Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan had their one and only debate tonight, with the potential to affect the presidential race by boosting President Obama or letting Mitt Romney add to the momentum he gained in his own debate last week.
The incumbent Democrat and his Republican challenger, a US representative from Wisconsin, met for 90 minutes at Centre College in Danville, Ky. in a debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Martha Raddatz of ABC News was the moderator.
The debate was shown live on network television and C-Span. Boston.com, BostonGlobe.com, and “Political Intelligence” offered the live blog below to chronicle pre-debate activities and the debate itself.
In some cases, quotes in the blog are not a transcript, but a contemporaneous recounting as heard by the blogger.
All three also offered contemporaneous fact-checking and analysis from Globe reporters expert in various fields, creating a unique “second-screen” experience for viewers seeking additional context for what they are seeing on TV.
The blog also served as a window into the debate to those not near a TV.
In his first debate with Obama, Romney was widely viewed as the winner, allowing him to close the president’s polling lead in subsequent days. The two have the second of their three debates on Tuesday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Their final meeting will be on Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
10:33 p.m.—And with that, the debate is over. Biden and Ryan shake hands again and then go their separate ways. The candidates are joined by their families on the stage.
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10:31 p.m.—Ryan thanks moderator, debate hosts, and Obama.
“It’s been an honor to engage in this debate,” he says.
But, he complains, Obama has had his chance and has failed.
“You deserve better. Mitt Romney and I want to earn your support,” the congressman says. “Wouldn’t it be great to have a job-creator in the White House.”
10:30 p.m.—Biden says the administration inherited a “godawful” mess and has been working to fix it. Going forward, the administration will offer the middle class “an even shot.”
10:28 p.m.—Biden, cut short on time, complains, “He gets 40 (seconds), I get 15?”
Then he says, “Look at my record, it’s been all about the middle class.”
Now, onto closing statements. Biden goes first.
10:28 p.m.—Biden attacks Ryan over the values of incorporated in his budget plan.
Raddatz interjects, “Let me tone down things here for just a moment.”
She asks what the candidates would give to the country if elected.
Ryan says “honesty.”
He says he and Romney would fix problems.
10:24 p.m.—Ryan says he would thank soldier for service, and that the Romney administration would not impose “devastating” cuts on military.
“If you don’t have a good record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone to run from,” says Ryan, paraphrasing Obama from his 2008 campaign.
He says the administration has broken its promises not just to soldiers but all Americans.
“That’s what we get from this administration—speeches—but we don’t get leadership,” says Ryan.
10:22 p.m.—In what may be the final question, Raddatz asks what the candidates would say to soldiers who die for country but are dismayed by tone of campaign.
Biden says “there are things that have occurred in this campaign ... that both of us regret,” yet the bottom line is that voters have to look at whether Obama or Romney has conviction to help the middle class.
10:21 p.m.—Biden notes that next president may get one of two appointments to Supreme Court, and administration has already picked those with “open minds” on abortion while Romney would likely support nominees who oppose it.
10:20 p.m.—After Biden recalls that Ryan has talked about differences in types of abortion, Ryan says you don’t have to accept his views but he maintains them.
10:18 p.m.—Biden says his religion informs his whole life and social views, including taking care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.
While he accepts his church’s anti-abortion, he doesn’t favor imposing that view on others.
As for attacking religions, Biden says no religious hospitals have to provide contraception for their employees.
10:15 p.m.—Raddatz asks the candidates, both Catholics, how their faith affects their views on abortion rights.
Ryan says you cannot separate faith from their life. He says he opposes abortion not just because of his faith, “but reason and science.”
He recalls seeing his first child’s heartbeat at seven weeks.
“I believe that life begins at conception. Those are the reasons I am pro-life,” the congressman says.
He says Romney would oppose abortion except for rape, incest, or life of the mother.
Then he accuses the administration of attacking religious freedom through its policies.
10:14 p.m.—Raddatz asks, what is your criteria for using US troops?
He says, it must be in the national interest of the US.
“Only in our national security interests,” says the congressman.
10:13 p.m.—Raddatz asks, what if Assad doesn’t fall?
Ryan says Iran retains a great ally.
10:12 p.m.—“What would my friend do differently,” says Biden. “You notice my friend never answers the question.”
Ryan says he just did.
Biden retorts, “Our allies are all on the same page.”
10:11 p.m.—“Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria, American troops,” says Ryan.
But he says Romney would not “outsource our foreign policy to Russia” and let Putin veto US actions.
10:09 p.m.—Raddatz moves to Syria and asks, if the US supported an air cap to prevent civilian slaughter in Libya, why not do the same in Syria.
Biden says they are two different countries, and that if Syria disintegrates, it is in the middle of a volatile region.
Rather, he says, the administration is working to ensure a new administration when Assad falls.
10:07 p.m.—As the debate continues, Biden is starting to sound like an exasperated parent dealing with a pesky child.
10:05 p.m.—Raddatz asks Biden about withdrawing troops before the summer fighting season was over.
The vice president tells Raddatz to be straight with him, too, and that military leaders—not the administration—wanted the surge troops out of Afghanistan out when the administration did so.
10:04 p.m.—Biden says unless you set a timeline, the local government will not step up.
“The only way they step up is to say, ‘Fellas, we’re leaving,’” says the vice president.
10:01 p.m.—Raddatz asks, what conditions could justify staying.
He says he doesn’t want US to stay, as one of his best friends is there.
“We don’t want to extend beyond 2014; that’s the point we’re making,” says Ryan.
But he again says the administration foreign policy is unraveling, and broadcasting a withdrawal date projects weakness.
10 p.m.—Biden says US went there to degrade Taliban and get Osama bin Laden, and those tasks have been accomplished.
“It is the responsibility of the Afghans to handle their own security,” the vice president says.
9:57 p.m.—Raddatz now declares, “I’d like to move onto Afghanistan.”
She notes that attacks from Afghanis on US troops have increased, while the US continues to lose troops. Why not leave now, she asks.
Ryan says the country does not want to give back its gains, or re-empower the Taliban.
“What we don’t want to do is lose the gains we got,” Ryan says, before shifting to areas where he and Romney have agreed with Obama administration policy.
They, too, favor a 2014 withdrawal, but have opposed announcing the withdrawal date in advance.
9:56 p.m.—Ryan attacks the administration for proposing defense cuts.
“Look, we don’t cut it,” says Biden.
9:54 p.m.—Again, Ryan sits and smiles while Biden is almost becoming unhinged with eagerness to attack his rivals and undercut Ryan’s responses.
CNN is showing Biden has had almost two more minutes of speaking time than Ryan.
9:52 p.m.—“The only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes” is to cut the mortgage tax deduction.
Ryan says that is not true, and that Romney can work with Democrats in Congress to reach a tax plan, like President Kennedy.
“Now you’re Jack Kennedy,” Biden says when Ryan invokes the former president.
9:52 p.m.—“Let me have a chance to translate,” Biden says, as he accuses Ryan and Romney of being unclear about their tax plans.
He accuses the Republicans of secret plans to aid the rich.
9:50 p.m.—Mitt Romney and President Obama can’t ask for any more from their running mates.
Biden has been feisty, if too hot at points and too much of an interruptor, while Ryan has been cool and relentless in his attacks and explanation of his ticket’s policies.
9:48 p.m.—Ryan replies, “Our entire premise of these tax reform plans is to grow the economy and create jobs.”
He says that a government taking 28 percent of a family’s income is enough.
“You see, there aren’t enough rich people and small businesses to tax to fund all their spending programs,” says Ryan.
This is his most polished answer of the night.
9:45 p.m.—Raddatz shifts again: If your ticket is elected, who will pay more and less in taxes.
Biden says middle-class will pay less and richest will pay a little more.
“They’re holding hostage the middle-class tax cut to the super-wealthy,” says Biden.
9:42 p.m.—Biden says the administration has made entitlements safe, “but we will not be part of any voucher plan.”
Ryan replies that he is not proposing a voucher, and he quotes Obama from four years ago that if you don’t have fresh ideas, use stale attacks.
Biden, who kept trying to interject a comment, finally says, “These guys have not been big on Medicare from the beginning.” Then, he adds, “Folks, who do you trust?”
9:41 p.m.—Biden keeps cutting off Ryan, yet Ryan is largely keeping his cool.
9:39 p.m.—Biden says that if the administration tried to privatize Social Security as George W. Bush wanted, imagine where seniors would be after the Great Recession and stock market crash.
“Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under duress to make up lost ground, but I think the American people would be better served if we didn’t interrupt each other,” says Ryan after Biden cuts him off.
9:37 p.m.—Biden quips that he heard about Obamacare death panels “from Sarah Palin.”
Then he pivots to Medicare, and says the administration has saved it.
“They’d wipe all this out and Medicare becomes insolvent,” the vice president says. And, he complains, Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan costs more than the current program.
9:36 p.m.—Ryan notes his family benefitted from Social Security after his father died.
The program won’t change for current recipients, but he and Romney want to fix it for his and future generations.
Ryan then segues to an attack on Obamacare, the Medicare changes it would create, and complains that when it comes to saving Social Security, “they haven’t put a credible plan on the table.”
9:34 p.m.—Raddatz moves to Medicare and entitlements.
To re-state: Neither candidate is yielding any ground, and Ryan appears comfortable even on this big stage.
9:32 p.m.—Ryan says, “Let’s not forget, when they came in, they had one-party control,” and passed the stimulus. Yet the unemployment rate and economic recovery has been slower than the administration has projected.
Biden complains that “I love my friend here,” saying Ryan asked him for stimulus money for companies in Wisconsin.
“On two occasions, we advocated for constituents seeking grants,” says Ryan.
Biden laughs and notes the letter said the funding would create jobs.
9:28 p.m.—Ryan also takes on the criticism of Romney over an op-ed he wrote that was titled, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Ryan adds: “Mitt Romney is a car guy. They keep misquoting him.”
As for the 47-percent comment, Ryan adds a money line: “I think the vice president understands the words don’t always come out the right way.”
Biden says that if that comment was a mistake, “I have a bridge to sell you.”
As for compassion, Biden says he has it, having experienced tragedy “when I was a little bit younger than the congressman” when his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash.
He asks Romney and Ryan “just get out of the way” and allow the administration’s policies to pass.
9:26 p.m.—Ryan eagerly awaits his chance to reply. He notes they are both are from small towns—and that the unemployent rate in Biden’s hometown of Scranton is now higher than when Obama took office.
“This is not what a real recovery looks like,” says Ryan, before ticking off the five-point recovery plan both he and Romney favor.
9:24 p.m.—Now onto the economy: Can you both say if the country can get below 6 percent and when, asks Raddatz.
Biden says he can’t give a date, but the administration has rescued the country from economic freefall.
He complains Romney wanted Detroit to go bankrupt, and that shouldn’t be a surprise from a candidate who writes off 47 percent of the country, or a vice presidential running mate who says 30 percent of the country are “takers.”
That is the first time in either debate Romney’s 47-percent comment was raised.
9:22 p.m.—Biden is laughing at some of Ryan’s assertion.
He is the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Perhaps he feels Ryan should not be lecturing him here, but Ryan is undeterred.
He labels Iran “the world’s largest marketer of terrorism.”
Biden retorts, “War should always be the last resort.”
9:21 p.m.—Biden says Iran is not four years closer to a nuclear weapon, but four years closer to having fissile material to put in one—“if they had a nuclear weapon.”
9:20 p.m.—Biden interjects, “Let me tell you what the ayatollahs see: They see their economy going into the tank.”
And he rejects the Netanyahu criticism.
“This is a bunch of stuff,” Biden says, and Raddatz asks him to define that term.
Ryan laughs and Biden says, “malarky.”
He adds: “Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. ... I don’t know what world these guys live in.”
9:18 p.m.—Ryan says Iran is moving closer to a nuclear weapon, spinning the centrifuges faster.
He castigates the administration for projecting weakness by not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when both were in New York last month and instead appearing on “The View.”
9:16 p.m.—Biden says, “Incredible,” and then laughs twice.
He says the country has imposed “the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions,” and Romney won’t answer beyond that if he wants to go to war with Iran.
Ryan interjects, “We want to prevent war.”
Biden comes back, the administration feels confident it could deal a crippling military blow to Iran, but the country is still “a good way away” from a weapon.
“We’ll know if they start the process of building a nuclear weapon,” says Biden.
9:14 p.m.—Raddatz asks the two to be clear about how effective a military strike would be on Iran.
“We cannot allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons technology,” he says. “They are four years closer to nuclear weapons technology.”
9:12 p.m.—Raddatz asks Ryan about whether the country should apologize for burning Korans, or soldiers urintating on Taliban corpses.
Ryan says yes, but that does not explain away not securing the Libyan ambassador on the anniversay of 9/11.
Raddatz then moves to Iran.
9:10 p.m.—“These guys bet against America all the time,” says Biden.
Raddatz asks what the administration was first told about what happened in Libya.
The vice president says that intelligence community changed its story about what happened a month ago.
“At the time, we said exactly what the intelligence community told us they knew,” says Biden. As the story changed, the administration changed its explanation.
9:09 p.m.—Ryan is being steady, and is obviously well-briefed. He is used to debating in that he has to defend his budget proposal in Congress.
“With all due respect, that is a bunch of malarky,” says Biden. The vice president says that Ryan proposed cutting embassy security funding in his budget proposal.
9:08 p.m.—“The president of the United States has led with a clear head and a steady vision. Mitt Romney has done the opposite,” says Biden.
Ryan retorts that “it took the president two weeks to acknowledge this was a terrorist attack.”
He notes the US ambassador to France has a Marine detachment; shouldn’t there have been one in Libya.
Ryan calls the unfolding story “an embarrassment,” and says it is wrong for the Obama campaign to blame the Romney campaign.
“This Benghazi issue would be a tragedy in an of itself, but it’s indicative of a broader problem,” says Ryan. He calls it part of the “unraveling” of the Obama administration foreign policy.
9:04 p.m.—“Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure?” Raddatz asks.
Biden says it was a tragedy, the killers are being hunted, and whatever mistakes were made “won’t be made again.”
He then recounts the administration’s foreign policy and anti-terrorism successes.
9:03 p.m.—By coin toss, Biden gets the first question. Bidn and Ryan shake hands at center stage and clasp each other’s arms. Biden is seated Stage Right and Ryan at Stage Left.
The first question focuses on Libya and the attack a month ago tonight.
9:02 p.m.—The debate opening is now underway and Raddatz is introducing the debaters.
9 p.m.—The debate hour has arrived and the candidates will take the stage after networks conclude their welcome at the top of their broadcasts.
8:53 p.m.—Raddatz, a former WCVB-TV (Channel 5) reporter, notes that as a war correspondent, she is not used to sitting with her back to a crowd. Then she takes her seat—with her back to the crowd.
8:51 p.m.—This table setting reminds me of a 2000 debate in South Carolina between George W. Bush and John McCain, with Larry King as moderator. It was intense as the two candidates accused each other at close quarters of dirty campaigning.
8:50 p.m.—Raddatz, the moderator, is now coming on the stage.
8:49 p.m.—The wives of the two debaters are now being introduced.
8:42 p.m.—It’s been four years, the television stations are reminding us, that then-Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin walked onto the debate stage and said to Biden, “Can I call you ‘Joe?’”
8:38 p.m—Leaders of the Commission on Presidential Debates are now addressing the audience.
8:27 p.m.—A White House media pool report says that the president has wrapped up an appearance in Miami and is aboard Air Force One for the flight back to Washington.
Obama—and the reporters aboard—will be able to watch via satellite TV.
JetBlue has nothing on the US Air Force.
8:23 p.m.—One correction to that last post: the candidates will not be standing at podiums, as were Obama and Romney last week, but seated at a triangular table across from moderator Martha Raddatz.
8:21 p.m.—TV is showing that the debate set is exactly the same as that for last week’s presidential debate.
That is by design: the organizers don’t want the setting to detract from what is being said.
They also want continuity through the debates they have organized.
CNN is also showing that Biden’s motorcade has arrived at the debate hall.
8:18 p.m.—A media pool report issued at 8:05 p.m. said that Biden had left the home where he was awaiting the debate to start his trip to the convention hall.
7:33 p.m.—A little more than 90 minutes before the debate starts, both sides are in full spin mode.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, just e-mailed political reporters noting a new “microsite” for rapid response to debate charges and counter-charges.
“Tonight in the vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan will lay out the clear choice in this election between Governor Romney’s plan for a real recovery or four more years like the last four under President Obama—which even Vice President Biden himself said ‘buried’ the middle class.”
The top of the ticket, meanwhile, is engaged over whether the administration was negligent in protecting the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that was attacked last month, killing four, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Winchester native Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL working as a security contractor for the State Department.
In Asheville, N.C., Romney said: “It’s an issue because this is the first time in 33 years that a United States ambassador has been assassinated. Mr. President, this is an issue because we were attacked successfully by terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11. President Obama, this is an issue because Americans wonder why it was it took so long for you and your administration to admit that this was a terrorist attack.”
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith replied, “Mitt Romney will stoop to any level to score cheap political points. From the time of the attack in Libya, Mitt Romney has stopped at nothing to politicize these events – and he wasted no time in proving that point in North Carolina today. While President Obama has been focused on getting the facts, finding the terrorists responsible, and bringing them to justice, Mitt Romney has attempted to use the tragedy to his political advantage.”