PAUL Ryan and Joe Biden yesterday fanned out to the vital battleground state of Ohio, seeking to capitalise on their vice-presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, judged to have been a high-scoring draw.
He took the battle to the Republicans, challenging Mr Ryan at every turn, from foreign policy to healthcare and abortion.
But the Republican would not be browbeaten, scoring several sharp hits of his own.
He also avoided any major mistake that might have taken the wind out of Mr Romney's sails.
On the issues, both Mr Ryan and the vice-president set out the positions of their respective campaigns that offer American voters one of the starkest choices of any recent election. But their styles were very different.
Mr Ryan was more measured and analytical, as befits a fiscal expert and chairman of the House Budget Committee. Mr Biden came across as a mixture of weathered elder statesman and attack dog.
Frequently interrupting his opponent, he smirked and smiled, sometimes breaking into sardonic laughter.
"With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey," was Mr Biden's response when Mr Ryan condemned "the unravelling of Obama foreign policy" laid bare by recent events in the Middle East.
Post-debate reactions mirrored that contrast.
Republicans focussed more on Mr Biden's demeanour, arguing he had damaged his own side.
Karl Rove, the former top strategist of George W Bush, compared the vice-president's laughter with Al Gore's sighs during his debate against Mr Bush in 2000, for which the former was widely criticised.
On one thing most commentators were agreed, the raucous proceedings in Danville were great entertainment.
A CNN survey of registered voters had Mr Ryan the narrow victor by 48 to 44pc, but CBS had Mr Biden a convincing winner.
The latest polls confirm the presidential race is nexck and neck.
Intrade, the predictions market, yesterday put the likelihood of an Obama win at 63pc, down from almost 80pc before the president's poor showing in his first debate and the ensuing poll boost for Mitt Romney.
Mr Obama took yesterday off from the campaign trail to hone what is sure to be a more aggressive performance than last week, when he let many dubious assertions by Mr Romney pass without objection.
In the aftermath of the TV showdown Mr Romney accused Mr Biden of "doubling down on denial" over the attack on the US consulate in Libya, as the White House defended its response to the assault that killed four Americans, including a US ambassador.
Speaking to voters in Richmond, Virginia, the Republican presidential nominee chastised Mr Biden for his defence of the administration's actions in Thursday night's debate, saying the vice-president's argument contradicted sworn testimony offered by the State Department.
"He's doubling down on denial, and we need to understand exactly what happened as opposed to just having people brush this aside," Mr Romney said.
During the debate, Mr Biden said the White House wasn't told of a request for additional security at the mission in Benghazi a month before the incident.
State Depart-ment official Eric Nordstromc told a congressional committee on Thursday that he was turned down when he asked that a 16-member security support team that was scheduled to leave Libya in August be extended.
Another department official, Charlene Lamb, deputy assistant secretary for international programmes, told lawmakers at the hearing that she had refused the requests.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the pleas for more security are handled at the State Department. Asked to clarify Mr Biden's comment about the administration's knowledge of the security request, Mr Carney said: "He was speaking directly for himself and the president. He meant the White House."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the information initially released about the Benghazi attack was preliminary and has been updated as more intelligence is developed.
"We do not have all the answers," she said at the State Department."
Mr Romney seized on that disconnect yesterday, telling voters at a campaign rally that he would continue to investigate the differing accounts.
While polls show President Obama leading Mr Romney on foreign policy issues, Republicans see an opportunity to cut into that advantage, pointing to surveys showing that voters are less satisfied since the September 11 Benghazi assault.
Mr Romney praised the performance of his running mate in Thursday night's debate, with a dig at Mr Biden's reactions, which included eye-rolls.
"There was one person on stage who was thoughtful and respectful, steady and poised," he said. "The kind of person you want in a crisis, and that was the next vice-president of the United States, Paul Ryan." (© Independent News Service)