Sparks fly in Biden-Ryan debate over defense, Afghanistan

DANVILLE, Ky. -- Vice President Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan are debating tonight at Centre College in Kentucky.

Some highlights:

10:30 p.m. -- In his final statement, Ryan says President Obama "had his chance," but his economic policies have failed. Says he and Mitt Romney are offering "real reforms" that can help create jobs.

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10:29 p.m. -- Biden gives his closing statement, noting that he and President Obama inherited a "god-awful circumstance" and have gotten the economy moving. He also rips Mitt Romney and Ryan, suggesting they don't care about the middle class.

10:28 p.m. -- Both candidates defend their characters and records -- and those of their running mates.

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10:22 p.m. -- Asked about the negative tone of the campaign, Biden said he regrets some of the things that have been said. But he says voters should take a look at Mitt Romney's record, and whether he would help the middle class; says Ryan's proposed budget would "eviscerate" the middle class.

DEBATE ANALYSIS: Biden more aggressive than his boss

Ryan defends the Romney record, and says Obama is running a campaign of "attack, blame, and de-fame." Ryan also rips the Obama economic record, and says he gives speeches rather than provides leadership.

10:20 p.m. -- Ryan says "un-elected" judges should not decide abortion policy.

'Biden says Ryan and Mitt Romney will seek judges to overturn the Roe vs. Wade ruling in favor of abortion rights.

10:14 p.m. -- Moderator Martha Raddatz notes that both candidates are Catholics -- how does that affect your views on abortion?

Ryan says his faith informs his "pro-life" views, though he also cites "reason and science." Says he believes life begins at conception, though he respects those who disagree. Says a Mitt Romney will oppose abortion except in cases of rape and incest -- he also rips the Obama administration for rules that religious institutions to provide birth control in their health care plans.

Biden says he is a lifelong practicing Catholic who supports the church's opposition to abortion, but doesn't want to impose his views on other people. Also says that religious groups are not required to finance birth control services.

10:09 p.m. -- The civil war in Syria surfaces.

Biden defends the Obama administration staying out, saying the U.S. is working with allies to negotiate a peace. He accuses Ryan and Mitt Romney of bellicosity, and adds: "The last thing America needs is to get in another ground war in the Middle East."

Ryan says no one is talking about sending U.S. ground troops, and Obama has been ineffective is building a coalition to pressure Bashar al-Assad surrenders power; says Russia has a veto over U.S. action via the United Nations.

Biden hits Ryan for lack of specifics about what the Republicans would do.

10:05 p.m. -- Ryan again uses the phrase "the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy," including problems in Afghanistan; Biden says Obama is keeping his promises.

9:57 p.m. -- An Afghanistan question: Why not leave now?

Ryan says the U.S. shouldn't risk its gains in Afghanistan, and he supports the administration's pullout by 2014 -- though the GOP would have kept more troops there during this transition, per the requests of the Pentagon.

Biden says the Afghanistan withdrawal plan is an Obama administration success. He knocks Ryan and Mitt Romney for being equivocal about withdrawal plans. Says Biden: "We are leaving -- we are leaving in 2014, period."

9:54 p.m. -- On to the defense sequester -- the Pentagon cuts that will kick in if Congress can't reach a debt reduction deal.

Ryan and Biden say they oppose the sequester -- and blame the other's party for threat of the defense cuts.

9:49 p.m. -- Like Mitt Romney at last week's debate, Ryan says the GOP doesn't have a $5 trillion tax cut -- it will offset higher rates by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions. He doesn't specify which ones, saying Romney will have to work with Congress.

Biden mocks the plan, calling it a giveaway to the rich -- including guys like Mitt Romney. Says the only way to finance these tax cuts is by eliminating tax breaks and programs for the middle class.

Biden again scoffs and laughs during Ryan's answers, as he has throughout the debate.

9:45 p.m. -- The tax issue arrives -- who will pay more and who will pay less, asks moderator Martha Raddatz.

Biden says the middle class will pay less and the rich will pay more under President Obama's plans -- and the Republicans would do the opposite; he calls their tax plans "unconscionable."

Ryan says the goal of GOP tax plans is to grow the economy -- that means cutting taxes at the front end, and collecting more at the back end through growth. Says there aren't enough rich people to finance Democratic spending plans, and the middle class will get stuck with the tab.

9:42 p.m. -- Ryan says Biden and President Obama are trying to "scare" voters over Medicare and Social Security. "This is what politicians do when they don't have a record to run," Ryan.

Biden says people will lose benefits under Ryan/Mitt Romney plans. "You are jeopardizing the (Medicare) program," Biden tells Ryan.

9:35 p.m. -- Another major topic surfaces: Medicare.

Ryan says the program has to be reformed or it will go broke -- and Obama's health care plan ("Obamacare") doesn't help; Ryan outlines his proposal, saying it is based on "choice and competition."

Biden says Ryan wants to create a "voucher" plan that will increase Medicare bills for seniors by thousands of dollars. For good measure, he accused Ryan of wanting to privatize Social Security.

"Folks, follow your instinct on this one," Biden says. "Their ideas are old and their ideas are bad."

Ryan says the Obama administration is using Medicare as a "piggy bank for Obamacare." He also says if the system isn't fixed soon, it will go broke for everybody.

9:32 p.m. -- Biden mocks Ryan for requesting a project in the GOP-attacked stimulus bill.

Ryan cites other examples of what he calls wasteful stimulus projects.

9:26 p.m. -- Ryan defends Mitt Romney on the 47% comment, saying he is a good man -- and he also gigs the gaffe-prone Biden by saying he knows that words don't always come out the right way.

Biden says the 47% remark is the real Romney -- he also cites his own personal history, including the death of his first wife four decades ago in a car crash.

The vice president also notes that the most recent recession started under a Republican president.

9:24 p.m. -- The first domestic topic: Jobs. How long will it take to get unemployment below 6%.

Biden doesn't answer -- but does blast Mitt Romney's policies, including an issue that went unmentioned at last week's presidential debate: Romney's comment about "the 47%" who are unemployed or who take government benefits.

Ryan notes that the jobless rate in Biden's hometown, Scranton, Pa. is 10%, and was 8.5% when President Obama took office. "The economy is barely limping along," Ryan says.

Biden notes that unemployment rate is dropping nationally.

9:22 p.m. -- Asked about the prospect of war over Iran, Ryan suggests "a nuclear-armed Iran" would be worse, de-stabilizing the Middle East.

Biden says war should be last resort.

9:19 p.m. -- Biden and Ryan scrap over who would be tougher on Iran -- and who would be better for Israel.

Another Biden-ism: Ryan's attacks are "a bunch of stuff."

Ryan stays aggressive, while Biden chuckles and rolls his eyes.

"Facts matter," Biden says.

"Equivocation," says Ryan.

9:13 p.m. -- The conversation shifts to the potential of Iran getting nuclear weapons.

Ryan says Iran is closer than it has ever been to nukes, in part because of "mixed signals" from the Obama administration, which he says has "no credibility" on the issue.

"Incredible," Biden says, noting that U.S. sanctions have global support.

Biden asks Ryan: "Are you going to want to go to war? Is that what you want to do?"

9:08 p.m. -- Biden stays on the attack, calling Ryan's critique of Obama foreign policy "a bunch of malarkey;" says Obama has kept his promises to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moderator Martha Raddatz challenges Biden on shifting stories about the Libya attack.

"We will get to the bottom of this," Biden says, again shifting the attack to Mitt Romney's criticism of Libya.

Ryan says Obama has had shifting approaches to the Arab Spring in the entire Middle East.

9:03 p.m. -- The first question is about the terrorist attack in Libya -- why were initial reports wrong?

Biden calls the death of ambassador Chris Stevens and others a tragedy, and President Obama has vowed to get to the bottom of it -- then he goes on the attack, criticizing Mitt Romney's approach to Libya and foreign affairs in general. "The last thing we need know is another war," he says.

Ryan stresses the administration's changing stories on what really happened at Libya, and criticizes the lack of security. "This is becoming more troubling by the day," Ryan says, adding that other troubles in the region underscore "the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy."

9:02 p.m. -- The candidates are on stage; remember they are sitting at desks.

8:49 p.m. -- Moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News appears on stage.

8:30 p.m. -- Biden and Ryan are in the hall, and we're 30 minutes away.


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