Biden-Ryan Debate a Place-Holder

Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan participate in the vice presidential debate October 11, 2012, moderated by Martha Raddatz.

“There are plenty of fine people who could lead this country, but what you need are people who, when they say they’re going to do something, they go do it,” Rep. Paul Ryan said in debate tonight.

“My record stands for itself,”  Vice President Joe Biden said. “I never say anything I don’t mean. Everybody knows, whatever I say, I do.”

Yet this debate really wasn’t about Biden or Ryan.

It was about an Obama White House attempting to secure the president’s re-election.

And it was about Republican Mitt Romney’s attempt to make his case for Obama’s retirement.

“The fact is that we’re in a situation where we inherited a God-awful circumstance,” Biden said in his closing statement of the sole vice presidential debate of the campaign. “People are in real trouble. We acted to move to bring relief to the people who need the most help now.”

All the middle-class is looking for, Biden said, “is an even shot…  And the president and I are not going to rest until that playing field is leveled, they, in fact, have a clear shot, and they have peace of mind, until they can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, `Honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK'” That’s what this is all about. ”

“We face a very big choice,” Ryan said in his closing statement at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. “President Obama, he had his chance, he made his choices… It’s not working. It’s failed to create the jobs we need… ”

“Twenty-three million Americans are struggling for work today. Fifteen percent of Americans are in poverty. This is  not what a real recovery looks like,” Ryan said to debate-viewers. “You deserve better.”

“The choice is clear,” Ryan said — a “dynamic economy” or a “stagnant economy.”

Ryan rode a 90-minute bucking-match with a politician a generation older, and he rode it with an air calm and collected. Biden laughed a lot, dismissed his rival with mocking smiles and rolling eyes. Yet if if was the spoken words that counted, they each held their ground.

Biden displayed a command of foreign affairs; Ryan displayed the budgetary fluency of the House committee he chairs.

When all was said and done, this was a place-holder.

It bridges the rough first debate of the president and the former governor of Massachusetts — which Obama has acknowledged as a “bad night,” and public opinion polls have registered as a win for Romney — with the final two presidential debates.

There was little Biden could do to repair the damage done in Denver on Oct. 3 — except avoid worsening the impression left by the first presidential face-off. He did that. And Ryan had an easier task tonight, reinforcing a mostly positive impression of the guy at the top of the ticket in the first debate. He did that, too.

An instant poll of registered voters who viewed the debate conducted by CNN  found 48 percent saying Ryan won it, 44 percent Biden.

The real contest will be joined again on Tuesday, in a town hall-styled debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

With national polls showing a virtually tied contest.

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