DANVILLE, Ky. — "You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes?" Biden asked, addressing the national TV audience, his tone of voice indicating he did not.
But Ryan said he and Romney believe "taking 28 percent of families' and businesses' income is enough."
"What we're saying is lower tax rates across the board and close loopholes primarily on the higher income people," Ryan said. He said that instead of specifying what loopholes and other tax breaks would be eliminated, Romney preferred to lay out broad principles in hopes of reaching a bipartisan agreement.
Across 90 minutes, the two men agreed precisely once.
That was when Ryan, referring to the war in Afghanistan, said the calendar was the same each year. Biden agreed to that, but not to his rival's underlying point, which was that it was a mistake for Obama to have announced a date for the withdrawal of the remainder of the U.S. combat troops.
The fiercest clash over foreign policy came in the debate's opening moments, when Ryan cited events across the Middle East as well as Stevens' death in Libya as evidence that the administration's foreign policy was unraveling. The Republican also said the administration had failed to give Stevens the same level of protection as the U.S. ambassador in Paris receives.
Biden rebutted by saying that the budget that Ryan authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee had cut the administration's funding request for diplomatic security by $300 million.
On the nation's economy, both men were asked directly when his side could reduce unemployment to 6 percent from the current 7.8 percent. Both men sidestepped.
Biden repeated the president's contention that the nation is moving in the right direction, while Ryan stated the Republican view that economic struggle persists even though Democrats had control of both houses of Congress during the first two years of Obama's term.