Thursday night's vice-presidential debate was an entertaining, hotly contested exchange.
At the end of the evening, both candidates had achieved what they set out to do. Vice President Joe Biden gave an energetic, aggressive performance that was in sharp contrast to his boss's performance against Mitt Romney in the first debate of the campaign. Biden bought President Obama more time to sharpen up for his next debate performance Tuesday night against Romney.
Rep. Paul Ryan held his own against Biden, though, and did nothing that would halt the momentum the Romney campaign has felt since the first debate. He came across every bit as smart as had been advertised.
Biden was clearly the aggressor Thursday night - sometimes bordering on rude - as he repeatedly interrupted Ryan's answers to questions. For his part, Ryan did a good job on defense, although he was incredibly vague when describing the Romney tax plan.
Vagueness and rudeness aside, though, it was a lot more even match - and more substantive - than the first meeting between Obama and Romney. And as TV analysts noted, the performances from both candidates undoubtedly stirred party bases.
So the principals return to center stage on Tuesday night. The debate format will be town meeting where members of the audience will be able to ask the candidates questions directly. The format alone should enliven the discussion.
President Obama needs a good performance Tuesday to change the perception he was bored and disengaged in the first debate. Romney must stay on the offensive - as he was in the first meeting - if he is going to persuade undecided voters to cast their ballots for him.
Both candidates got a leg up Thursday from the No. 2s on their tickets. Tuesday's town hall meeting will show the nation which one capitalizes on the showing of his VP choice.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.