DANVILLE, Ky. - It was billed as the "Thrill in the Ville" and Thursday night's vice-presidential showdown here proved explosive.
It wasn't so much a debate at first as it was a bloodbath over foreign policy and the economy.
A fiery Vice-President Joe Biden, tasked with halting momentum for the Republicans after Mitt Romney's win in last week's debate, stormed out of the gate looking for blood and interrupted Paul Ryan at every turn.
“With all due respect, that is a bunch of malarkey,” Biden said when dismissing Ryan's claims that President Obama had made the U.S. look weak around the world. "Not a single thing he said is accurate."
He also grinned, and laughed off other Republican claims with condescending body language, but Ryan held his own and remained calm during the heated exchanges.
"I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t interrupt each other," Ryan said to Biden at one point.
Expectations for an explosive showdown at Centre College here were high heading into Thursday's one and only vice presidential debate in this campaign, given the shifting momentum in the election in favour of the Republicans.
And Biden, a political veteran of 40 years, avoided any major gaffes, something he is known for when speaking off the cuff.
While Ryan, an admitted "numbers guy," excelled at the economic questions, Biden showed his strength on foreign policy. (In Congress, he chaired the Senate's foreign affairs committee.) Thursday's debate at Centre College was the second vice presidential matchup held here in 12 years. In 2000, Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman debated here, too.
The Republicans were reportedly bracing for Biden to go at Ryan like a "cannonball," which he did, but Ryan held his ground and made a compelling case to replace Obama. To win in November, the Republicans must convince some of the President's former supporters to jump ship.
"Did they (the Obama administration) come in and inherit a tough situation? Absolutely," Ryan said early on in the debate. "But we're going in the wrong direction. ... The economy is barely limping along."
"We face a very big choice – what kind of country are we going to be?," Ryan said in his closing statement. "President Obama had his chance and he made his choices."
Following the debate, both campaigns worked to spin the debate into a victory for their side, while flash polls taken of viewers just after the match-up hinted it was likely a draw.
Obama and Romney face off again next week in New York in a town-hall style debate, and again at the end of the month in Florida to talk about foreign policy.