- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

For one night, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine, the two vice presidential nominees, held the spotlight in Farmville, Virginia.

Mr. Pence was aiming to get Donald Trump’s campaign back on track, after a few bad weeks of press ranging from the brouhaha over Mr. Trump’s tax returns to his very public battle with a former Miss Universe. Mr. Kaine was aiming to highlight Mr. Trump’s questionable temperament, trying to tease out Mr. Pence’s reactions to Mr. Trump’s most hyperbolic rhetoric.

Mr. Pence didn’t take the bait, and came off has collected and calm, whereas Mr. Kaine was combative and grating. Here’s five takeaways from Tuesday night’s debate.

Mr. Pence won the night.

The Indiana governor was polished, reserved, humble and offered an articulate view of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s policy positions and vision for America. Mr. Pence doesn’t represent the “alt-right” view of conservatism that Hillary Clinton wants to paint as Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Pence’s demeanor let the audience focus on the policy differences between the tickets. He spoke at length about Mrs. Clinton and the current administration’s foreign policy and national security failures, the need for community policing, immigration, and social values. He was calm and presidential — looked like he was enjoying the process, and therefore won.

Mr. Kaine was over-rehearsed, edgy.

Mr. Kaine came out of the box the aggressor, cutting off Mr. Pence immediately after their opening statements. A CBS News running tally showed Mr. Kaine spoke out of turn nearly twice as many times as his opponent, 60 times to Mr. Pence’s 37. Frank Luntz, a GOP pollster, wrote on Twitter of the results of his real-time focus group watching the debate: “Mike Pence is winning because Tim Kaine cannot debate like an adult without interruptions.”

Mr. Kaine also repeated many canned lines, like “On the economy, there’s a fundamental choice for the American electorate — do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton, or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump?”

All Mr. Pence had to do was shake his head, and at one point questioned: “Did you work on that one a long time?”

Moderators didn’t want to talk about Mrs. Clinton’s server, or the Clinton Foundation.

CBS anchor and debate moderator Elaine Quijano did her best to deflect conversation from both Mrs. Clinton’s private email server and the Clinton Foundation. During the topic of cybersecurity, Mr. Pence said: “I will also tell you that it’s important in this moment to remember that Hillary Clinton had a private server in her home that had classified information on it …”

Ms. Quijano quickly interrupted: “And I don’t — 30 seconds is up.”

When the subject turned to the Clinton Foundation, Mr. Kaine fought back with references to Mr. Trump’s own foundation, but Ms. Quijano was having none of it and kept interjecting reminders that her original question was about North Korea’s nuclear threat, to the dismay of pundits and political watchers on both sides of the aisle.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign insulter in chief.

Mr. Kaine continually repeated that Mr. Trump and his campaign was “insult-driven,” reminding viewers of Mr. Trump’s worst offenses — from picking a fight with an American-born judge of Mexican decent to Miss Universe. During his opening comment, Mr. Kaine asked how Mr. Pence could defend “the insult-driven selfish ‘me first’ style of Donald Trump?”

He repeated the question several times throughout the debate. But it didn’t stick to Mr. Pence, who shook the question off — either literally with a head nod, or by deflecting to Mrs. Clinton’s own campaign.

“I mean, to be honest with you, if Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables. It’s — she said they were irredeemable, they were not American,” Mr. Pence retorted.

Pundits were gracious to Mr. Kaine, saying it was his objective to hurl insults at Mr. Pence — to get negatives to stick to Mr. Trump — and not to try to come across as likeable or even authentic. Sounds like good spin to me.

Few minds probably changed.

Although the debate was the most civil and policy-focused thus far, it was unlikely to change minds, in large part because vice presidential debates rarely do. It will be up to Mr. Trump to deliver on Mr. Pence’s winning night, transitioning it into a successful Sunday night debate with Mrs. Clinton.

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