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After feisty debate, Biden slams Ryan over abortion, war

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan shake hands at the conclusion of the vice presidential
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan shake hands at the conclusion of the vice presidential

By Jeff Mason

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Fresh from an aggressive debate performance against Republican congressman Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to his rival's home state on Friday and blasted him for his positions on the war in Afghanistan and abortion.

Biden's trip to Wisconsin, a pivotal state where President Barack Obama is currently leading, was a not-so-subtle jab at the man who as Mitt Romney's running mate aims to replace Biden after the November 6 election.

The two men sparred over a host of foreign policy and domestic issues during a testy debate in Kentucky on Thursday night. Biden's fiery performance helped the Democratic ticket regain its footing after Obama's lackluster encounter with Romney during their first debate last week.

Biden knocked Ryan for his position on abortion rights, a longtime flashpoint in U.S. politics.

"If anyone had a doubt about what's at stake in this election when it comes to women's rights and the Supreme Court, I'm sure they were settled last night," Biden, accompanied by wife Jill, told a crowd estimated to be more than 2,000.

"Congressman Ryan made very clear that he and Governor Romney are prepared to impose their private views on everyone else. It was made clear last night that they don't believe in protecting a woman's access to healthcare."

During the debate, Ryan and Biden were asked how their Roman Catholic faith affected their position on abortion. Biden believes abortion should be legal, while Ryan opposes it except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother's life.

Biden also hammered Ryan over his and Romney's position on Afghanistan. The Obama administration plans to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Romney and Ryan argue that setting a firm deadline emboldened the Taliban forces in Afghanistan fighting U.S. troops.

"I made it absolutely clear on behalf of the president and I that we are leaving Afghanistan in 2014, period. There are no ifs, ands or buts," Biden said.

"Congressman Ryan, he made it very clear that Governor Romney has a very different view. Although he says he thinks we should get out in 2014, although he says that makes sense, he says we shouldn't have announced that ... and when asked to guarantee you'd get out, he said it depends," Biden added.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Will Dunham)

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