|Kaine as attack dog was unseemly, but he was there to gnaw at Trump, not Pence.|
Looking around the Web for opinions on last night's VP debate, a few things become clear: Tim Kaine wasn't pretty, and
I could paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen and say, "I knew Ronald Reagan, and, Governor, you're no Ronald Reagan."
So we could say "tie goes to the liar," and we'd be right. One thing's for sure, Mike Pence did come off as more "presidential" than Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, Pence can lie in his "quiet voice."
The best take on last night was a Tweet by Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson:
My takeaway of the #VPDebate: Pence is asking Americans to get behind a candidate who's words he himself can not defend.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) October 5, 2016
And that's why Trump lost the debate. Pence looking good made Trump look ungood. Also, to do that Pence had to forego defending Trump. "Aye aye, Captain. Er, what's your name again, sir?"
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, as usual, had a take on the debate that discovered the "other debate" many of us wouldn't notice in real time but might be our takeaway a day or two down the road:
...But the most salient point is that there were two debates happening on that stage tonight.
The two debates were so distinct that if I squinted and looked from one angle I could almost see a straight Kaine v Pence presidential debate happening, one in which Donald Trump didn't even exist. Pence is not a terribly impressive politician. But in this debate, when it came to hitting the standard GOP political and policy points, he held up pretty nicely. Kaine was solid too. But maybe my expectations were a bit higher for him. He struggled a bit in the first fifteen minutes. He interrupted a lot and felt a bit preprogrammed in the early part of the debate when he was talking about policy issues. But big picture - in this alternate universe Kaine v Pence face-off where Donald Trump didn't exist - Kaine and Pence were fairly evenly matched.
But there was this wholly separate debate happening at the same time that was entirely about Donald Trump. It was largely a Tim Kaine monologue.Josh then points out that it was Mike Pence dodging Kaine's largely truthful attacks that will cost him down the road. Plus, it won't ingratiate him with the Trump campaign. Throwing Trump under the bus so you can look good makes a good strategy if you're thinking ahead to 2020. But right now, Trump probably feels he got pummeled, and Pence just sat around shaking his head and looking "presidential."
NBC News delivered a pretty good survey of reactions, mostly via Twitter. Many thought Pence won, nobody thought Trump did. Two examples, first from the left, and then one from the right:
Kaine was a bit overcaffeinated, but his goal clearly was to fire off continual Trump salvos as possible and try to force Pence to defend.— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) October 5, 2016
Kaine strategy--lose debate but quote Trump a lot; Pence strategy--win debate but don't defend Trump— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) October 5, 2016
A final important note on abortion and faith came from a Huffington Post article that I can't find just now. But I did find the video that accompanied it:
What a novel idea! Letting women make their own decisions! Of course, that's anathema to conservatives like Mike Pence. I hope a few women heard that part of the debate. Remember, all Tim Kaine wants is for women to make their own decisions when it comes to their bodies. Why? Though he's just as pro-life as Mike Pence, Tim Kaine believes public servants should honor the 1st Amendment and the rule of law, so he's pro-choice in his public life. Besides, again, women should decide these issues of morality for themselves. That, among other things, is the essence of Roe v. Wade, which last time I looked was still the law of the land.
So, yes, Trump lost the VP debate last night, and Pence "looked" good. But statements like the above will come back to haunt post-debate.
Bonus! It turns out Mike Pence founded an entire university at the beginning of the debate. Kudos!