UPDATED: 7:04 AM FRIDAY
Joe Biden didn't make a fool of himself during Thursday's debate, but he didn't make a fool of Paul Ryan, either.
Ryan held his own under a Biden barrage of aw shucks fact-checking that if nothing else was more energetic, and entertaining, than Barack Obama's debate debacle in Denver. And Martha Raddatz was as effective a moderator as the snooze-inducing Jim Lehrer was not.
The Kentucky debate's cozy seating arrangement and conversational format worked better for Biden than for Ryan, however. Biden's toothy cackle was annoying, but Ryan's smirk was downright distracting; it made his youthful earnestness -- a major asset -- look bratty.
Ryan was most effective when reminding voters of all the disappointments that have followed Obama's hope/change mantra of 2008. But the Congressman from Janesville's newfound fervor for bipartisanship lacked credibility. And despite his garrulousness-verging-on-rudeness, Biden managed to land solid jabs about Ryan's stimulus hypocrisy and what the vice president, an experienced foreign policy hand, rightly called Republican "loose talk" and sabre-rattling about the Middle East.
Biden also managed to remember a few essentials that Obama forgot, including Mitt Romney's mega-gaffe about 47 percent of the electorate being somehow beyond redemption. Whether the vice president's strong showing can redeem the Democratic campaign is another matter.