Also, as the candidates for Vice President; the only thing these two guys can debate is what someone else is going to promise or do, because they're running to be second banana.
So, with those caveats aside, recognizing that this debate doesn't really mean anything, I found it, for the most part, interesting.
I was disappointed that the only time Vice President Biden looked at all like a statesman was for the last two questions, starting with the question about religion. The question itself I found outrageous: they're not running for a religious office (as an aside: how cool would it be to hear a candidate say, "I'm running for political office. I'm not going to talk about religion, except to guarantee its freedom"?). But the question was asked, and that was the moment Joe Biden got serious, and looked like the Vice President I want him to be.
Paul Ryan, on the other hand, seemed much more a statesman, much more mature, than Joe Biden, for the entire evening. Well, he broke character once or twice to tweak Biden's tail, but in general, Ryan was busy presenting himself as someone you'd be comfortable having in national office, while Biden was presenting himself as someone you'd be comfortable living next door to. It depends what you want in your President/Vice President: a good neighbor, or someone you trust to defend the country. Me, I lean toward the latter.
Several times (all right, many times), Biden tried to push Ryan for details of his (Romney's) plans, and Ryan kept evading. That was definitely what Biden should have been doing, but he needed to be a little less strident about it. He also needed to stop asking that he'd have equal time; I was watching it on CNN, which was running a clock for how long each candidate spoke (annoying, but what the hell: it's one more meaningless graphic they can run), and Biden actually spoke a few seconds longer than Ryan. But he sounded like a child: "Am I going to get as much as he's getting?"
On the other hand, that points to my biggest problem with the whole debate (aw heck, most of the campaign): they're spending too much time trying to convince the electorate to vote against the other guy. It crops up every four years: we the voters bitch about all the negative campaigning, and cry out wishing for more of a positive campaign. So why do they do it? They do it because it works. As much as the electorate decries the negative campaigning, it influences far more votes the way the candidates want than against them, so they keep doing it. Am I an oddball? Is it just me and my circle of friends? Where are those people the negative campaigning pushes properly? Tonight's debate was almost entirely about that negative campaigning. But unlike in television commercials, the speakers had an hour and a half to engage in it. And why did they do it? Because that was all they had. It's difficult to run for re-election when everything isn't rosy and wonderful, so Obama and Biden have to attack their opponents. And while it's easier to run for the office when you don't have it, because you have nothing to justify, Romney and Ryan's "plans" really don't seem to have many numbers behind them.
Then again, when you use statistics, it's easy to make almost any argument you want: just choose the proper statistics for your argument.
In short: Paul Ryan looked good, Joe Biden could have looked better, and I don't think this debate is going to change the outcome of the election one way or the other.... But it was fun.
Oh, and I thought Martha Raddatz did an admirable job moderating it. It's funny that Ryan could say to the moderator "You've been to Afghanistan more than either of us," and even more interesting that it was true.