A Prepared Pence Wins The Debate

A Prepared Pence Wins The Debate

Corey Uhden, 2016 Elections Contributor

Polished, prepared, and focused, Mike Pence wins the night!

Tonight both vice presidential nominees jumped into their roles as prosecutors against the opposing ticket’s presidential candidate.

Kaine started off with expressing his family’s worry of Trump as Commander-in-Chief, but he said the phrase “scared to death” with a big old cockeyed grin on his face. Senator, when something scares me “to death”, I’m not usually able to say it with a smile, a little incredulity, maybe, but never a smile. This is the first of several lame zingers that somehow imbued Kaine with a sense of smug self-assurance that he would plainly wear on his face for the rest of the night.

Clinton/Kaine will no doubt emphasize Senator Kaine’s strategy of repeating Donald Trump’s statements. The problem is that Tim Kaine went about executing this strategy by interrupting Pence repeatedly. Stylistically, he lost on television. He succeeded in being an attack dog, and this will no doubt lead the coverage going forward.

Trump/Pence, on the other hand, will claim victory because Governor Pence came prepared, so he was able to choose how to effectively parley each of Kaine’s talking points. It really shows when you read the debate transcript. Pence manages to fit several scathing attacks in short responses throughout the program. At the same time, we essentially see parts of Pence’s stump speech:

“American families are struggling in this economy under the weight of higher taxes and Obamacare and the war on coal and the stifling avalanche of regulation coming out of this administration, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same.”

“...We can get America moving again. And when you get the economy growing, Elaine, that's when you can deal with the national debt. When we get back to 3.5 percent to 4 percent growth with Donald Trump's plan will do, then we're going to have the resources to meet our nation's needs at home and abroad, and we're going to have the ability to bring down the national debt.”

Paul Ryan is surely proud of his friend tonight. Governor Pence chose to speak to the audience in the tenor of a serious presidential candidate, much like his hero, Ronald Reagan. He has referred to himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” and it suited him well tonight.

But several times, Pence pivoted away from his running mate in order to score a point on his debating partner. He took a much harder line on Vladimir Putin, for example, calling him “a small and bullying leader.” He defended the campaign’s immigration platform while promising to work with Congress to reform immigration, sneaking in a barb about Kaine returning to the Senate. And he passionately expressed his pro-life views the way only a thirty-year veteran of conservative activism could. Mike Pence is one of the pro-life movement’s greatest champions and tonight he showed them he deserves their adoration.

Pence proved the better of the two at prosecuting a case against the opposite presidential candidate. He attacked Hillary Clinton for her record as Secretary of State, her private email server, and her big government agenda. Kaine, on the other hand, had to prosecute a case against a businessman, a private citizen, whose “words are his heart”, so he had nothing but Trump’s tax returns and his insults.

Several commentators are saying Pence refused the bait. That isn’t entirely true though, and it’s surprising they’re saying that because these were Pence’s worst moments. When confronted with his own running-mate’s statements repeated verbatim, he expressed a kind of misplaced incredulity. He would deny Trump had said what he clearly said. Even his new take on Putin directly contradicts something Pence himself said two weeks ago. They’re letting him off the hook, for now, but I expect the coverage will be dominated by the fact-checks to come.

Even with those stumbles, Pence was clearly the better of the two politicians. He clearly knew how to get his points across in the time he had and he knew how to effectively pivot to a subject that he wanted to discuss, especially if the subject is Hillary Clinton.

Trump would be wise to adopt Pence’s strategy for the town hall debate this Sunday.

Follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU

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