‘It wasn’t a pretty night for Tim Kaine’: reaction to the vice-presidential debate

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Tim Kaine and Mike Pence went head to head for the first and last time this year. Heres how they performed

Richard Wolffe: Both Pence and Kaine beat their bosses

Richard

Mike Pence likes to shake his head in disbelief. Its a nice touch, much like the permanently pained look on his face.

But at Tuesdays vice-presidential debate, it wasnt entirely clear why Pence was so unhappy. Was he opposed to every word coming out of Tim Kaines mouth? Or was he just dismayed at his own situation?

Its not easy campaigning as Donald Trumps running mate. You cant admit the obvious: that your presidential candidate is hiding his tax returns, stoking racism and spooking allies around the world.

So you have to deny Trumps quotes, or accuse your opponent of hurling insults. But most of all, you have to look affable while your running mate looked irascible.

In that sense, Pence succeeded in beating his boss. The problem is: so did Kaine.

If Kaine had one job, it was to repeat as loudly and frequently as possible all the dumb and offensive words that have tumbled out of Trumps curled lips.

It wasnt a pretty night for the Democratic veep pick. He interrupted too often and smiled too little. He was forced to repeat Trumps worst insults. He looked and sounded too hot, where his rival looked and sounded too sincere.

But in truth, neither man seemed comfortable in their designated role. Like two insurance salesmen getting drunk at their annual trade conference, Kaine and Pence were just trying too hard.

Kaine tried to beat Pence into submission with pesky facts. Pence tried to smother his facts with a syrupy version of Ronald Reagan. You can roll out the numbers and the sunny side, Pence said, but people in Scranton know different.

It would be easy to dismiss Kaine-Pence as a sideshow. But given the likelihood that either President Clinton or President Trump gets impeached, we might have just seen the only debate with the ultimate winner of the 2016 election.

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It would be easy to dismiss Kaine-Pence as a sideshow. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Kate Aronoff: Kaine was all interruption, no inspiration

Richard

This was a disappointing night for the Clinton campaign. While Pence kept his cool, Kaine tried to imitate Joe Bidens interruption-heavy performance against Paul Ryan in 2012 without half his charisma. Kaines biggest downfall, though, may not have been about tone.

Compared to Kaine, Pence told a compelling if terrifyingly cynical and blatantly false story of a country that has lost its way, and how he and Trump intend to restore it. Make America Great Again might be one of the best political slogans of the past decade. But Trump owes its creation to people such as Margaret Thatcher and Reagan, who worked to spread the neoliberal gospel thats now seeped into both parties. That evangelizing project has been incredibly successful, with each candidate airing concerns about government spending, personal responsibility and the limits of American coffers.

There were glaring omissions tonight, too. Despite a series of increasingly brutal projections about the likelihood of catastrophic global warming, talk of climate change was limited to a few coded words at the debates start, like the mythical war on coal and clean energy jobs of tomorrow. A cringe-worthy conversation about criminal justice reform somehow managed not to breach mass incarceration. And a brief discussion of reproductive rights one that should have been up top given Pences deplorable record on the issue got shunted to the very end.

The Democratic party has spent the past several decades pivoting around terms of debate set by the right. Kaines loss in tonights debate showed just how much work the Democrats and the social movements pushing them need to do to recenter the conversation.

More than the intelligence surge Kaine and Clinton keep pushing, the Democratic party needs a surge in imagination, to do more than play defense against attacks from across the aisle and propose transformative solutions, in line with the pain many Americans today are facing. That was sorely missing tonight.

Carla Sorey-Reed: Pence is a prettier, more practiced Trump

Richard

Kaine and Pence had a relatively balanced debate no knockouts. Two experienced politicians dispatched to further the rhetoric of their campaigns and defend the candidates at the top of the ticket. Neither disappointed.

At the start, when asked what made him a good candidate for the vice-presidency, Kaine faltered. Looking down, he rushed a heavily scripted first answer, told through the filter of Clintons point of view, that took too long and strained to connect back to the question. Kaine directed his entire answer off camera, which greatly reduced his engagement with the television audience.

Pence restated Trumps conservative positions, doubling down on wealth and whiteness for the win. Pence tried to spin away from Kaines points on policy, using plain speak the common language of the Trump campaign. When Kaine pushed Pence on social security, all that Pence could offer was: There they go again. Were going to meet our obligations to seniors.

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Pence won the debate by a landslide. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

It was on the topics of policing, immigration and women that the difference between the men and their campaigns was made most clear. Both men told personal stories of the national divide across policing. Implicit bias was the lightning rod for the discussion. Kaine spoke of community policing and building bonds of understanding while Pence seemed annoyed with the topic and impatiently attempted to dress down his opponent by saying enough of seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias every time tragedy occurs. A frightening reality check for minorities.

On immigration, Pence offered more thinly veiled hate with too often with criminal aliens in the country, its bringing heartbreak. If only Kaine had challenged him right then and there. As the debate went on, Kaine grew stronger, relying less on prepared statements and messages, and listening and responding in real time.

In the words of Kaine: From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks … Donald Trump is showing you who he is. Pence speaks the same, only prettier and more practiced. Let us not be fooled.

Jamie Weinstein: Pence kept his cool and won by a landslide

Kaine attempted to act like a bulldog Tuesday night but instead came across as a nipping chihuahua.

The senator from Virginia entered the first and only vice-presidential debate intent on making the mild-mannered Pence defend his running mates most outrageous statements. But unlike Trump, Pence apparently isnt prone to chasing shiny objects.

Constantly interrupting Pence and speaking at a mile a minute, Kaine tried for the life of him to get Pence to discuss Trumps racist attack on Indiana Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Trumps proposal to ban Muslims, Trumps praise of Vladimir Putin, Trumps call to deport all illegal immigrants, and so on and so forth. Whatever the accuracy of Kaines attacks on Trump and make no mistake, they were often accurate Kaines style was excessive. By throwing out so many issues in one breath, he made his rhetorical assault hard for viewers to follow. He also made it easy for Pence to ignore him with a shake of the head a nonverbal there you go again.

Kaines constant I know it all interruptions might be considered the 2016 version of Al Gores groans. It made him come across as a thoroughly unlikable figure.

By contrast, Pence was calm and cool. He methodically hammered home the Trump campaigns positive themes lets get Americas economy moving again, lets put American workers first, lets bring back American jobs, lets project strength in the world, America needs change.

Sure, these are broad themes, but presented in Pences confident manner, they resonate. Like Kaine, Pence had his share of canned lines. Unlike Kaine, he was able to deliver them in a way that made them appear sincere and sometimes even heartfelt. Performance matters.

Pence won the debate by a landslide, and its hard to imagine there will be many in the media who will even attempt to claim otherwise. The only question is how his running mates fragile ego will react when all those who panned his debate skills praise Pences.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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