Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan sat down on Thursday for the only vice-presidential debate of the 2012 presidential campaign which focused on both domestic and foreign policy, ranging from Libya, the economy, taxes, Afghanistan, abortion and campaign tone.
When asked which candidate performed better, Nancy Orizaba, a senior majoring in political science said both candidates did well, but Biden’s delivery was better.
“Ryan, I would say, he had a lower voice in this debate, but he did say some stuff back, especially on the economy, on the budget, based on the income taxes,” Orizaba said.
She admits she would “go with Biden based on the fact that he has experience already,” although he did appear a little aggressive based on “the gestures he did, his big smile and the smiling, laughing on the side,” she said.
Leading with foreign policy, the opening question by moderator Martha Raddatz was whether the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three of his staff in Libya exactly one month ago constituted an intelligence failure.
Ryan argued the tragedy is “indicative of a broader problem” and “the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
The debate then turned to the topic of Iran. Ryan argued the Obama administration has not done enough to prevent the creation of a nuclear-armed Iran and the country is “moving faster toward a nuclear weapon…because this administration watered down sanctions, delayed sanctions, tried to stop us from putting the tough sanctions in place.”
“We will not allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon,” Biden said. “Iran is more isolated today than when we took office. It was on the ascendancy when we took office.”
This focus on foreign policy wasn’t something Quentin Brown, a junior majoring in international business, thought should have taken so much of the debate.
“I wish they’d talked more about the economy,” he said.
Justin Vaughn, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of political science, would disagree with saying too much time was devoted to foreign policy.
“We have major international problems as a nation, including some that are happening right now. As the men who will be literally a heart beat away from the presidency, it is important to get a feel for their positions, skills and temperament,” he said.
The second focus of the debate, domestic policy, did follow with the discussion of the state of the national economy. Raddatz asked the candidates whether they could get unemployment below 6 percent and how long it would take to do so.
“We can and we will get it under 6 percent,” Biden claimed and told Ryan to “Stop talking about how you care about people. Show me something. Show me a policy.”
Ryan contended, “They (the Obama administration) had the ability to do everything of their choosing, and look at where we are right now. They passed a stimulus, the idea that we could borrow $831 billion, spend it on all these special interest groups and that it would work out just fine, that unemployment would never get to 8 percent. It went up above 8 percent for 43 months. They said that right now, if we just pass this stimulus, the economy would grow at 4 percent. It’s growing at 1.3.”
The vice president then brought up the fact Governor Romney was not willing to rescue the auto industry or help homeowners refinance their homes, which Biden said “shouldn’t be surprising for a guy who says 47 percent of the American people are unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives.”
The debate then moved on to the issue of Medicare, entitlements and how Obamacare impacts their future funding.
“Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare to spend on Obamacare,” Ryan said.
“What we did is we saved $716 billion and put it back, applied it to Medicare. We cut the cost of Medicare,” Biden said. He also added that the AMA (American Medical Association) and AARP endorsed the administration’s health care reform.
However, according to Brown the best point Ryan made was, “just how much Obamacare would hurt us as a nation, how much more it would put us in debt.”
As the debate followed into the topic of taxes, Raddatz asked Ryan “to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut,” which is part of Romney’s Five Point Plan.
“What we’re saying is here’s our framework: Lower tax rates 20 percent, we raise about $1.2 trillion through income taxes. We forgo about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions. And so what we’re saying is deny those loopholes and deductions to higher income taxpayers so that more of their income is taxed, which has a broader base of taxation,” Ryan said.
“Not mathematically possible,” Biden claimed and went on to say under Obama, “The middle class will pay less and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more.”
The rest of the debate focused on the defense budget, the final withdrawal date from Afghanistan, the civil war in Syria and each candidate’s stance on abortion.
According to Vaughn, compared to the first presidential debate, “In many ways the two representatives from each ticket switched places. Ryan was more muted, though not so much as Obama was in the first debate with Mitt Romney and Biden, like Romney, was fired up.
Vaughn thought the strongest contribution Biden made was his “efforts to show how Ryan’s facts were off,” and may have made the difference “if you were an undecided voter not very familiar with Ryan before the debate” because “you likely came away thinking, if nothing else, the congressman plays fast and loose with facts.”
“On the other hand, Ryan did a very good job appearing earnest, informed and kind,” Vaughn also added.
Although he thinks it was a close debate, “Ryan won because of the fact that I thought Biden was acting pretty childish,” Brown said.
Before the debate KayCee Babb, a sophomore majoring in anthropology, had a general opinion on the debate.
“The presentation of ability through debate is key to winning voter support,” she said.
With the vice presidential debate over, the second presidential debate will follow a town-hall format this Tuesday, Oct. 16.