DANVILLE, KY —
The serial disagreements started immediately after the smiles and handshakes of the opening.
Ryan said in the debate's opening moments that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had been denied sufficient security by administration officials. Stevens died in a terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11.
"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Democrat Biden shot back.
Republicans and Democrats alike have said in recent days the presidential race now approximates the competitive situation in place before the two political conventions. The two men are generally separated by a point or two in national public opinion polls and in several battleground states, with Obama holding a slender lead in Ohio and Wisconsin.
Both the president and Romney campaigned in battleground states during the day before ceding the spotlight to their political partners for the evening.
In Kentucky, Biden and Ryan seemed primed for a showdown from their opening moments on stage, and neither seemed willing to let the other have the final word. They interrupted each other repeatedly — and moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC as well.
With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so.
Unprompted, he brought up the video in which Romney had said 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income tax, view themselves as victims and do not take responsibility for their own lives.
"It's about time they take responsibility" instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said — of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.
But Ryan quickly turned to dreary economic statistics — 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like."
Medicare was a flashpoint, as well. Ryan said Obama's health care plan had diverted $716 billion from the program for seniors and created a new board that could deny care to patients who need it.