Without the advantage (or contamination) of listening to other instant analysts, I gave the debate to Vice President Joe Biden on style and on the substance of economic and tax policy.
Rehearsed or not, his exasperation with Rep. Paul Ryan's posturing was engaging, not overbearing, and he checked the "47%" and "don't voucherize Medicare" boxes. With some aid from the moderator, he pounced on Ryan for teasing the voters about which tax breaks Mitt Romney would eliminate to offset his tax cuts.
Ryan was snarky and supercilious. But he scored two palpable hits, both on foreign policy.
The first was his attack on the administration’s changing explanation of the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Yes, he went too far in portraying it as a metaphor for President Obama’s supposedly unraveling foreign policy, but the indictment was crisp and coherent: The government had warnings about lax security; it disregarded them and then dissembled about what happened for political purposes. Biden’s response was weak: We’re looking into what happened.
Ryan also leveled a damaging charge about the Obama administration’s policy on Iran: The U.S. is imposing mega-sanctions on the country (including its central bank) because Congress forced Obama to adopt a tougher line than he originally espoused. Biden never countered this accusation, the sort of ball-dropping that high school debaters are warned about.