Tuesday night was the only time the vice-presidential candidates would debate in the 2016 election.
I think there will be a couple of things remembered about this debate but it is quickly starting to fade from the news cycle in part due to the most recent Trump controversy and the lead up to the second presidential debate.
Here is how I scored this debate
TIM KAINE: C
MIKE PENCE: D-
MODERATOR ELAINE QUIJANO: INCOMPLETE
I think Kaine did what he was expected to do which was defend his running mate and put the Trump-Pence ticket on the defensive. This debate was to rally the base to their respective candidates. For the Clinton campaign it was a certain segment of the liberal base that was not enthralled with Clinton selecting Kaine as her running mate. I wanted Senator Warren due to the circumstances of the election but Kaine is a good choice given his behind the scenes work as an anti-discrimination attorney, his work as a missionary in Honduras, and starting as a city council member followed by mayor of Richmond then becoming Lieutenant Governor of Virginia (2001-05), Governor of Virginia (2005-09), and the elected to US Senate in 2012.
Not only that, but selecting Kaine kept a Democrat holding a senate seat when the Clinton-Kaine ticket wins because Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat unlike Massachusetts’s governor. Selecting Warren would have likely resulted in all sorts of mental gymnastics to keep the seat in Democratic hands as possible and shorten the time between Warren vacating the seat, when Governor Charlie Baker appointed a Republican to fill the seat, and when the special election takes place.
Polls indicate that Kaine lost the debate, but did he really lose? There were times where Kaine interrupted the moderator and failed to let Pence finish his sentences and at times came off a bit too excited as well as engage in crosstalk with Pence which is why I gave him a low grade. But like Clinton picking Kaine, there is a logical walkthrough and it makes sense.
Kaine attacking Pence for the things Trump has said put Pence on the defensive and throughout the debate Pence denied that Trump ever said those things.
The Clinton campaign has already cut an ad from the debate showing Pence saying Trump didn’t say X or shaking his head about Trump saying X, but a clip of Trump saying X.
Even Mike Pence can't defend Donald Trump's insult-driven campaign. pic.twitter.com/iJVFlrSHBq— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 6, 2016
Speaking of Pence, it appeared that him and Trump never had a conversation about some of the things that he and the top of the ticket agree and disagree on specifically about Russia.
Trump has praised Russia while Pence mocked Putin.
And it seemed that Pence has never heard of Donald Trump or watched his campaign announcement speech, specifically towards the end when Pence said “that Mexican thing again.”
Pence in one exchange mentioned that Trump is not a polished politician like Clinton and Kaine are. Prior to her presidential runs of 2008 and 2016, Clinton ran for the US Senate in New York in 2000 and won re-election in 2006. I mentioned Kaine’s electoral history and he has never lost a race. Meanwhile Pence has run for congress in 1988 and 1990. He finally won elections to Congress from 2000-2010. He won the Indiana gubernatorial in 2012. Prior to being tapped as Trump’s running mate it was looking like he was going to lose re-election in part due to signing Indiana’s religious freedom bill into law.
And as I expected the social issue question came up but it was a very broad question, not a specific one. It is part of the reason why I gave Moderator Elaine Quijano an Incomplete. As far as I know, this was the first time that she moderated any presidential level debate. Maybe next cycle she moderates a primary debate in order to hone her skills better. It is my way of saying, “This was a tough gig. I want to see you try it again. Don’t get discouraged.”
The social issue question was addressed in the MSNBC post-debate coverage by Rachel Maddow. This is not Governor Pence’s first time in the national spot light. Last year, Pence signed an anti-LGBT bill into law that drew so much national scorn that the Indianapolis Star took out a front page editorial demanding that the state legislature “Fix. This. Now.” For the moderator to ask a broad question about social issues and not touch on Pence’s history of embracing some very radical positions on abortion, HIV/AIDS, and LGBT identity does the country a disservice and gave the Trump-Pence ticket a bit of cover. Trump’s campaign is supposedly on this wave of economic anxiety among a certain segment of the population but he has a culture warrior as his running mate.
Overall this debate likely changed nothing in regards to the trajectory of the race. Clinton is heading into tonight’s debate as a favorite and is expected to deliver a knockout blow to Trump’s dwindling presidential chances.