Joe Biden's Class Act

Joe Biden's debate performance thrilled Democrats and progressives, fulfilling all their unmet needs after the disappointing first Presidential debate last week.

"It was a man against a boy!" Ed Schultz crowed on MSNBC.

Throughout the debate, Ryan appeared out of his depth, as Biden, openly laughing at the Republican vice presidential candidate, scored points.

"Oh, now you're Jack Kennedy," Biden interrupted, as Ryan compared his budget plan's tax cuts to Kennedy's.

"He's talking about my mom and dad," Biden said of Ryan and Romney's contemptuous references to Americans who are "dependent" on government.

Stepping up where Obama feared to tread, Biden flagged both the infamous "47 percent " quote by Romney and lesser-known statements by Ryan on the dependent "30 percent" for whom, Ryan says, the safety net has become a "hammock."

"The people who built this country" are not dependent layabouts, Biden hit back--and "they pay more effective tax" than Romney.

It was a gratifying statement by a politician who does, in fact, come out of the working class.

Despite Paul Ryan's effort to depict his background in Janesville as similar to Biden's in Scranton, it is clear that the two men come from very different worlds.

Most of all, Biden addressed himself directly to working-class voters. At one point, he literally turned to the camera to talk to seniors and asked, "Who do you trust?" to preserve Medicare.

He gave a succinct description of how Republicans in Congress, including Ryan, are holding middle-class tax cuts "hostage" because they won't separate them from tax cuts for the rich.

"Look at how sincere they are," he said, pointing out that the Republicans include hedge funds in their definition of "small businesses" that need tax relief. And Romney thinks the 14 percent tax rate he pays on his $20 million a year is "fair," Biden added.

"All of a sudden these guys are so seized with concern about the debt they created," he said of Republican budget hawks.

It was a powerful performance, and seemed to thoroughly unnerve Ryan.

On issues from the war in Afghanistan and embassy security to taxes and stimulus and protecting the safety net, Biden aggressively exposed the Republicans' lack of substance behind their attacks.

And Ryan failed to answer.

Moderator Martha Raddatz pressed: "Do you know what you're doing?" "Can you guarantee the math will add up?" when Ryan denied that Republican tax cuts will cost $5 trillion.

He had no good answer for that, or for Biden's aggressive push on what he'd do differently from the Administration in Iran.

Progressives and Democrats had plenty to cheer for.

Too bad Biden can't show up again next week.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Why Do Women Suddenly Like Mitt Romney?"

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter