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The Download: Who Won the VP Debate?

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By Halimah Abdullah, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) — At times it seemed as if Martha Raddatz, who moderated Thursday’s vice presidential debate, was the third debater.

At other times she was the seasoned ABC News war correspondent who kept the two guys in suits taking snarky swipes at each other in line.

She pressed the candidates to give firm answers, such as when Vice President Joe Biden said Republican challenger Rep. Paul Ryan was just saying “a bunch of stuff.”

“What does that mean, ‘a bunch of stuff?'” Raddatz asked Biden.

Raddatz also pressed for specifics such as when she demanded of Ryan: “I want to know how you do the math and have this increase in defense spending?”

When she wanted to direct the foreign policy debate to a new topic, she commanded: “Let’s move to Iran.”

And to Iran the conversation moved.

She forced the candidates to do a bit of self reflection when she asked: “are you embarrassed by the tone of this election?”

If her trending status on Twitter was an indication, Raddatz schooled the two candidates — hard news reporter style — and won accolades from journalistic colleagues in the process.

As veteran PBS journalist Charlie Rose tweeted: “Everyone seems to agree that @martharaddatz is the star of this debate.”

His network colleague, Jim Lehrer, host of “PBS NewsHour,” was widely criticized last week and skewered by late night comedy shows after serving as moderator of the presidential debate.

Raddatz netted a different reaction.

“Our perspective: There were two winners tonight. Martha Raddatz … and the American viewer! Great #VPdebate, y’all,” liberal publication Mother Jones ‏tweeted.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien called Raddatz “absolutely masterful,” and Wolf Blitzer gave her kudos for an “excellent, excellent job.”

Some conservatives grumbled that Raddatz’s close connection to President Barack Obama led her to go tougher on Ryan.

The conservative blog Daily Caller raised a flag on Raddatz on Wednesday, saying Obama, while still a student at Harvard Law, attended her wedding to his classmate, Julius Genachowski, whom Obama later appointed to head the Federal Communications Commission.

During the debate, conservatives took to the Twittersphere to criticize Raddatz.

“Martha Raddatz is the worst moderator. Maybe next time @PaulRyanVP should invite her to his wedding,” conservative talk show host Sean Hannity tweeted.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson was similarly unimpressed.

“Wow, Martha Raddatz really is in Obama’s camp it seems,” he tweeted.

But she had fans, too.

Actress Eva Longoria ‏tweeted, “Martha Raddatz is best moderator ever!!!”

Vanity Fair tweeted: “Yo, Jim Lehrer, This Is What Killing It Looks Like: the Martha Raddatz Story”

Her network pushed back earlier in the day against the Drudge Report and other conservative outlets’ doubts about Raddatz’s objectivity.

“This is absurd,” an ABC News representative wrote to Politico. “Martha Raddatz is known for her tough, fair reporting, which is why it was no surprise to her colleagues inside and outside ABC News that she was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates for this assignment.”

According to her ABC News biography, Raddatz was the network’s White House correspondent during the George W. Bush administration after serving as senior national security correspondent and State Department correspondent.

She has traveled widely, including 21 trips to Iraq and multiple visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Before joining ABC, Raddatz was NPR’s Pentagon correspondent for five years, during which time she made numerous trips to Europe covering the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Raddatz has won four Emmy awards and other prizes for her work.

Raddatz’s 2007 book, “The Long Road Home — a Story of War and Family,” was a New York Times and Washington Post best-seller.

— CNN’s Jim Kavanagh contributed to this report.

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