9:07 PM – Joe Biden, in what is already a rough back and forth with Paul Ryan on who is more feckless on foreign policy, cites Iran’s isolation as an example of President Obama’s steadfastness, casting it as an example of successful multilateralism.
9:12 — Ryan accuses Obama administration of fecklessness on Iran, saying it allowed Russians to weaken sanctions. Biden counters that Republicans would never have garnered international support for sanctions. He tries to pin Ryan down on wanting to go to war; Ryan resists.
Ryan emphasizes what he says is Obama putting distance with Israel; Biden pushes back, describing an hour-plus conference between Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu and himself.
Biden says Israel and U.S. agree Iran is still not ready to make a bomb. He also says he is confident, citing intelligence, that U.S. can wound Iran’s suspected nukes program.
Also: note differences between Ryan calling for preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons "capability" and Biden calling for preventing Iran from "acquiring" a bomb. Ryan is refelcting congressional policy, which reflects Netanyahu government policy.
10:10 The Biden theme of the evening — do Romney-Ryan want more war? (First Iran, then Iraq, then Afghanistan, now Syria.) It just struck me — this reflects Obama-Biden strategy on the economy: Remind Americans where they were four years ago. The question is, do voters by it, or is it past its due date?
On Syria: Ryan brings Syria back to Iran, saying Assad surviving is a big plus.
10:15 Ryan: Romney-Ryan will oppose abortion with exceptions on rape, incest and health of the woman, pivots to Obama administration mandate on religion-run institutions to extend birrth control coverage to staff.
The question was framed as how the candidates’ Catholicism informs their abortion views. Biden starts by noting how his faith informs his commitment to helping those who cannot help themselves, but says he will not impose his faith’s views on others, including Jews and Muslims. He notes that religious institutions do not pay for the birth control coverage, it is provided by outside insurers.