Takeaways from last night’s vice presidential debate

By Dave Andrusko

Pro-Life Mike Pence and Pro-abortion Tim Kaine

Pro-Life Mike Pence and Pro-abortion Tim Kaine

NRL News Today is posting two stories about last night’s one and only vice presidential debate. Going forward, in my opinion the two most significant takeaways are (1) the answer on abortion of pro-life Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was as thoughtful and as compassionate (including toward the hapless, boxed-in pro-abortion Sen. Tim Kaine) as you could ever ask for; and (2) a defiant comment by CNN’s Jake Tapper that Pence may have carried the debate (which he clearly had) but wait until the media does its thing the rest of the week on Pence/Trump.

The abortion exchange–initiated by Gov. Pence, by the way–we’ll cover in a separate post. Let’s talk here about the substance and the atmospherics of the debate which came five days before the second debate between pro-life Donald Trump and pro-abortion Hillary Clinton. Let me make five points.

#1. Sen. Kaine, frankly, looked awful, at every level. Again (appearing on CNN), former Obama strategist David Axelrod provided Kaine with a built-in excuse–he was “uncomfortable” in his role as “attack dog.”

But the problem was not that he was ill at ease attacking Donald Trump, but that he was so frenzied, so over the top, so personally insulting, he came off more like a rabid dog.

The (unintentionally) most revealing comment came near the end when Kaine, flashing the smarmy grin he demonstrated all night, quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: “From the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34.)

Take that passage in the context of Matthew 15: 11 in which Jesus said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

What came out of the fullness of Kaine’s heart and mouth last night? Rudeness, vitriol, cheap-shots, and answers patently at variance with the truth.

#2. The flash polls taken by AOL and CNN had Pence winning the debate 54% to 46% and 48% to 42%, respectively. But when CNN interviewed its focus group, Kaine won overwhelmingly. Twenty-two of the 26 members of Frank Lutz’s focus group (which had Clinton clobbering Trump in the first debate) said Pence won.

CNN’s bias is beyond transparent to the point of embarrassment.

#3. What is the role of the vice presidential candidate in their debate? To shore up the top of their ticket and go after the other guy’s Number One.

That task is made infinitely more difficult if the audience is (to put it politely) uncomfortable with you. I understand Kaine saw his job as reiterating four or five talking points–that’s fine–but to do in such an unpleasant, hectoring, ill-mannered way was hugely counterproductive. Even supporters hammered him on Twitter for his abrasiveness.

Likewise, Pence’s assignment was to criticize Secretary Clinton. He did so very effectively, even more so because he did so in a restrained manner that criticized her record not the person.

#4. If there is supposedly another prominent role for the vice president in these debates, it is to “rally the base.” Pence won that hands-down. Finally

#5. Of course, an implicit objective in any vice presidential debate is to convince the public–and more specifically the undecideds–that , if called upon, you could be president. Which candidate last night came across as presidential?

Put another way: If, to this point you had no dog in the race, after listening to last night’s give and take, would you be more inclined to vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

My guess is that Tapper’s wish that the Establishment Media will hammer Pence and Trump will come true with a vengeance.

What will also come true, however, is that on reflection, the public will see Mike Pence as having done far more for Donald Trump than Tim Kaine did for Hillary Clinton.