This was my own impression, exactly.
I thought that Rep. Ryan had the better of the debate--by far, in fact. Vice-President Biden appeared dismissive, cavalier, and downright rude, in my opinion.
Still, I am an unapologetic Republican; so my own analysis may be (reasonably enough) called into question.
A snap poll taken by CNN, just following the debate, gave a slight edge to Ryan, 48 percent to 44 percent. On the other hand, a CBS poll showed a rather large margin in favor of Biden, among uncommited voters, 50 percent to 31 percent.
Of course, the two combatants' goals were appreciably different: Biden apparently sought to energize [b]the Democratic base[/b], following a lackluster performance last week by President Obama in the first presidential debate; and in this, he probably succeeded.
Ryan, by contrast, was making an appeal to [b]independent[/b] voters. (The Obama-Biden campaign has apparently concluded that this is a [b]base[/b] election; and that there are just too few uncommitted voters to matter much, anyway.) In this regard, Ryan did impress me as very competent and level-headed; but the CBS poll, mentioned above, may call into question whether he was successful in his mission.
In the end, vice-presidential debates seldom matter much, unless one participant makes a jaw-dropping gaffe that the media choose to replay, over and over, in order to create a narrative. And neither candidate did this. (Well, not verbally, anyway. But I did think that Biden's continual smirking was a rather serious error in judgment; in fact, it was reminiscent of Al Gore's disrespectful facial expressions in 2000, during a presidential debate with George W. Bush.)
The most memorable line, in recent times, from a vice-presidential debate, was surely the late Lloyd Benston's zinger in 1988, directed at Dan Quayle: "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy." Yet the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket lost. And lost rather handily...
RE: Jack Kennedy
Joe Biden to Paul Ryan” ‘Oh so, now you’re Jack Kennedy ehh...”
Paul Ryan to Joe Biden: I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of his mouth the right way.”