Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan faced a more experienced Vice President Joe Biden in the first vice presidential debate on Thursday night, as the two contested foreign policy and tax plans for the first time.
Moderator Martha Raddatz, of ABC News, threw foreign policy on the table, referencing the recent attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, on a broadcast of the debate on 7 News.
Ryan said it took President Barack Obama two weeks to call the incident a terrorist attack.
“Look, if we’re hit by terrorists, we’re going to call it for what it is — a terrorist attack,” he said.
He questioned why an Ambassador stationed in Libya did not have as much protection as one stationed in France.
Biden said he justified the lack of increased security because it was based on what the intelligence community had told White House officials.
“We said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment,” he said. “And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.”
The two candidates also disputed over economic growth and the fight for the middle class.
Biden said the Romney-Ryan tax plan was “not mathematically possible.”
“They’re [Romney-Ryan] pushing the continuation of a tax cut that will give an additional $500 billion in tax cuts to 120,000 families,” Biden said. “They’re holding hostage the middle class tax cut because they say we won’t pass. We won’t continue the middle-class tax cut unless you give the tax cut for the super wealthy.”
Ryan said he and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are proposing “real reforms for real recovery.”
“It’s a five-point plan,” he said. “Get America energy-independent in North America by the end of the decade. Help people who are hurting get the skills they need to get the jobs they want. Get this deficit and debt under control to prevent a debt crisis.”
Ryan attacked Obama’s performance in salvaging a nation in crisis.
At one point during the debate Biden asked, “What more can the President do?” — a stance of the Obama campaign arguing that only so much work can be completed in four years.
“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” Ryan said.
Biden held his composure for most of the debate, smirking at Ryan’s remarks and, at times, laughing.
“If you notice, he [Ryan] never answers the question,” Biden said.
But Ryan still managed to defend his running mate during Biden’s attacks on Romney’s “47 percent” remarks.
“I think the Vice President knows, sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way,” Ryan said.
Biden used his own political experience in the White House to speak for himself.
“Look at my record,” he said. “It’s been all about the middle class. They’re the people who grow this country. We think you grow this country from the middle out, not from the top down.”
Paul Conway, president of the nonprofit Generation Opportunity and former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Labor, said Biden’s experience gives him increased responsibility in a phone interview following the debate.
“One the things that comes with 30 years of Congress is a huge amount of accountability for what has happened in 30 years in Congress,” he said.
Conway said Biden’s mannerisms throughout the debate were “probably unhelpful,” and that Ryan succeeded in defending Romney’s issues.
“What you saw was a younger elected official being very respectful and differential to a sitting Vice President,” he said. “I think what that allowed was discourse back and forth.”
Party representatives in Massachusetts stood by their respective candidates in a debate with a seemingly unclear winner.
“Tonight’s debate was a battle with facts and conviction on one side and empty zingers and hollow promises on the other,” said Kevin Franck, communications director for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, in an email. “Clearly the Vice President won.”
Tim Buckley, communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, said Ryan presents a “fast forward” with an opportunity for all Americans.
“Congressman Ryan did exactly what he needs to do, which is lay out a clear agenda for our country’s future,” Buckley said.
Even though the debate was substantive, Conway said neither candidate was able to hurt or gain advance for Romney and Obama because Ryan and Biden are not the front-runners on the ticket.
“Overall … it’s an interesting couple different levels,” Conaway said about the debate. “[You have] a contrast of generations, a contrast of philosophy and you have a contrast of style.”