Van Hollen: Biden not ‘over the top’

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Friday said Vice President Biden wasn’t “over the top” in an aggressive debate performance in which he repeatedly interrupted GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

“I don’t think [Biden] was over the top; I thought what you saw was Joe Biden’s passion for these issues,” Van Hollen told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

“He cares deeply about the issues, he speaks from the heart, and that’s what you got last night. There were some times when Paul Ryan said things that were outrageous, and any normal person would respond, as the vice president did, with ‘malarkey.’ ”

Biden on Thursday seemed intent on not repeating the mistakes of President Obama’s flat debate performance of last week. Democrats said the president missed opportunities to challenge GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on policy specifics and past positions he’s held.

The vice president laughed and mouthed words as Ryan spoke, constantly interjected himself into Ryan’s answers and dominated the flow of the debate with his aggressiveness.

Some conservatives complained that debate moderator Martha Raddatz allowed Biden to run roughshod over Ryan, while others said Biden came off as rude and unprofessional.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told MSNBC on Friday that Biden was all bluster and no substance.

“When Joe Biden continued to interrupt Paul and get in his face, I think people were sort of saying, 'OK, stop it for a second,' ” Cantor said. “Let me hear what you’re going to do differently, Mr. Vice President, than what you and the president have done for the last four years.”

Van Hollen, who played the role of Ryan as Biden’s debate-preparation sparring partner, dismissed the criticism, saying that Biden set Obama up to come back strong in next Tuesday’s presidential debate.

“I think the president will be more aggressive in terms of the facts,” Van Hollen said. “After all, after the last debate the president essentially listened as Mitt Romney reinvented himself and Mitt Romney reinvented all their proposals … I think the vice president has teed this up very nicely for the president.”