Vice President Joe Biden showed Americans some of that scrappy Scanton, Pennsylvania brashness Thursday night when he took Rep. Paul Ryan to the woodshed during the only vice presidential debate 26 days before Election Day.
In the opening minutes of the debate, Biden pushed back after Ryan implied that the recent death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya is evidence that the Obama administration's foreign policy is unraveling.
"That is a bunch of malarkey," Biden said. “Not a single thing he said is accurate."
Biden is the classic vice president: part bully, part lobbyist, part comedic straight man – and part bull dog. Biden did exactly what he was asked to do: Make the stark contrast between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in the race for the White House without making the debate about himself and Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin.
The bar on Thursday was high for Biden: In most cases, vice presidential debates are not considered critical, and in fact, most Americans usually tune out. But this year, with less than four weeks before Americans go to the polls in an extremely tight race, Biden’s performance Thursday could actually make a difference down the stretch.
Biden, for his part, did mention a crucial element of the campaign that Obama failed to raise during his debate with Romney.
“I’ve had it up to here with this notion that, ‘Forty-seven percent, it’s about time they take some sort of responsibility here,’” Biden said.
Biden was referring to Romney’s now-infamous secret video where he told wealthy donors that “47 percent” of Obama’s supporters view themselves as “victims” who “do not take personal responsibility for their lives.”
Ryan responded with a wisecrack that focused on Biden’s penchant for verbal gaffes.
“Mitt Romney’s a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country,” Ryan said. “I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes, the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
With Obama’s admitted lackluster performance in last week’s debate against Romney, the campaign is hoping that Biden helps make up some ground.
“I was just too polite,” Obama acknowledged on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” earlier this week.
In the days leading up to last week’s debate, Obama had Romney on the ropes. The president was leading in all national polls and had the momentum heading into Denver. Today, according to most polls, the race is now deadlocked. Obama’s weak performance last week allowed Romney to climb back into the race and revive his struggling campaign.
Of the seven national surveys of likely voters that were released on Tuesday, three showed a dead-even race, while four gave Romney a slight edge of one to two percentage points.
Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos told Fox News that he’s stopped polling Florida, Virginia and North Carolina because he’s already concluded that Obama will lose those swing states.
“In places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red. We’re not polling any of those states again. We’re focusing on the remaining states,” Paleologos said.
Paleologos’ data is indeed questionable, but only time will tell.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian predicted that Biden would take “the old meat-ax” to Ryan Thursday and said “the humane society” would have to be called in scrape up the mess.
Biden did show Americans that he can go toe-to-toe with Ryan, although it wasn’t exactly a one-sided affair. Ryan got his jabs in as well.
“Mr. Vice President, I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground,” Ryan said. “But I think people would be better served if we didn’t keep interrupting each other.”
So now, with the vice presidential debate out of the way, Obama will prepare for his next debate with Romney on Tuesday, a town-hall-style discussion focusing on national and foreign policy that should play to the president’s strengths.
And the president reflected on his debate with Romney.
“Gov. Romney had a good night. I had a bad night. It’s not the first time I’ve had a bad night,” Obama told Diane Sawyer of ABC News this week. “But I think what’s important is the fundamentals of what this race is about haven’t changed.”
“If you have a bad game you just move on," Obama added. "You look forward to the next one.”