* Republicans, Democrats claim victory; polls see debate as
* Romney campaign seizes on Biden's Benghazi security
* Obama debate rematch with Romney on Tuesday
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Oct 12 Joe Biden's spirited
performance in the vice presidential debate has some critics
panning him for over-the-top chuckles and snide grins, but it
set the stage for President Barack Obama to regain his footing
during a rematch with Republican challenger Mitt Romney next
After Obama was seen as largely passive against a resurgent
Romney last week in the first primetime debate before the Nov. 6
election, Biden fired up the Democratic base by aggressively
challenging his opponent Paul Ryan on taxes, healthcare and
Post-debate polls put Thursday night's matchup largely at a
Obama now has a chance to dial back from Biden's sarcastic
smiles and mocking quips, and deliver his own vigorous argument
for why he should get a second term in the White House.
Democratic U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen, who helped
Biden prepare, said he expected Obama to come out swinging
during the town-hall style debate on Tuesday.
"I think the president will be more aggressive in terms of
the facts. After all, in the last debate the president
essentially listened as Mitt Romney reinvented himself and Mitt
Romney reinvented all their proposals," Van Hollen said on MSNBC
The Democrats had looked to Biden to stop the bleeding after
Romney's forceful performance gave him a surge in the polls less
than a month before Election Day.
The veteran vice president, 69, scored points on the
youthful Wisconsin congressman with a fiery delivery that
highlighted his experience in foreign policy and hit hard on
Ryan largely met his challenge of trying to show he was
knowledgeable, presidential, and that Romney had not made a
mistake in making the 42-year-old his running mate.
The two campaigns both claimed victory.
"Most people who saw last night saw Paul Ryan as someone who
had a command of the facts, had a clear, positive agenda for the
future, and someone who's very serious about the serious issues
that we face as country," Republican advisor Ed Gillespie said
on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Gillespie did seize on Biden's comments about the security
at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where U.S. ambassador
Christopher Stevens was killed on Sept. 11.
When asked about whether the mission had asked for more
security during the months leading up to the attack, Biden said,
"Well, we weren't told they wanted more security again. We did
not know they wanted more security again."
The comments appeared to conflict with statements from a
U.S. security officer who said he twice asked his State
Department superiors for more security agents.
"There's a clear contradiction," Gillespie said.
ROMNEY GRABS THE LEAD
Romney advanced to take a small lead in many national
opinion polls after the first debate on Oct. 3, reversing what
had been a small but growing advantage for Obama since the
Democratic convention in early September.
The former Massachusetts governor also gained ground in
polls of the closely contested "swing states" that will decide
the election, although Obama stayed ahead in most.
Greg Valliere, who analyzes politics for investors at
Potomac Research Group, said he thought Ryan "won on points,"
but that Biden energized the Democrats and stopped the slide.
"This entertaining debate was all about Biden, who easily
cleared a low bar," Valliere said in a note to clients on
Biden strongly questioned many of the Republicans' policies.
He pounced upon Romney's Byzantine tax returns, the Republican's
suggestion to let U.S. automakers go bankrupt, his proposal to
let struggling homeowners lose their houses, and his dismissal
of 47 percent of the public as unproductive parasites.
Republicans panned Biden, faulting him for smiling too much
and, they said, being rude to Ryan during their animated
encounter. But Ryan also seemed to smirk, employing a boyish
head tilt and a smile melting into a frown at both ends.
Some viewers thought Ryan lacked the fire necessary to win
"I expected Ryan to fight harder. He wasn't aggressive
enough when he was constantly interrupted," said Scott Preston,
a small business owner in Columbus, Ohio, who expressed concern
that the Republican nominees are becoming too moderate.
One key observer gave Biden an unflinchingly positive
Obama watched the Biden-Ryan clash on board Air Force One as
he returned from a day of campaigning in Miami.
"I thought Joe Biden was terrific tonight. I could not be
prouder of him. I think he made a very strong case," Obama told
reporters as he headed back to the White House.