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Vice Presidential Hopefuls In Fiery Clash
Joe Biden has put in a feisty performance in the vice presidential debate as he attempted to restore Democrat hopes after Barack Obama's lacklustre appearance last week.
Mr Biden and his Republican rival Paul Ryan frequently interrupted each other on topics including healthcare, the economy and Iran in their only debate before next month's election.
The Vice President's effort in Danville, Kentucky, appeared to have righted the Democrat ship but pressure remains on Mr Obama to deliver next week.
The President's hopes of a second term in office have hung in the balance since he allowed Mitt Romney the upper hand in the first presidential debate on October 3.
Mr Biden stepped up to the plate on Thursday night needing a strong showing after Mr Romney moved ahead in several national opinion polls.
He set about Mr Ryan - who is 27 years his junior - with relish, appearing incredulous at many of his statements and repeatedly smirking.
His replies were punctuated with astonished exclamations of "Amazing!", "Incredible!" and "Malarkey!".
The Vice President also brought up Mr Romney's "47%" remarks, when the Republican nominee appeared to write off almost half the electorate.
However, Mr Ryan dodged the bullet well - reminding the electorate that Mr Biden is prone to gaffes himself.
The rivals, both Roman Catholics, also engaged over abortion - a key issue as both sides chase the crucial women's vote.
Mr Biden warned that Mr Romney would choose a Supreme Court justice that would be sure to oppose the right to terminate a pregnancy.
Unlike last week's presidential debate, much of Thursday's encounter centred on foreign policy and Mr Biden attacked the Republicans for their lack of policy on Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
"Are you going to go to war? Is that what you want to do now?", he asked his opponent on Iran.
Passionate and adamant, Mr Biden was on a mission to reverse Mr Romney's polling surge and steady worried Democrats.
But his constant quirky smirking and guffaws on a split screen when the earnest Mr Ryan gave his answers risked distracting millions of television viewers watching at home.
Immediate analysis by pundits scored the clash a draw, with Mr Biden apparently doing enough to cheer gloomy Democrats and Mr Ryan avoiding serious errors that could haunt the Republican ticket.
Charles Franklin, politics professor and co-founder of Pollster.com, said: "The most obvious takeaway was how much more combative it was. If the Democrats wanted Biden to be more aggressive, they certainly got that.
"It's hard to say if it has changed the momentum of the race in a dramatic way, but I think it was a vigorous enough performance and it certainly did not reinforce the passivity that we saw from Obama last time."
Dotty Lynch, from the American University, said Democrats she had spoken to were happy with Mr Biden's performance.
"They are energised by it, they say he didn't let Ryan get away with anything, he stepped in when he heard something he wanted to refute," she said.
But Mr Ryan, a rising Republican star who is chairman of the House budget committee, did not discredit himself either as he showed a good grasp of policy and hit back hard at his more experienced opponent.
"Paul Ryan was knowledgeable, got his points across, and I think maybe surprised people about his command of facts on international issues, an area that he hasn't done very much in," Ms Lynch said.
With just three-and-a-half weeks to go, Mr Romney and Mr Obama are neck-and-neck in national polls, but the president has slim leads in the majority of the swing states that will decide the November 6 election.
:: The next debate between Mr Obama and Mr Romney will be held on October 16.