Millions were focused on the vice presidential debate.
The first two debates were emasculating, first to Obama in the presidential debate, then for Ryan in last week's vice presidential encounter.
The importance of this second, usually benign exercise, was heightened by the lackluster performance of President Obama in the first debate -- a night I'm sure he wishes he could do over.
The contrast between the first two debates was obvious and so was the spin. But, for reasonable people, Vice President Biden was effective at pointing out the deficiencies of not only his opponent, but the Romney/Ryan ticket -- something the president failed to accomplish in the previous battle.
Was there a winner in Thursday's debate?
The vice president's aggressive behavior is what was needed to expose the lies and vagueness of Republican positions, many merely returns to the failed policies of the previous administration.
Both parties believe they win every debate and, without exception, try to make the best of spinning the results to influence the voters.
But, spin was not necessary to explain the first two debates nor could it change what occurred.
The outcomes were pretty clear.
Democrats are loathe to admit that the president did, in fact, lose the first debate. But most admitted, citing a sleepy, unengaged performance during the 90 minute fiasco, that the president did, indeed, lose.
Likewise, Republicans are loathe to admit a clear victory for the vice president over a green -- factually deficient -- Congressman from Wisconsin. Right-wing pundits went to work spinning the facts to elicit a tie, even though the snarky wonk was clearly outmatched.
But, Republicans will continue to spin their candidate's performance despite a solid ass-whooping. They will use anything necessary to achieve their stated goal -- even outright lies. But for Republicans lying has become the norm rather than the exception.
This was evident in the first two debates. The right-wing candidates worked extremely hard to defend their lies and deceptions. The president's failure to defend his positions and policies does not negate the untruths and fabrications Romney employed in the first debate. Romney's transformation was not only deceptive and disingenuous, but destructive.
The media, in their effort to describe Romney as winner, failed "the people" by not pointing out the lies which contradicted his previously stated positions. His aggressiveness and increasing confidence was seen as a positive.
Republicans were visibly upset by Biden's aggressive and combative behavior, describing him as rude and a bully, loudly complaining -- as he tore into their vacillating wonk -- that he interrupted, smiled, and even sighed in a manner unbecoming a sitting vice president!
The vice presidential debate was more of a debate than the first engagement. Exchanges were more timely and more to the point! It was a collision of ideas and ideologies.
Biden appeared far more presidential than his debate counterpart. Ryan was clearly not ready to assume the Oval Office, sounding more like a used car salesman than a man one heartbeat from the presidency.
Biden exposed Congressman Ryan's extreme ideas including pointing out the affect of the Ryan budget on the poor, the middle-class, and how it would put this country on a path to poverty. Even in a Utopian society his numbers do not work.
Ryan's fictional universe does not exist. They're merely assumptions -- not based on empirical data.
Debates, unfortunately, are not the best method for dissecting more complicated issues and are of little value to those tuning in to the political skirmishes for the first time.
In many debates, only appearance, perceptions, and emotions have any bearing on how a voter feels about a candidate.
Though I am still numbed by Obama's weak performance, Romney's aggressiveness and bullying does not change the gravity of his ideas, nor the injurious nature of his programs. It does not change his lack of concern for those beneath him. Nor does it change his desire to help those at the top despite the damage it will do to the rest of the country.
Biden's aggressiveness served an important purpose besides pointing out the deficiencies in a Romney/Ryan presidency. It brought the discussion back to reality and evened the playing field for the last two debates.
If we were to evaluate the debates -- stripping out everything that really matters and using only viewers' perceptions -- the Republicans hold a slight advantage. But if we evaluate the debates on substance, truth, and value, then, despite Obama's lackluster performance, the Democrats would have a clear advantage.
Meanwhile, it seems, the presidency hinges on the two remaining presidential debates.
The question remains, will they be mere attempts at emasculation or will they bring substance and value to the viewers who will have to make their final decision on the direction of this country in just three weeks?