Centre College in Danville, Kentucky had the attention of millions as they tuned in last night to watch the first and only vice presidential debate before the election. So who won? It depends on who you ask. Lisa Autry was in Spin Alley and got reaction from Kentucky's political pundits.
It sounded like a call to the gate, but the bugler for Churchill Downs, in effect, issued a call to the stage. Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan met in their first and only debate at Centre College in Danville. With that, the candidates were off....to squabble over the economy, taxes, Medicare, and foreign policy. The 90-minute face-off was fast-moving and feisty. Asked how the candidates performed and the answers fell among party lines. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Paul Ryan succeeded in what he needed to do.
"There's no smarter congressman than Paul Ryan," asserted McConnell. "He pointed out this is an election that's a very big choice for the American people and I thought the vice president constantly interrupting and talking over Paul Ryan's answers showed a sense of desperation and a desire to re-invigor the base after the disaster last week."
Vice president Joe Biden mockingly smiled, wagged his finger, and couldn't seem to stop interrupting Republican running mate Paul Ryan. Republicans panned the vice president as disrespectful to his younger opponent. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was among pundits in the spin room eager to comment on the incumbent's demeanor.
"You remember that year with Gore did all that sighing, people were kind of put off by it. I got the same sort of uneasy feeling that he was a little too over-confident, that he somehow knew the issues better than everyone else on stage," quipped Paul.
Democrats, including Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, cheered the vice president's sharp tone.
"I think he brought the fight tonight, which is what he needed to do. Joe Biden is a scrapper from Scranton, Pennsylvania, so I think a lot of Democrats wanted someone to get up and point out when people weren't being truthful or records were being distorted," said Conway. "I think the real telling point of the debate was when Martha Raddatz kept saying to Congressman Ryan 'What are the specifics of your plan?' He had nothing."
Although vice presidential debates rarely result in major shifts in elections, this match-up was viewed as one that could really matter. After the first presidential debate that garnered President Obama negative reviews, the stakes were raised. But Senator Paul, rumored to be a 2016 White House contender, didn't think the outcome was a game-changer.
"I don't think a great deal to tell you the truth. I think it's important that both sides keep getting their issues out and I think it's somewhat of a break even point," Paul said. "I don't think anybody comes out of this debate saying 'We won so much that now the campaign's going in our direction.' However, I think the momentum's been with Romney because of his debate performance and still will continue to be."
The vice presidential contenders are now one and done, but it's still game on as President Obama and Governor Romney meet again next Tuesday.