Vice presidential candidates debate for their first and last time

Christina Cocca

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






>>CORRECTION:  Biden said although he personally believes “life begins at conception,” he refuses to impose that belief on others, not Romney as stated in the story.
Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan met for their first and only vice presidential debate for the 2012 campaign Thursday.The debate, sponsored by the Commission of Presidential Debates, took place at Centre College in Danville, Ky., and was moderated by Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

After Gov. Mitt Romney held the upper hand in last week’s debate with President Barack Obama, the pressure was on Biden to retrieve support for the Democrats. Ryan faced the task of gaining national support for the GOP after his nomination by Romney in August.

The debate covered both foreign and domestic policy and was divided into nine 10-minute segments. The topics covered were foreign policy and the war, health care, the job market and abortion.

Unemployment, tax cuts and mathematics

In response to Raddatz asking for a plan on how to get unemployment under 6 percent, Biden compared the current economy to when the Obama Administration first took office and noted the rescuing of General Motors and middle class tax cuts.

Biden said although he doesn’t know how long a 6 percent rate will take to achieve, he and Obama “can and will get it under 6 percent.”

Ryan refuted his comment.

“This is not what recovery looks like,” Ryan said, referring to 23 million people without jobs and 15 percent of Americans living in poverty, although the most recent figure from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported about 12 million unemployed Americans in September.

He also spoke of Romney’s donation of 30 percent of his income to charity last year as stated on his now public tax return.

Biden demanded that Romney and Ryan “get out of the way” so the Obama administration can pass the tax cut for the middle class.

“Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something,” Biden said. “Show me a policy. Show me a policy where you take responsibility.”

The two argued back and forth about whether a 20 percent tax cut was possible while still keeping middle-class taxpayers happy.

“You can cut tax rates by 20 percent and still preserve these preferences for middle class taxpayers,” Ryan said before he was cut off by Biden.

“Not mathematically possible,” Biden argued.

The argument continued with a verbal ping-pong of “not possible” and “possible.” Biden smiled through much of the debate and referred to some of Ryan’s statements as “malarkey.”

TIME’s Michael Scherer Tweeted, “Not sure debate cameras have been light tested for Biden’s teeth. Best to watch with sunglasses.”

Religion’s Effect on Abortion Legislature

Raddatz later asked the candidates what role religion plays in their decisions regarding abortion. Romney said although he personally believes “life begins at conception,” he refuses to impose that belief on others.

“I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people or women that they cannot control their body,” Biden said. “I am not going to interfere with that.”

Ryan said he and Romney would make abortion illegal with the exception of rape, incest or risk of the mother’s life in childbirth.

“All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle,” Ryan said. “The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.”

The Supreme Court makes the final decision on abortion legislature, but the next president will be able to appoint one to two new Supreme Court judges. The Supreme Court currently has five Republicans and four Democrats.

Getting the Troops Home

Another focus was the possible removal of all troops from Afghanistan by 2014.

While Ryan voiced concern on whether a timeline of military removal made public would possibly tip off plans to enemies, Biden was adamant about training the Afghan military to take over their own territory while American troops vacate.

“We are leaving in 2014, period,” Biden said. “And in the process, we will save over $800 billion dollars. We’ve been in this war over a decade.”

Ryan argued he and Romney do not want soldiers to stay but added it might be possible.

“We want to make sure we give commanders what they need, but we don’t want to extend beyond 2014,” Ryan said. “We will assess the situation in 2013 on how best to complete the timeline.”

The debate ended with the majority of polls favoring Biden, but a winner was not as clear as the Oct. 3 presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said each candidate’s “respective supporters were pleased” with their performance, thus resulting in a draw.

Obama and Romney will have their next debate on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in New York.