democrat Biden declared after Ryan said U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had been denied sufficient security by administration officials. Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Both men seemed primed for a showdown from their opening moments on stage, and neither seemed willing to let the other one have the final word.
"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don't interrupt each other," Ryan said to his older rival at one point. But both continued to do so — and interrupted moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC as well.
Biden showed a spark Democrats felt the president lacked in last week’s debate, forcefully defending the administration’s actions and policies. Unprompted, he brought up the video in which Romney had said 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, view themselves as victims and do not take responsibility for their own lives.
"It's about time they take responsibility" instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said — of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.
But Ryan quickly turned to dreary economic statistics — 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like."
Dave Bohnenblust, McPherson County Republican Chairman, said he thought the vice president came across negatively, while Ryan was viewed as polite.
“I saw him as a young, energetic guy who knew the numbers,” Bohnenblust said. “He might have been a little too courteous, though, which made Biden come off as smug.”
Bohnenblust said he thought the perceived smugness is a sign of why the Obama administration has issues in working with Congress.
“That reflects negatively on the administration,” Bohnenblust said. “It’s no wonder no one will work with them when they act like that to Congress.”
While she thought Biden did fantastic, Teresa Loffer, McPherson County Democrats Lindsborg Ward 3 Precinctwoman, did agree the vice president portrayed smugness at times.
“When you’re not trying to come across as mean, you tend to laugh things off,” Loffer said. “He was being faced with a lot of half-truths, so he had no choice but to react as he did.”
Loffer, as a small business owner, questioned the economic policies championed by Ryan during the debate, claiming they were identical to the same economic proposals from the Bush administration that caused the problems the country is currently facing. Additionally, she questioned Ryan’s assertions he and his running mate could find bi-partisan solutions.
Page 2 of 2 - “With the Congress that we have now virtually in deadlock, how do they expect that to happen?” she asked.
Bohnenblust felt Ryan did a good job covering the economic issues, even if they were difficult subjects to grasp.
“You probably can’t adequately cover everything in a three-minute sound bite,” Bohnenblust said. “To Ryan’s credit, in the past four years, he is the only one to propose a solution.”
Abortion was briefly touched on by both candidates. Biden stated, though he followed his Catholic faith’s views on abortion, it wasn’t up to him to impose that belief on people of other faiths.
Ryan said he opposes abortion, but that the policy of the Romney administration would include exceptions in the cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake. Loffer voiced her concerns, however, over the potential of Ryan having a tie-breaking vote on any women’s rights issues that comes before the Senate.
“This is terrifying to me, as a woman,” Loffer said, “as he said my civil rights should be left up to a vote.”
Across 90 minutes, the two men agreed precisely once.
That was when Ryan, referring to the war in Afghanistan, said the calendar was the same each year. Biden agreed to that, but not to the underlying point, which was that it was a mistake for Obama to have announced a date for the withdrawal of the remainder of the U.S. combat troops.
The next scheduled debate will be between President Obama and Mitt Romney 8 p.m. Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The format is slated to be a town hall meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.