Both dished it out as well as they received it. But the edge goes to Mr. Ryan.
He was more fact-oriented and less theatrical than his Democratic opponent, whose editorial facial expressions detracted from the quality of his arguments.
Practically speaking, nothing radically new was learned about either ticket. Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Ryan stuck to standard party line views and talking points. Each side will continue to paint the other as a radical danger to America.
They discussed a broad range of topics, including Iran, the embassy attacks in Benghazi, abortion rights and the economy. Both candidates engaged the opposition, although some of the interruptions and contradictions served to cloud matters rather than clear them up.
Credit must be given to the debate moderator, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, who did her best to keep the pugnacious Mr. Biden at bay, to control the tempo and to ask sharp questions without dictating to the candidates entirely. Her work was an improvement over last week’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, who was too much of a pushover.
Even the post-debate analysis was relatively even for each candidate. Fact-checkers called out both candidates equality.
For example, regarding the embassy attacks, Mr. Biden said, “Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again.” He was wrong there, judging by testimony from Obama administration officials at a hearing in Washington a day earlier.
On the other hand, Mr. Ryan has been called out for his assessment of Iran’s current nuclear capability, claiming that Iran possessed enough fissile material for five nuclear weapons. In reality, Iran isn’t believed to have produced any of the highly enriched uranium needed to produce one nuclear weapon, let alone five.
Then there was Joe Biden’s white perma-smile, held almost steady throughout the debate. In keeping with the partisan reactions to the debate, those on the political left found his smile to be genuine and endearing. Those on the right thought it was creepy.
The contrasting styles between the two candidates, who come from different generations, created some drama. But, in the end, Thursday’s debate will likely have the same effect on Election Day as previous VP debates — almost none.