By Veronica Mackey
On Tuesday, America watched vice-presidential nominees Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R ) duke it out on the debate stage, representing respective running mates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The men debated for 90 minutes at Virginia’s Longwood University.
Dems Lose on Style
Kaine, who has called himself “boring,” came out swinging, aggressively attacking Trump’s business record, refusal to disclose income tax returns, disparaging remarks against women and minorities, and friendliness toward Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
He repeatedly talked over Pence, who appeared calm and unmoved. Some political pundits—even Democrats—said Kaine’s antics were unnecessary. Polls show Clinton’s lead is growing and they don’t want to rock the boat by having Kaine appear as a bully.
Frank Lunz of CBS News polled a focus group post-debate about their reactions.
The overwhelming majority said Kaine appeared rude, and didn’t like how he repeatedly interrupted Pence and moderator Elaine Quijano, also of CBS News. Respondents said Pence was calm and presidential, while Kaine was “Trumplike.”
At one point Quijano had to play referee, reminding each man that the public could not understand their comments when they talked over each other. “Gentlemen please!” she said.
Trump campaign manager Kelleyanne Conway called Kaine’s interruption of Quijano “sexist.”
The Clinton camp said their VP nominee did exactly what he was supposed to do—hit Trump on his character, controversial comments and lack of financial disclosure.
No Defense From Pence
When it came to substance, opinions shifted in Kaine’s favor. He challenged Pence to defend Trump’s many controversial positions and statements on deportation, tax history and his birtherism campaign to spread doubt about President Obama’s citizenship. Each time Pence was asked something unflattering about Trump, he sidestepped the question and tried to change the focus.
Pence dismissed attacks by sticking with the talking point that Clinton is a career politician and if she is elected, voters will get “more of the same.”
Pence didn’t deny anything Trump said or did, but he didn’t defend his candidate either.
When Trump’s acumen as a successful businessman was questioned after losing $916 million from a casino deal within one year, Pence avoided the question and said instead that the loophole allowing Trump a tax exemption for as many as 18 years was legal.
On criminal justice, Kaine argued against Trump’s support of “stop and frisk” style policing, a practice that was stopped in New York because it mainly targeted blacks and Hispanics. Pence accused Clinton of seizing on police shootings to imply there is “implicit bias” in police departments.
“I can’t believe you are defending the position that there’s no bias,” Kaine said.
A Washington Times poll declared Pence the winner with an 83% victory. The CNN/ORC Instant Poll was much closer, giving 48% to Pence and 42% to Kaine.
New public opinion polls have showed Clinton improving her standing in nearly all battleground states. Her and Trump are neck-to-neck in Ohio. Tim Kaine has never lost an election.