Election Update: Who Won the VP Debate?
10/5/2016 by Dylan James Harper
Neither Kaine nor Pence had terrific name recognition before the debate, so the debate was their biggest opportunity to introduce themselves to undecided voters. They blew it, Kaine more so than Pence. Let’s discuss the winner, and place the debate into the broader election context.
Pence had the tall task of making the Trump campaign presidential. After what one could generously a poor performance in the first debate by his presidential partner, Pence needed to look professional, while simultaneously defending some of Trump’s more colorful statements. He mostly accomplished this. Save for his weird “Mexican thing” statement, which was quickly mocked on social media, everything from Pence’s body language to his outright refusal to acknowledge many of Kaine’s attacks made Pence look superior.
Kaine, on the other hand, had a difficult time walking the line Hillary Clinton did so successfully in the first debate. He looked over aggressive, and wasn’t able to press when Pence brought him off script. I said in the preview that Kaine would try to move the debate toward social issues, and he tried, but Pence seemed prepared to simply ignore those issues. MSNBC is having a field day on Wednesday pointing out Pence’s outright denials of Trump’s statements and policy views, but that’s irrelevant because most people won’t care. If one’s only exposure to a candidate was the debate, Pence simply looked better.
How much does the VP debate matter? In most cases, the answer would be not a lot. However, with Clinton’s performance in the previous debate dominating the news cycle, Kaine’s lackluster performance interrupts that momentum. The impact of debates is somewhat…debatable (sorry), but the momentum of being declared the winner is somewhat charitable, and Clinton isn’t going to be thrilled to have lost that.
Looking ahead, this will likely have a slight impact as to how the candidates approach next week’s presidential debate. Trump may try to emulate Pence, but that seems really unlikely. Trump’s performance last week wasn’t great, and it puts him in the position where a tie likely won’t benefit him. He needs the weekly news cycle to be that he won, and looked presidential. That won’t happen if he ties, or loses. Clinton might be a little apprehensive about being aggressive, as it didn’t benefit Kaine, but Trump isn’t Pence, so she still might go down that road. Either way, be sure to check out the preview here next week.
Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
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