Sen. Tim Kaine
Sen. Tim Kaine | wikimedia, the comons

Vice presidential debate carries lessons

Testy exchanges and a nearly constant flow of interruptions marked the first, and only, debate between vice-presidential contenders Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Gov. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) Tuesday night in Farmville, Virginia.
 
Kaine and Pence “did what they came to do, which was put the focus on the other guy’s running mate.” Paul Goldman, a former senior adviser to Virginia Democratic governors Doug Wilder and Mark Warner, told AMI Newswire. 
 
Kaine chose an especially aggressive tone.
 
“[Trump] started his campaign with a speech where he called Mexicans rapists and criminals,” Kaine said, "and he has pursued the discredited and really outrageous lie that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.”
 
Kaine attacked Trump’s character, saying the Republican nominee "always puts himself first.” He added that "the thought of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief scares" him "to death.”
 
Pence brushed off Kaine, saying the Democrats are running "an insult- driven campaign. It really is remarkable.”
 
Shaun Kenney, a Republican strategist and former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia told AMI Newswire that Kaine “came across as a scold” in such exchanges. “What America saw was the arrogant and thin-skinned governor that inspired a Virginia Republican tidal wave in 2009,” Kenney said.
 
Kenney said that Pence appeared more authentic. “It's the lesson of 2016 thus far, that no matter what you believe, voters have a nose for authentic candidates. It's the only explanation for the rise of Trump against the elites, and why Pence shined against Kaine's contrived scowling.”
 
University of Richmond political scientist professor Dan Palazzolo told AMI Clinton is likely to pick up where Kaine left off when she debates Trump on Sunday, continuing the focus on “Trump’s tax returns and ‘insults’ of women and ethnic minorities and perhaps now Veterans with PTSD.”
 
Palazzolo said Clinton “should not adopt Kaine’s method of interrupting the opponent.”
 
Goldman said Kaine’s tactic was intentional, “to keep Trump front and center,” for undecided voters.
 
“Trump is the issue. It can be annoying to keep bring his name up and interrupting the other guy to do it, but putting the focus on Trump, with his high negatives, is the Democratic strategy,” Goldman said.
 
The Republican National Committee has already picked up on Kaine's tactic, releasing a web ad that splices together 72 times he interrupted Pence during the 90 minute debate.
 
Kenney said other candidates can learn from Pence's performance.
 
“Pence was far more the happy warrior,” Kenney said. “Both Clinton and Trump could learn a thing or two from the Republican vice-presidential nominee when it comes to authenticity.”
 
Palazzolo agreed, saying Trump “would benefit from being poised, articulate about public policy, and focused on specific problems with Clinton’s email server and record as secretary of state.”
 
A CNN/ORC International poll of 472 registered voters conducted after the debate showed 48 percent of respondents believed Pence won, while 42 percent said Kaine did.
 
A focus group of 26 undecided Ohio voters conducted for CBS by pollster Frank Luntz resoundingly named Pence the victor. However, none of the participants said the debate had clinched their vote for either candidate.
 
“Both Kaine and Pence passed the acceptability test,” Palazzolo said.
 
“Pence may have energized Republican voters, who Trump will need,” Palazzolo said.
 
“But, outside of Virginia, where Kaine helps Clinton, and Indiana, where Pence helps Trump, the debate will soon be forgotten and voters will decide on the basis of the presidential candidates,” Palazzolo said.
 
Christopher Newport University’s Quentin Kidd told AMI “what those of us who really pay attention to this stuff will remember is Kaine's unnatural early over-eagerness, and Pence's denying things that are easily provable.”
 
“Beyond that,” Kidd said, we won't remember anything else.”