2016 Vice Presidential Debate – Analysis
There were two salient outcomes in the Vice Presidential Debate: 1) Governor Mike Pence demonstrated that he was equipped to be president; and 2) Senator Tim Kaine demonstrated that he was not.
Governor Pence won the debate both on substance, and style. He was in command of the issues, articulate, thoughtful, empathetic, gracious, and firm. Even if you disagree with his policy positions, it is hard not to like him. He remained calm and deferential – even when he was being interrupted by Senator Kaine. Governor Pence did a masterful job of diminishing the attacks on his running mate, Donald Trump, and managed to strike back, hitting Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses on the missing e-mails, and in particular, on the Clinton Foundation. He articulated the Trump economic, and trade policies, and skillfully handled the immigration issue. He was particularly effective in answering the question related to his Christian convictions, and how they direct his pro-life policy. Governor Pence reflected class, and collectively, all of his performance characteristics showcased Trump’s vice presidential selection prowess, the first highly visible strategic decision made by a presidential nominee.
Senator Kaine demonstrated substantive knowledge of his campaign’s position on the major issues. However, his style during most of the debate simply overshadowed and diminished any positive aspects of his performance. He was discourteous and rude, interrupting Governor Pence 72 times. This was disrespectful to the discussion process, and so disruptive that it was increasingly difficult to continue watching the debate for the full 90 minutes. If this was a deliberate debate strategy by the Clinton campaign, it was a complete failure. If this strategy was not planned, it raises the question of why Clinton selected him as her vice presidential nominee.
Vice Presidential debates are generally inconsequential in presidential elections. Notwithstanding, Governor Pence likely helped he and Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Conversely, Senator Kaine’s performance certainly did not help his campaign, and may have hurt the Clinton-Kaine ticket, among still undecided voters.