Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan held their one and only vice presidential debate tonight at Centre College in Kentucky. ( AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Biden and Ryan engage in lively, fiery vice presidential debate

Both political parties were putting a lot of hope into tonight’s highly-anticipated debate, and it did not disappoint.  Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan sparred for an hour and a half in a lively debate that touched on issues such on Libya, taxes, Medicare, Afghanistan, abortion and whether the tone of the campaign has been too negative.

“I think it was more even debate than last week’s presidential debate, in that Biden and Ryan’s performances appeared more evenly matched, and I did appreciate the more diverse set of topics; I thought the last debate got really esoteric,” says Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano.   Manzano says, though, she wishes they had spoken on immigration as well as on border issues.

As per the candidate’s performances, Manzano says on the whole she gives Biden a slighter edge over Ryan. “I thought that Biden was on the whole stronger,” says Manzano, saying that though Ryan did very well, on some issues like foreign policy Biden seemed to have more command on the facts.  A CBS News flash poll after the debate found 51 percent of viewers thought Biden won the debate, 31 percent thought Ryan was the victor, and 19 percent thought it was a tie. A CNN poll found 48 percent of Americans felt Ryan won, and 44 percent Biden.

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The candidates spent time laying out their policy differences over the administration’s response to Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as taxes, Medicare, and their personal views on abortion. On foreign affairs, Ryan painted an administration that was not tough enough on terrorists, Iran and the murder of the American ambassador in Libya. Biden shot back, saying, “the last thing America needs to do is to get into another war in the Middle East.”

On Medicare, the candidates got into a passionate argument, with Ryan saying that “we are not jeopardizing Medicare, we are saving it,” and Biden accused him of adding over 6,000 more dollars in costs for seniors if their plan is implemented. On taxes, Ryan accused the Administration of wanting to raise taxes on small businesses, with Biden responding that the small businesses Ryan was talking about were millionaires and ‘hedge funds.”  Ryan said there “weren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to cut the deficit,” so he urged the middle class to “watch out,” while Biden said Romney and Ryan’s plan of reducing deficits through tax cuts and cutting loopholes “was not mathematically possible — it’s never been done.”  Ryan criticized the administration for a failed stimulus package, but Biden said Ryan had personally requested money from that very same stimulus package for his district.

The candidates were asked by moderator Martha Raddatz to describe their personal views on abortion. Paul Ryan said he is against abortion, and says this was made clear to him when he heard his seven-week-old first child’s heartbeat when his wife was pregnant. He said a Romney administration would oppose abortion except in cases of rape, incest or health of mother.  Vice President Biden said as a Catholic he was personally opposed to abortion, but he did not believe in imposing his view on women and men of other beliefs or religions, thinking it was between a woman and her doctor, and said a Romney administration would name judges to the Supreme Court who would rule against Roe v Wade.

After the debate, Latinos from both parties expressed satisfaction with their candidates.  Juan Sepulveda, Senior Advisor of Hispanic Affairs for the Democratic National Committee, says Biden “easily won the debate — he took control of the facts and showed that Romney and Ryan have not been giving specifics.” Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said Biden met his “opponent’s loose talk” and showed “very clear choices for the middle class.”

On the Republican side,  Romney spokesperson Josefina Carbonell, former Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, says “Ryan clearly won the debate. He was in total command — youthful, energetic, and showed his knowledge of domestic and foreign policy.” Carbonell says Ryan also showed “what another 4 years of an Obama administration would look like, and presented a stark contrast.”

The presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, will face off in their second presidential debate next Tuesday in New York.

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