DANVILLE, Ky. — With Democrats eager for Biden to show the spark the president lacked, he did so. He supplemented his criticism by periodically smiling mockingly, wagging his finger and raising his arms in mock disbelief as his rival spoke.
Ryan, sitting on the national debate stage for the first time, settled on a smirk for parts of the debate. He sipped water and cleared his throat through many of Biden's answers.
Unprompted, Biden 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.
Ryan was ready with a response. "This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity, more than the two of us combined," he said of the man at the top of the Republican ticket. "Mitt Romney's a good man. He cares about 100 percent of Americans in this country. And with respect to that quote, I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way."
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," Biden shot back.
Both the president and Romney campaigned in battleground states during the day before ceding the spotlight to their political partners for the evening.
"I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight. I could not be prouder of him," Obama told reporters after watching the debate aboard Air Force One.