Before the debate, I predicted that Congressman Ryan would wipe the floor with VP Biden. I was wrong. I'd forgotten how good/awful of a debater VP Biden is. He's good because he's always confident and never in doubt. He's awful because he completely makes stuff up and delivers the resulting manure with complete and utter sincerity. How do you fight that without falling into the trap of constantly fact checking your opponent rather than giving your own answers?
How about an example? Last night, they were asked about whether or not the United States should intervene in Syria (given the Libya intervention). And, if not, why not? VP Biden confidently stated that we absolutely should not get involved in Syria. Syria would be a tough intervention because it "is a different country, it is five times as large geographically, it has one fifth the population." Not true. Syria is 185,000 square kilometers, while Libya is 1.7 million square kilometers. Geographically, Libya is ten times larger than Syria. Rather than Syria having one fifth the population of Libya, it actually has 4 times the population that Libya does.
Or, how about VP Biden's confident assertions that we shouldn't worry about Iran's stockpile of fissile material because "they don't have a weapon to put it in"? What kind of argument is that? Building a nuclear weapon is trivial compared to what it takes to acquire fissile material. Pakistan's A.Q. Khan sold nuclear technology to multiple countries, including Iran. If Iran did have problems building a weapon, North Korea would be more than happy to share notes. If Iran doesn't have a weapon now, it's only because they like the plausible deniability of continuing to claim that all of their enrichment is for "energy generation".
In short, VP Biden looks impressive in a debate, unless you know all of the issues well enough to spot all of the times that he's free associating and losing contact with reality. On the appearance of substance, I'd have to rate the debate a tie. Both candidates appeared that they knew what they were talking about.
However, I think VP Biden flubbed horribly on the demeanor side of the debate. He may have forgotten that his job was to persuade undecided voters. As he listened to Congressman Ryan, he spent the entire evening laughing, making faces, or sighing. When he was speaking, VP Biden often sounded angry. He was strident and loud, often shouting, and interrupted Congressman Ryan frequently. It was one of the more unpleasant debates I've ever watched. VP Biden came across as a rude, angry, boor. I know that this fired up the Democrats who already plan to vote for the President and VP. I can't imagine that this will make his ticket attractive to undecided voters. Overall, I don't think this evening was a win for the Obama-Biden ticket.