FARMVILLE, VIRGINIA — Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Indiana governor Mike Pence met in the first and only vice-presidential debate on Tuesday, with the GOP No 2 handily defeating his opponent.
Pence spoke more like the smooth and measured statesman that his shouty running mate is not. He calmly articulated GOP positions on taxation, the growing debt and national security, offering a credible alternative to the current Republican standard bearer.
Pence was effective running lines of attack that Donald Trump fumbled in the first presidential debate. He hit the Clinton Foundation for its conflicts of interest. He tweaked Hillary Clinton for jeopardizing national security by setting up an authorized e-mail server.
Several times, Tim Kaine resorted to pre-canned lines on Trump’s failure to release his tax returns, but never drew blood.
Kaine was more effective in getting Pence to parse and Trump-splain some of the Donald’s wilder comments, such as whether 16 million immigrants would be deported (nonsense, says Pence) or whether Trump had, in fact, understood that Russia invaded Crimea (Pence insists this to be the case).
Vice presidential debates are largely meaningless. They rarely influence the general election. But we can’t help wonder what this contest would look like with Pence at the top of the ticket. Clinton is fortunate she’s facing Trump and not Mike Pence.