The latest revelations about Iowa State University President Steven Leath’s use of university aircraft took up more of my brain space on Tuesday than the only debate between vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Most voters make up their minds on the presidential candidates, not the running mates, and the debate wasn’t exactly gripping television. My mind wandered so much that I didn’t even notice when Pence made up a Russian proverb. (Later, I dragged out my Russian-English dictionary of idioms and can now confirm there is no traditional saying along the lines of “the Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates.”)
This thread is for any thoughts about the Kaine/Pence skirmish. Like many commentators, I felt that Pence performed better as a debater. He appeared calm, while Kaine was over-excited and too eager to interrupt with scripted talking points. However, Kaine struck me as more effective, because:
• He stopped Pence from getting into a groove that could be used for Trump campaign clips.
• He kept bringing up statements or actions by Donald Trump that Pence denied or was reluctant to defend. Meanwhile, the Republican absurdly claimed Hillary Clinton is running the “insult-driven campaign.”
• He cited Trump’s offensive comments about Mexicans and an Indiana-born federal judge so many times that Pence eventually complained in a memorable exchange, “Senator, you whipped out that Mexican thing again.”
• He repeatedly brought up Trump’s ties to Russia, while Pence took the surreal position of blaming President Barack Obama and Clinton for supposedly encouraging Russian aggression. (Earth to Pence: which presidential candidate has floated the idea of recognizing the annexation of Crimea and not defending our NATO allies?)
• He delivered a strong statement of personal Catholic faith while articulating the pro-choice position exceptionally well. I only wish moderator Elaine Quijano had asked Pence about the Indiana woman jailed for having a miscarriage, or the state law he signed requiring burial or cremation for all aborted, miscarried, or stillborn fetuses.
CNN’s instant poll showed that by a 48 percent to 42 percent margin, viewers thought Pence won the debate. But it’s not a plus for the Republican ticket when the takeaways are all about Pence running away from Trump, throwing him under the bus, or hanging him out to dry. CNBC’s John Harwood cited an unnamed Trump adviser as saying, “Pence won overall, but lost with Trump,” who “can’t stand to be upstaged.”
Adrian Carrasquillo posted a good summary of the vice presidential candidates’ back-and-forth on immigration during the debate.
Critics on the right and the left didn’t find much to admire in Quijano’s moderating skills.