Joe Biden and Paul Ryan shake hands at the conclusion of the vice presidential debate in Kentucky, Oct. 11, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/JEFF HAYNES
DANVILLE, KY -- It was billed as the "Thrill in the Ville" and Thursday night's vice-presidential showdown proved explosive.
It wasn't so much a debate as it was a bloodbath.
Vice-President Joe Biden and Mitt Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, bludgeoned each other over both foreign and domestic issues, including Iran, tax policy, medicare and government stimulus, and the terrorist attack in Libya.
In the first minutes of the debate, Biden shot back at Ryan after the Republican accused the White House of projecting an image of American weakness to the world.
"With all due respect, that is a bunch of malarkey," Biden said.
Ryan said the Obama administration had given confusing information about the killing last month of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
"It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that this was a terrorist attack," the Wisconsin congressman said. "What we're witnessing is the unravelling of the Obama administration's foreign policy."
Expectations for an explosive showdown at Centre College here were high heading into Thursday's matchup, given Biden was tasked with halting the Republicans' momentum following Romney's decisive win in last week's presidential debate.
And Biden, a political veteran of 40 years, avoided any major gaffes, something he is known for when speaking off the cuff.
But while Biden grinned and crossed his arms and thrice accused Ryan of "malarkey" within the first 20 minutes, Ryan remained rock steady and excelled at economic questions.
Biden's strength was foreign policy, which is not surprising given he once chaired the Senate's foreign affairs committee.
But the Romney team was busy lowering expectations for their No. 2's performance all week, warning that Biden was a witty, charming speaker who has experience in these high-level debates, whereas Ryan himself admitted Thursday was a first for him.
"Look, Joe Biden has been on this stage before. He has been on these big stages. This is my first time," Ryan told reporters Wednesday in Florida. "But what he can't run from is President Obama's indefensible record."
Thursday's debate was dubbed "Thrill in the Ville II" as a reference to the 2000 Dick Cheney vs. Joe Lieberman V-P matchup that also took place at Centre College.
Heading into Thursday's debate, it was expected Biden would be a fiery defender of Obama's record and Republicans were reportedly bracing for Biden to attack Ryan like a "cannonball."
Unlike last week's matchup between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Thursday's debate featured nine segments that covered both domestic and foreign policy, and the running mates and moderator Martha Raddatz were all seated at the same table.
It was the one and only debate for the vice-presidential candidates. Obama and Romney face off again next week in New York and again at the end of the month in Florida.
-- with files from Reuters