A real debate
Your attention please: Now batting for the Democratic Party, Vice President Joe Biden.
Those of you who could not tear yourselves away from the baseball playoff game Thursday night, who may have decided after last week's presidential debate that it wasn't worth their time, missed a real success of a political contest. The vice president unlike his boss, Barack Obama showed up and got his licks in. His opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan, also brought his A game.
And the moderator, ABC's Martha Raddatz, did a great job of moving the conversation along, bringing the candidates back to the questions and pushing them to answer, at least as long as there was hope that there might be an answer.
There were answers. But the answers raise more questions.
Biden stands by the Obama administration's policy of stimulus, tax cuts focused on the middle class, ending tax cuts for the wealthy and a belief that government has a legitimate and necessary role in leveling the playing field and investing in the next generation of workers and students.
He also was as firm as politicians are likely to get on the point that the United States will pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, arguing that our allies among the Afghans won't stand up unless we give a firm date.
Ryan made a strong case for the Mitt Romney proposals of large tax cuts across the board, a belief that boosting the income of the rich will, in turn, create jobs and improve the economy for all.
He also reiterated the view, not unique to the Republican ticket, that a firm date for our Afghan withdrawal only encourages our enemies to bide their time.
Which ticket carries the day will depend not only on what the voters believe will be best for themselves and for the nation, but on how they do the math. Do they believe, with Ryan and Romney, that a 20 percent across-the-board income tax cut can be covered by eliminating so-far unspecified loopholes and deductions? Or do they think, with Biden and Obama, that the plan cannot help but give the rich more tax cuts, shift the burden to the working classes by cutting their mortgage deductions, child and education tax credits?
Outside wonks and pundits found fault with some of Ryan's arguments, specifically the contention that the Romney tax cuts can be paid for and his insistence that unemployment is still growing when, in fact, it is down.
But Ryan's general point, that this is not what a real recovery looks like, is hard to dispute.
Next week: Obama vs. Romney, Round 2. Don't miss it.