If you are scoring last night’s vice presidential debate, the pundits have determined that Republican Mike Pence “won.” I beg to differ a bit. Pence certainly won on style — he interrupted less and was far less caffeine-induced than Democrat Tim Kaine. He looked more like a leader in comparison to his opponent, Tim Kaine (and more so than his ticket leader, Donald Trump).
But Pence “won” largely by being the anti-Kaine, and the anti-Trump. He was not bellicose or over the top or as insulting as his boss. His policy positions and rhetoric were more nuanced and sane. And he was far less impolite than his opponent who scored a 10 when it comes to interrupting.
But like his boss, Pence also lied. He said his ticket’s view, for example, is that Putin is a “dictator.” That’s far from his boss’ view. Donald Trump has been sucking up to Putin throughout this campaign. Pence denied that Trump wants to expel 11 million undocumented immigrants, repeating a Trump effort to switch focus to those immigrants to have committed crimes. And those are just two examples of a platform Pence laid out that Trump has never laid out.
Pressed to defend Trump’s crazy utterings (his battle with Miss Universe, his battle with Gold Star parents, his battles with a judge hearing the Trump University case, etc.), Pence demurred every single time only to say “I stand with Donald Trump” only to not stand with him on the substance. If it was a preview of a Pence 2020 candidacy, it wasn’t bad from the GOP point of view.
Kaine began interrupting almost from the opening handshake, losing the style debate right there. He was interrupting moderator Elaine Quijano almost before she got the first question out of her mouth. (Tangent: It may have become impossible for a moderator to control these debates. She tried but she failed. And, short of turning off the mics, I’m not sure how you can do it. She kept saying “you have 30 seconds” but both candidates ignored her and she had no recourse.)
At one point in the debate, I decided both candidates were annoying. They didn’t directly answer questions asked (and they were good questions by the moderator) and moved on only to attack the other ticket. Often on topics not even asked about.
This election has become about them, not us. And that is very annoying.
By personality, Pence was predisposed to win. He is a calmer and more patient personality than Kaine. He also has years of experience as a talk radio host and, therefore, has been successful at ignoring crazy callers into his show. And last night, Kaine was the crazy caller.
Bottom line: Pence wins on style. Hard to judge who won on substance since there was little discussed. No votes picked up by either side but some who are leaning toward Trump may be comforted that Pence is the adult on the ticket.
As with every vice presidential debate, it puts things in a holding pattern until Trump and Hillary Clinton meet again Sunday night.
So, on to Sunday and the main event.