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With so much of Thursday night’s vice presidential debate centered on foreign policy, incumbent Joe Biden had a clear path to victory. His depth of knowledge separated him from Republican challenger Paul Ryan. The cheers at a Hampton Democratic Committee viewing party were ample evidence that Biden said much of what these Democrats had wanted to hear from President Obama last week.

They clapped whenever Biden brought up Mitt Romney’s infamous quote that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government.

“The most important part for me was when Ryan started criticizing, Joe would always say, ‘Well, what would you do, start another war?’ ” said Frank Steinbach, 52, retired from the Navy and now a government civilian consultant.


“I thought he was so effective talking about all the talks the administration has behind the scenes with Israel and how the whole point of a definite withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was so Afghans could take over. Ryan couldn’t argue that,” said Steinbach’s wife, Sue, 54, a tax adviser.

But for all of Biden’s ability to poke holes in Ryan’s arguments on foreign policy, the vice president’s best answer might have been his closing one on abortion and how his Catholic faith informed him. He spoke from the heart; he also got in one last “47 percent” dig, saying that Romney was demeaning to working class people like Biden’s own family. Ryan’s position, on the other hand, was far more rehearsed. He gave the standard conservative anti-abortion position, which may have left him and the Romney-Ryan ticket more isolated from women voters.

The only remaining question is whether Biden’s performance can stop the Democratic slide following Obama’s weak debate performance last week, especially in battleground states like Virginia. “I won’t say Biden came to the rescue,” said Hampton Democratic Committee vice chair Gaylene Kanoyton, 52, a management consultant. “But he stated the facts. And that was important.”


Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.