Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan hit the campaign trail on Friday after a combative debate in which they challenged each other's facts and claims while offering starkly different visions for the direction the country should follow.
In the lone vice-presidential showdown before the November 6 election, Biden achieved his goal of bringing the fight to his GOP foe in battling Ryan to a draw, boosting the spirits of Democrats disheartened by President Barack Obama's lackluster performance in the first presidential debate last week.
Ryan, meanwhile, made a positive impression with his command of both domestic and foreign policy issues that showed him to be a formidable national candidate after a career of local congressional races in his native Wisconsin.
A snap CNN-ORC International poll showed voters who watched Thursday's debate narrowly favored Ryan over Biden by 48%-44%, a statistically even result after GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney scored a clear victory over Obama last week in their first of three debates.
Martha Raddatz of ABC News aggressively moderated the debate, challenging both candidates on some claims and moving on to various topics covering both domestic and foreign policy.
Ryan repeatedly said the Obama administration has taken the nation in the wrong direction, asserting it has hindered economic recovery and weakened U.S. influence around the world.
"The choice is clear: a stagnant economy that promotes more government dependency or a dynamic, growing economy that promotes opportunity and jobs," Ryan said. "Mitt Romney and I will not duck the tough issues, and we will not blame others for the next four years."
He also repeated several times, in reference to the recent terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya and other anti-American protests, that "what we are watching on our TV screens is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy."
Biden called several of Ryan's remarks "malarkey" and challenged Americans to trust their common sense when judging proposals by the Republican challengers.
The tax and entitlement reforms proposed by Romney and Ryan would harm the middle class and favor the wealthy, Biden said in seeking to depict Republicans as protectors of the privileged.
"You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes?" Biden asked about unspecified moves promised by Romney and Ryan to balance broad tax cuts they propose.
On the topic of reforming the Medicare program for senior citizens, which Romney and Ryan seek to partially privatize, Biden referred to a Ryan proposal to provide partial government payment for seniors in the future to buy private health care.
"Folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this?" Biden asked, saying Ryan's plan would increase Medicare costs to recipients by $6,000 a year. Ryan disputed the claim, which was based on a proposal that he has since altered.
The debate pitted Biden, 69, and his almost four decades of experience in national politics against the 42-year-old Ryan, a 14-year congressional veteran who rose to the chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee.
Privately, senior Democrats told CNN they believed a strong showing by Biden could help the Democratic ticket, but wouldn't be enough to erase problems created by Obama's self-admitted bad debate performance against Romney.
Obama and Romney will square off again Tuesday in New York and October 22 in Florida.
Polling after the first presidential debate showed Romney tightening the race nationally and in some of the nine battleground states considered vital to either candidate's chances of garnering the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
"I do think Joe Biden did his boss a lot of good tonight," CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said after Thursday's debate. CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger said Biden's job "was to right the ship, and he did it."
Both analysts criticized Biden for his tendency to smile and roll his eyes in response to some of Ryan's comments, especially early in the debate, with Gergen saying Ryan won on style but the debate was even with regard to substance.
Biden also was more aggressive in his demeanor, repeatedly cutting off Ryan and sometimes talking at the same time as his rival to challenge specific comments.