There were testy exchanges throughout the first and only vice presidential debate, with Republican Paul Ryan citing the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East as evidence Thursday night that the administration's foreign policy is failing. Vice President Joe Biden called Ryan's claims "a bunch of malarkey."
"Not a single thing he said is accurate," Biden said in the opening moments of the debate.
With a little less than four weeks left before the election, both men seemed primed for a showdown seemingly rebutting each other on every point.
Ryan argued the current administration had provided insufficient security to Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed, along with three other Americans, in a terrorist attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11
However, Biden sought to blame Republicans, saying the budget that Ryan authored as chairman of the House Budget Committee cut the Obama administration's funding request for diplomatic security by $300 million.
Despite multiple reports that indicate there were requests for additional security at the U.S. Consulate in Libya, Biden claimed the Obama administration wasn't "told they wanted more security." The statement appears to be at odds with the official record.
Many times throughout the debate, Biden could be seen smiling sarcastically and shaking his head as Ryan spoke. Both men also interrupted each other a number of times, though Biden was a more frequent offender.
"I know you’re under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think people would be better served if we don’t interrupt each other,” Ryan said. But he didn't exactly stick to his word.
The two men also tangled over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, administration steps to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and relations with Israel, an area where Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney frequently accuses President Barack Obama of letting down the United States' closest ally in the Middle East.
Biden, 69, repeatedly accused Ryan of misstating the facts. "This is a bunch of stuff," he erupted at one point.
But the 42-year-old Ryan didn't back down. Iran is "four years closer" to having a nuclear weapon after Obama's first term, he argued.
"You think Iran is not brazen? Look at what they are doing," Ryan added.
The debate took place a little more than a week after Obama and Romney met in the first of their three debates - an encounter that has fueled a Republican comeback in the polls.
Following Obama's poor performance in that debate, Democrats were relying on Biden to provide a much needed spark, which he did with a lively performance.
Biden also brought up Romney's infamous "47 percent" remarks, the percentage of Americans he said pay no federal income tax and are reliant on entitlement programs.
In response, Ryan quipped:"The vice president knows, sometimes the words don't come out of your mouth the right way." The joke was obviously in reference to Biden's tendency to commit gaffes.
"It's about time they take responsibility" instead of signing pledges to avoid raising taxes, Biden said of Romney, Ryan and the Republicans.
But Ryan quickly recited the dreary economic statistics - 23 million are struggling to work, he said, and 15 percent of the country is living in poverty. "This is not what a real recovery looks like."
Asked directly when they could reduce unemployment to 6 percent from the current 7.8 percent, neither nominee provided a straight answer.
Instead, Biden repeated the president's contention that the nation is moving in the right direction, while Ryan repeated the Republican view that economic struggle persists even though Democrats had control of both houses of Congress during the first two years of Obama's term.
"Where are the 5 million green jobs" we were told would be created? Ryan said to Biden.
For Biden, Thursday night's debate was his first since the 2008 campaign, when he shared a stage with Sarah Palin, then John McCain's running mate.
Sparring over tax policy, Ryan argued the Obama administration wrongly thinks it can tax the rich to pay for their out-of-control spending.
"Watch out middle class, the tax bill is coming to you," Ryan said.
One of the last topics that the two nominees tackled was the contentious issue of abortion.
Ryan said he personally believes that life begins at conception but he respects the people who disagree with him. He said a Romney administration would oppose abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother.
Biden said his faith requires that he personally be against abortion because that is the position of the church. However, he added that he refuses to enforce his values on the entire American population, saying abortion is a decision to be made between a woman and her doctor.
"The fact is that we are in a situation where we inherited a God awful circumstance," Biden said in his closing statement. He slammed Republicans' "attitude" toward the American people, again bringing up the "47 percent" comments and saying people jsut need a "fair shot."
"We face a very big choice. What kind of country are we going to be? What kind of country are we going to leave our kids?" Ryan said in his closing statements.
"This is not what a real recovery looks like. You deserve better," he added, saying Romney is "uniquely qualified" to be president.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News had moderator duties.
Watch a portion of the vice presidential debate below:
Front page image by Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.