Biden, Ryan Clash on Foreign Policy, Social Issues

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WASHINGTON -- It was a fight right from the start. During the only vice-presidential debate of the 2012 election season, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan held what many pundits are calling a "spirited" debate.

The two sparred over Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, abortion, social security, health care, tax cuts, and more.

Biden won the coin toss to answer the first question, which was on Libya and the recent deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

What's the net effect for both parties? Dr. Charles Dunn, distinguished professor of government at Regent University, offers more insight on the vice presidential debate outcome, following this report.

Biden took issue with Mitt Romney's initial response to the attack, saying Romney politicized it. Ryan fired back, saying the White House failed to call the onslaught a terrorist attack.

For 90 minutes, the two men clashed, often speaking over one another.

"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 told Biden at one point.

Did Biden's debate style hurt him among undecided voters? Paul Bonicelli, executive vice president of Regent University, offered more insight, on CBN News Channel Morning News, Oct. 12.

Biden brought up Romney's comments about the 47 percent during the debate, something President Obama was criticized for not doing.

Ryan hammered Biden with statistics on the large number of people who are out of work.

"This is not what a real recovery looks like," he said.

The mood and tone of the debate changed about an hour and 15 minutes into the event as ABC News moderator Martha Raddatz raised the issue of abortion.

"We have two Catholic candidates on a stage such as this," Raddatz said. "And I would like to ask you both what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion. Please talk about how you came to that decision, how your religion played a part in that... This is such an emotional issue for so many people in this country. Please talk personally about this."

Ryan answered the question first.

"I don't see how someone can separate their personal life from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me how to take care of the vulnerable," Ryan said.

"You want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith -- that's a fact of course. It's also about reason and science."

He then talked about the first time he and his wife saw the ultrasound of their seven-week-old child.

"We saw that heartbeat. Our little baby was in the shape of a bean, and to this day we have nicknamed our fistborn child Liza 'Bean.' I believe that life begins at conception. Those are the reasons why I'm prolife."

Ryan said a Romney administration will oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother.

"What troubles me more, is how this administration has handled all of these issues," Ryan said. "Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom -- the freedom of religion -- by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals."

"Our church should not have to sue our federal government to maintain their religious liberties," he continued. "And with respect to abortion, the Democratic Party used to say they wanted it to be safe, legal, and rare. Now they support it without restriction and with taxpayer funding. Taxpayer funding in Obamacare, taxpayer funding with foreign aid..."

Biden replied to Ryan's comments with personal thoughts of his own.

"My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. It has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can't take care of themselves," Biden said.

"With regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion… Life begins at conception. That's the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life, but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews. I refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman," he said.

"I do not believe that we have right to tell other people, women, they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor, in my view, and the Supreme Court in my view. I'm not going to interfere with that," he said.

Biden went on to address the assault on the Catholic Church.

"No religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital. None has to either refer contraception. None has to pay for contraception. None has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact," he said.

Biden then tried to paint Ryan as flip-flopping on the issue of rape and forcible rape.

Ryan was quick to respond, "If you believe that life begins at conception, that therefore doesn't change the definition of life. That's a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother."

Democrats are hoping the vice presidential debate will slow the momentum of the Romney campaign after President Barack Obama's weak showing last week. Polls show that both campaigns are pretty much in a statistical dead heat. 

Click play to watch the full debate.

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Robin Mazyck

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Robin Mazyck serves as Bureau Chief for CBN News' Washington, D.C., bureau. Robin has interviewed a number of prominent politicians and national figures for the network, including Mike Huckabee, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Steele, George Lopez and more.