Ryan was salesman smooth and knew his talking points. Biden was passionate and "fired up." Ryan talked; Biden shared experience. Both men could argue, but only Biden was intense -- because he spoke -- and frowned and gestured and smiled - from his heart as well as his mind.
A young woman, in her early twenties, wrote me after the debate that Joe Biden inspired her with his fervor and honesty to register and to vote.
Yes, this debate mattered. A lot.
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
Margaret Hoover: Ryan ahead on style and substance
Bottom line -- this debate will amount to a draw.
Biden, who needed to stop the hemorrhaging of momentum from the Obama-Biden campaign, performed strongly, but was overly aggressive. If he was downright rude, according to many in the Twitterverse, he got a pass from the president's supporters, who can only hope they see this offense from the commander-in-chief next week. Biden tried to dominate the debate, lost on style and stumbled on substance.
Ryan seemed less confident on foreign policy at the beginning, but recovered on Afghanistan, where he's visited twice and had a personal anecdote to illustrate his time in Helmand Province. I wish he'd called Biden out when he accused Ryan of voting to "to put two wars on a credit card." Biden, too, voted for both wars. The high water mark of the performance was Ryan's fancy footwork early that took 47%-gate off the table in quipping, "I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way." Even Biden had to chuckle.
This split screen captured the contrast in visions of the two vice presidential candidates on fiscal policy. Appropriately on the left, older Joe Biden, defending big government and modern liberalism's spending and fiscal denial with a grinning fresh face offering new ideas for fiscal reform and longevity from the right.
Ryan was classy to thank the vice president for the debate, even after having been smirked at for the previous 90 minutes. But Biden's graciousness to Ryan's mother once the microphones were cut portrayed his interpersonal warmth that plays so well on the campaign trail.
I think Ryan had the advantage on substance and style. In a national race where both guys are second runner-up, this is effectively a draw for how it plays into the larger campaign narratives.
Margaret Hoover is the author of "American Individualism: How a New Generation of Conservatives Can Save the Republican Party."
William Howell: Ryan's challenge was bigger, and he met it
No great surprise, Joe Biden delivered tonight. On the heels of his boss' withering performance last week, the vice president demonstrated his deep knowledge of domestic and foreign policy issues, fluidly maneuvering between minutiae about tax policy and the draw-down in Afghanistan on the one hand and meta-arguments about the stakes involved in this election on the other. He also scored his share of style points.
Though all that laughing through those big pearly whites proved a bit unnerving at times, Biden exhibited his relish for a good debate and his conviction in essential liberal principles. The Democratic base is surely pleased.
It was Paul Ryan, though, who faced the bigger challenge. Ryan had to prove his commitment to ideas and principles that are not entirely of his choosing. During the primaries, when Romney was brandishing his conservative credentials, this task would have been easily met. But going into this debate, it was not clear that the darling among the conservative right would be able to square his views with those of the more moderate incarnation of the former governor of deep-blue Massachusetts. But well he did.
Disciplined, substantive and on point, Ryan effectively thwarted efforts by Biden to drive a wedge between the congressman's former voting record and the policy positions of the Romney-Ryan ticket. He performed as well as his party could possibly have hoped.
This debate is not likely to move the polls much at all. But that is not to say that it is entirely inconsequential. For at least the coming week, Democrats can now talk about something other than their president's detachment. And Republicans generally, but Romney in particular, can rest assured that the GOP presidential ticket is in order as they settle on a consistent message to push through Election Day.
William Howell is the Sydney Stein professor in American politics at the University of Chicago.
Maria Cardona: Pressure is on the next two debates
This was one of the best vice presidential debates I've seen. The pressure was on Vice President Joe Biden to deliver a great performance -- and deliver he did.
Biden was assertive and aggressive, and he didn't let any untruth or distortion coming out of Paul Ryan's mouth slide.
From Medicare to taxes to Iran to Afghanistan to the 47% to abortion, Biden did not miss an opportunity and was as clear as he could have been on how President Obama would be on the side of middle-class families, seniors, women and those most vulnerable in our society. He was factual and specific. His years of experience in the Senate showed as he commanded the stage with his expertise.
Rep. Paul Ryan held his own, didn't make any mistakes and was prepared. But he was outwitted by Biden and challenged by the moderator Martha Raddatz when he was being vague.
Ryan's weakest moments came when he was pressed for specifics. He seemed demure on the issue of what loopholes he would close or how he and Mitt Romney would pay for the tax cuts and defense spending increases they are proposing. Raddatz pushed him on these points, and he did not have a satisfactory answer. In some instances, whether it was on economic issues or Iran, Ryan was not able to say what he and Romney would do differently.
Biden came across as more authentic, much more passionate and as a guy who is a real champion of the middle class. Moreover, Biden was able to stop the bleeding, get Democrats excited about the next two debates and inject some much needed energy and optimism coming out of the doldrums from last week's presidential debate.
Did the debate change any minds? Probably not. It seems Republicans are happy with Ryan's performance just as Democrats are happy with Biden's.
What this means is that the remaining two presidential debates take on even more importance for how this race will continue to play out. Stay tuned.
Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist, a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
John Avlon: Biden overwhelms Ryan
I underestimated Joe Biden.
Before the vice presidential debate, I'd thought that Paul Ryan would have the upper hand -- a young, smart policy wonk and great communicator paired off against an out-of-practice, aging politico with a recurring case of foot-in-mouth disease.
I was wrong.
Joe Biden had clearly studied Barack Obama's failures in the first presidential debate and decided to do the exact opposite -- intensely engaged, smiling and pushing back aggressively at the slightest hint of misstatement or exaggeration.
Paul Ryan was bobbing on the sea of Biden, keeping his head above water much of the time but occasionally overwhelmed by the combined force of personality and facts. He looked like what he was -- an earnest, intelligent, over-coached, comparatively inexperienced chairman of the Budget Committee.
Moderator Martha Raddatz had perhaps the best debate, especially compared to the unfocused Jim Lehrer; she actually asked pointed questions and follow-ups.
And it was there that the campaign spin had to surrender to stats and facts. Ryan is a budget expert, but he either didn't want to acknowledge or didn't know his own campaign's proposal to increase military spending to 4% of GDP, adding $2 trillion in federal spending over 10 years and blowing a hole in their deficit reduction rhetoric. Likewise, questions about what specifically a Romney-Ryan administration would do differently about Syria, Iran or Afghanistan went essentially unanswered despite the flurry of words.
Joe Biden made his share of unforced errors -- interrupting Ryan far too much and getting so overheated at one point that he turned his frustration against the moderator in an awkward spate of finger-pointing.
Ryan also shined in his discussion of deficits and debts, contrasting the president's speeches with score-able policy. His closing statement was disarming and compelling.
The best moment in terms of style and substance was Raddatz's question about abortion and the candidates' shared Catholic faith. Both men gave serious, thoughtful answers on this most difficult of subjects -- but Ryan's anti-abortion agenda contrasted to Biden's belief that he could not impose his personal religious views on an individual woman's decision. It was an eloquent defense of the separation of church and state -- a core concept we have heard too little about in recent years.