CHICAGO (CBS) — The gloves came off Thursday night in the race for president. The fireworks missing in the first presidential debate came out in Kentucky, at the vice presidential debate.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the difference between last week’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney and Thursday’s debate between their running mates was night and day.
What voters saw Thursday was a moderator in control, and Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan talking to each other, rather than over each other. Which is not to say they didn’t disagree from the get go, starting with last month’s terrorist attack in Libya, which killed a U.S. ambassador.
“They first blame the YouTube video [lampooning the Muslim prophet Muhammad], now they’re trying to blame the Romney-Ryan ticket for making this an issue,” Ryan said.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts Reports
“Our adversaries are much more willing to test us, they’re more brazen in their attacks, and our allies are less willing to trust us,” Ryan said before Biden interrupted, saying, “with all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”
From there, they went on to Ryan claiming the Obama administration wasn’t tough enough on Iran.
“They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon, they’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability,” Ryan said. “Mitt Romney proposed these sanctions in 2007. In Congress, I’ve been fighting for these sanctions since 2009. The administration was blocking us every step of the way.”
But Biden questioned his rivals’ plans for Iran, asking “are you gonna go to war?”
They also tangled over taxes and the economy.
“Do you know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today? It’s 10 percent. You know what it was the day you guys came in? Eight-point-five percent,” Ryan said. “That’s how it’s going all around America.”
But Biden countered, “You don’t read the statistics. That’s now how it’s going. It’s [the unemployment rate is] going down.”
But the clearest differences were over the Romney-Ryan plan for tax cuts.
“You can cut tax rates by 20 percent, and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers,” Ryan said.
But Biden said such a large cut in tax rates, without getting rid of tax deductions middle-class families receive for health care premiums, mortgage interest, and college tuition.
“Not mathematically possible,” Biden said. “It has never been done before.”
In the end, Biden kept his cool and his composure, calmly challenging Ryan on issues and facts he believed were dead wrong. Ryan held up well in the discussion, against a tough attack from Biden.
In Chicago, reaction to the debate followed strictly along party lines at a pair of viewing parties in the city.
“I think Joe was spanking Congressman [Paul] Ryan,” one woman said at a Democratic viewing party.
“Paul Ryan has demonstrated that he’s up to the task, he’s going to step up to being the vice president,” a woman at a GOP viewing party said.
“Just to see the kind of contrast between the two visions for America – along with the stylistic differences – I think you see a vice president who has a kind of credibility, and kind of experience to really speak to the issues that the American people are worried about. And then, on the other side, you see Paul Ryan, who can’t even get a sentence together,” one man at the Democratic viewing party said.
“Ryan’s making his points, I think he’s connecting with voters, I think he looks young and energetic,” a man said at the Republican viewing party.
About 35 Northwestern University students opted to watch the vice presidential debate in the basement recreation room of their dorm, WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports.
Unlike the presidential debate last week, which most said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won, this time the students had a variety of opinions.
Quentin is a freshman who says Biden clearly won.
“I think he took it from the start,” he said. “The whole debate, he was in control of it and he called out Ryan on anything. He just seemed to be in control.”
But Biden’s aggressive posture did not sit well with sophomore Anjolie Kulkarni, who preferred Ryan’s approach.
“His demeanor really sold it for me,” she said. “I don’t think Biden was taking the debate as seriously as I would have liked. I think he was laughing and smirking a little too much for my taste,” she said.
Still others said neither was a clear winner. Junior Eric Goble said he wanted to hear more about the candidates themselves, and not endless statistics.
Thursday’s debate in Kentucky was the only vice presidential debate, but there are two more debates between Obama and Romney before the election.
Next Tuesday, the two will debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, in a town hall format discussing domestic and foreign policy.
Then, on Oct. 22, the two will face off at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., in a foreign policy debate moderated by CBS “Face The Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer.