If you were one of the many "lucky" people watching the veep debate last night, you may be suffering some cognitive dissonance when listening to the pundits' analysis of said event. There seems to be favoring of style over substance, and even that doesn't really hold enough water to float the punditry's descriptions. There's also the question of what the goals were for the two candidates and their respective presidential campaigns.
Full disclosure: I watched the debates on C-SPAN, and then suffered through 20 minutes of MSNBC saying how Mike Pence looked more "stolid" and Tim Kaine looked "over-caffeinated". Sure Kaine was a little "interrupty" at first, but when chided, he responded to the moderator "I thought this was a discussion". Once corrected, his interruptions went way down. Pence, on the other hand, used physical - rather than verbal - responses when Kaine was talking, constantly shaking his head, looking pained, amused, incredulous, and all if it looked very "affected" to me.
fairly energetic - as if that's a bad thing - but when making his points, he did so in a very steady way, using complete sentences and an analytical approach. Pence sputtered and spewed word salads on various topics unrelated to the questions. He seemed desperate to defend tRump without actually defending him on certain occasions, and setting himself apart from tRump on everything else.
In substance, however, it was no contest whatsoever. Kaine came loaded for bear, and unloaded on Pence and tRump whenever he could. Pence accused Clinton and Kaine of running an "insult-driven" campaign (projection much?) when the vast majority of it has been using tRumps own words against him (the one notable exception was Clinton with the well-loved "Basket of Deplorables" comment, which she apologized for the next day, something Kaine pointed out). Kaine noted numerous insults tRump has made, and the dearth of apologies which followed them.
Politifact was once again fact-checking the debate in real time, and the results are fairly stark
. Pence pegged the bullshit meter nearly every time, and Kaine only bent the truth once or twice. Here's a video of Pence denying things he and tRump said, followed by them saying those very things:
Both candidates came with pre-prepared zingers (we know that happens every debate). I think Tim Kaine's Mt. Rushmore
one was the best: "He loves dictators. He has a personal Mount Rushmore of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Saddam Hussein. "
Yes, that's funny, and obviously prepared, but it also reveals just how often tRump has praised these dictators for being "strong leaders" (Kaine repeatedly pointed out there's a difference between being a strong leader and a tyrant). It was this and many other points that showed just how well prepared Kaine was (and as Secretary Clinton pointed out in her first debate - how that preparation includes being prepared to be president).
What were the goals for these two candidates coming into the debate? For Pence, one can assume to reassure those Republicans who are shying away from the gross incompetence of tRump that he will be the guy managing things. I think he did a poor job of that. His demeanor will probably endear him to the types who already support tRump because they love their leaders to be assholes. For Kaine, it didn't seem like he was trying to win over waffling Republicans or undecideds (although he did make the point that their immigration plan was essentially the same as Reagan's - something that will not endear the liberal base of the Democrats). I think his main goal was to energize those Democrats who are feeling a bit of ennui and anti-enthusiasm toward Clinton. The only thing that can prevent a Clinton presidency is voters not showing up.
So - for me - looking at this from several different angles, I feel there's no other conclusion than Tim Kaine won the debate... soundly. The pundits can suck it.