LA CROSSE, Wis. — Last night, Carl Koch found himself smiling at the television screen as Vice President Biden aggressively debated Rep. Paul Ryan in Kentucky.

Koch, a retired rancher — "no relation to the Koch brothers" — said he was looking for just the kind of performance Biden gave.

"I was hoping he would take the issues to Ryan," said Koch, who spent the morning registering voters for the Obama campaign. "I certainly cheered him on. I was smiling most of the time [during the debate] — except when Ryan was talking."

The standing-room crowd of about 2,000 Obama-Biden supporters at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse were excited that they would be the first to hear from Biden after the sole vice-presidential debate of the campaign season.

"I was rooting for him," said Jackie Brown, a 59-year-old counselor who lives in La Crosse. "I had been rather sad because I don't hear the media asking those questions."

Biden asked about the things that had been bugging her, she said. For example, how would Mitt Romney cut taxes and lower the deficit? Biden pressed the point, she said.

Brown, a retired National Guard member, said she too didn't think Biden was rude when goading Ryan.

"This morning I was watching CNN — and I'm thinking, did we see the same debate," Brown said, referring to the questions about whether Biden crossed the line by smirking and sometimes laughing as Ryan spoke. "I saw Paul Ryan interrupting at some points too," said Brown, who watched with other Democrats at the local party office.

Albert Naquayouma, who drove 50 miles to this city of 50,000 to see Biden, also thought the VP was "spot on."

"When someone is making a statement that's not true, you make a face," he said. "It's normal."

Most of the people in attendance seemed to agree.

Retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who pumped up the crowd minutes before Biden was to take the stage, asked the crowd: "Doesn't the vice president have the finest smile in America?"

They roared their applause. "Yeahhhhh!"