By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com October 11 2012 10:14 PM ET
Joe Biden took a starkly different approach to debating his opponent than President Obama had employed in his much-panned performance a week ago.
The vice president began the debate by attacking Mitt Romney, not Paul Ryan, but when he focused on the Republican vice presidential nominee, he switched between moments of outrage and fits of amusement. Biden condemned "loose talk" on foreign policy and showed "frustration" with Romney's infamous comment on the 47%. But he'll likely be remembered for a big grin while Ryan spoke that built to outwardly laughing at the congressman's assertions.
"With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey," Biden dismissed Ryan at one point. "I don't understand what my friend is talking about here," Biden said, expecting viewers would feel the same way. Biden repeatedly laid claim to the "facts" and directly asked viewers who they believed.
Ryan is coming off a speech at the Republican National Convention that was picked apart by fact checkers as inaccurate. Bill Clinton later used his convention speech to deride Ryan for having a lot of "brass" to make what the former president said were hypocritical attacks.
But Ryan answered Biden's criticisms by labeling it part of the "attack, blame, and defame" campaign being run by Democrats who he said can't run on their record. Then he offered a theory on why Biden was so animated, suggesting the vice president was "under a lot of duress" to make a good impression because of Obama's performance in the first debate.
Ryan was twice pinned down by Biden and moderator Martha Raddatz on whether he could offer specifics. Asked whether he could guarantee the Romney-Ryan tax plan wouldn't eliminate the mortgage deduction for middle-class families, Ryan said they were withholding such details and instead providing a "framework" because it's the right way to reach bipartisan agreement. Then when Biden made it very clear the administration wants to leave Afghanistan ("We are leaving. We are leaving in 2014. Period."), Ryan supported the timeline but couldn't make the same guarantee.
"We don't want to embolden our enemies to hold and wait out for us and then take over the country," Ryan said on why the timeline is tentative.
But perhaps the most important distinction between the two sides to LGBT voters came when asked about how their faith influences decision making. Both Biden and Paul are Catholic but have opposing positions on social issues such as abortion and LGBT rights.
"I don't see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith," Ryan said. "Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure people have a chance in life."
Ryan said a Republican administration would oppose abortion, except in cases of rape or incest and to protect the life of the mother. Biden said that while he agrees with his Catholic faith on abortion, he wouldn't press his beliefs on other Americans.
"My religion defines who I am, and I have been a practicing Catholic my whole life, and it has particularly informed my social doctrine," said Biden, adding, "I accept it in my personal life, but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, Muslims and Jews."
Neither was asked directly about marriage equality or LGBT rights, and neither included it within an answer on their own.