Pool-Rick Wilking, Associated Press
Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin participate in the vice presidential debate at Centre College, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, in Danville, Ky.

WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden mockingly smiled, wagged his finger and couldn't seem to stop interrupting Republican running mate Paul Ryan.

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Democrats cheered his sharp tone in the only vice presidential debate. Republicans panned the vice president as disrespectful to his younger opponent.

Biden's aggressive approach stood in stark contrast to President Barack Obama's listless — and widely panned — turn on the debate stage last week. Obama, to the dismay of his supporters, clenched his jaw, looked down at his notes, and held back his criticism of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Ryan, sitting on the national debate stage for the first time, settled on a smirk for much of the debate. He sipped water and cleared his throat through many of Biden's answers.