DANVILLE, Ky. – In a contentious, interruption-filled debate Thursday night, Vice President Joe Biden and his Republican challenger Paul Ryan butted heads on everything from foreign policy to health care to abortion.
"That is a bunch of malarkey," the vice president retorted after a particularly tough Ryan attack on the administration's foreign policy.
"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Democrat Biden declared after Ryan said U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had been denied sufficient security by administration officials. Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
Both men seemed primed for a showdown from their opening moments on stage, and neither seemed willing to let the other one have the final word.
"I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don't interrupt each other," Ryan said to his older rival at one point. But both continued to do so — and interrupted moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC as well.
The debate took place a little more than a week after President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney met in the first of their three debates — an encounter that has fueled a Republican comeback in opinion polls.
With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so.
Unprompted, he brought up the video in which Romney had said 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, view themselves as victims and do not take responsibility for their own lives.
"It's about time they take responsibility" instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said — of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.
But Ryan quickly turned to dreary economic statistics — 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like."
Medicare was a flashpoint, as well. Ryan said Obama's health care plan had diverted $716 billion from the program for seniors and created a new board that could deny care to patients who need it.
Democrats "haven't put a credible solution on the table," he said. "They'll tell you about vouchers. They'll say all these things to try to scare people."
Both men did seem to agree on the question of why American troops shouldn't just leave Afghanistan immediately.
Biden said it's up to Afghanistan to take responsibility for its own security.
Republican rival Paul Ryan said he doesn't want the United States to lose the gains achieved in its decade-long war there following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Both Biden and Ryan conveyed at Thursday's vice presidential debate that it's time to wind down U.S. involvement. Ryan said he agrees with President Barack Obama in transitioning out of the country by 2014, but said the White House should not announce a deadline for withdrawal and expose weakness.
Ryan added that nobody is proposing sending U.S. troops to Syria.
Ryan and Biden are argued over whether there's any difference between them on how to deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Ryan accused Biden and President Barack Obama of outsourcing U.S. foreign policy to the United Nations. He says Obama gave Russia veto power, and that the longer the conflict has continued, the more groups like al-Qaida will flood into Syria.
Biden said the last thing the U.S. needs is another Mideast ground war and that if Ryan and Mitt Romney want to put U.S. troops in Syria, they should say so. He says Romney talks a lot about Obama's strategy being unsuccessful, but can't say what he would do differently.
On abortion, both candidates said their Catholic faith informs their public policy decisions, but they come down on different sides of the abortion debate.
Biden, said his Catholicism teaches that life begins at conception but that he would not impose that belief on people of other faiths. Ryan said he opposes abortion but that the policy of a Romney administration would include exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.