Both Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan stayed in character in their debate Thursday in Danville, Va.
It is also worth noting that Martha Raddatz of ABC News played the role of moderator in a way that was more useful to viewers than the rendition of veteran newsman Jim Lehrer in the Oct. 3 debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The vice presidential exchange ended up producing a clearer, crisper picture of differences of positions on important issues.
The intention of Mr. Biden, 69, was to demonstrate experience and maturity of judgment to the voter. He was also trying to meet the criticism of slushiness and detachment by Mr. Obama in the previous debate.
Mr. Ryan, 42, sought to build on what is considered to be Mr. Romney's strong performance in the first candidates' meeting. He also wished, no doubt, to show that in spite of his relative youth and shallow experience, that he is a credible vice presidential candidate. His predecessor on the Republican ticket in 2008, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, turned out not to be credible yet was seeking to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Criticism of Thursday's debaters, apart from consideration of the positions they presented, was predictable. Mr. Biden showed himself as sometimes having difficulty taking Mr. Ryan seriously. His defenders would say that was just Joe Biden being Joe Biden. Mr. Ryan came across as wonky and was sometimes prone to try to evade reality and even truth. That is not new criticism of him either.
Subjects usefully explored included the Libya attack, Iran policy, the future of Medicare and Social Security, an appropriate U.S. tax structure, the size of the defense budget, Afghanistan policy, the candidates' Catholicism, future Supreme Court appointments, bipartisanship and the arithmetic challenges presented by policies.
Neither candidate delivered what could be called a killer blow to the other, nor hurt or advanced significantly the prospects for Mr. Obama or Mr. Romney. It was, however, a useful debate in which both candidates emphatically delivered their message in the hopes of winning voters still making up their minds.