First two debates couldn’t be more different

Updated 1:42 PM EDT, Fri October 12, 2012

Story highlights

Thursday's VP debate was was filled with interruption, crosstalk and confrontation

The Biden-Ryan showdown contrasted sharply with the first presidential debate

In a CNN poll, debate watchers were split over whether Biden or Ryan won

In one exchange, Ryan confronted Biden about the interruptions

(CNN) —  

The undercard might have outperformed the main event.

With both candidates seated feet from each other, Thursday’s Kentucky showdown between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan was filled with moments of interruption, crosstalk and confrontation.

Biden was quick to interrupt Ryan, sometimes looking to the rafters or rolling his eyes as Ryan answered – and occasionally laughed or smiled at the younger congressman’s answers.

Ryan, on the other hand, regularly smirked at Biden, shook his head from time to time and, at one point, chided Biden for the interruptions.

This starkly contrasted last week’s debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney – a 90-minute session dominated by sweeping monologues at distant podiums. Obama was criticized for not confronting Romney.

Ryan and Biden spent 90 minutes trading punches. And while CNN’s post-debate poll showed a slight edge for Ryan, the result was within the margin or error - meaning the event was effectively a draw.

CNN Poll: Debate watchers split on who won VP debate

The result, too, contrasted last week’s debate – a lopsided victory for Romney where Obama was criticized for being lethargic. Even the president admitted he had a “bad night.”

Two debates, two remarkably different dynamics.

On Twitter and among the pundits, Biden was faulted for his interruptions. After being asked a question following the debate, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos joked, “I have something important to say but I can’t – I’d be interrupted by Joe Biden.”

Democrats spun the vice president’s performance as authentic and accomplishing the goal of going after Ryan.

Republicans said Biden showed a lack of discipline when he interrupted. CNN contributor Mary Matalin labeled Biden a “buffoon.”

Five things we learned from the VP debate