During the reality of what the 2016 presidential election has become, the vice-presidential debate last Tuesday seemed to fall short of the status quo. Mike Pence exerted a demeanor of calm collectedness, some might call a foil to Donald Trump’s personality throughout this election. Tim Kaine on the other hand, “was constantly on offense against Trump, according to political commentator Guy Benson.
The Vice-Presidential candidates took different, but effective approaches while on offense and defense. This made the outcome varied in the eyes of the American people. Whether in favor of Pence or Kaine, a majority of the polls supported the idea that this debate was a close call. Surprised? I wouldn’t be. When analyzing the motives of the VP hopefuls, it’s not shocking that Kaine and Pence had different reasons to claim victory over the debate.
Tim Kaine overall established stronger points through his, “relentless attacks on Trump.” Because Pence has been trying to establish himself as the polished version of the Trump campaign, (versus its more scandalous other half) Kaine wanted to force Pence to defend every controversial statement that Trump has made. He wanted to create a division between Pence and Trump so that the Hillary campaign can exploit that in the next debate. Kaine found the most success with this strategy on the issues of homegrown terrorism, and U.S. Russian relations. Pence expressed extremely critical views of the Russian President, which differs completely with Trump’s previous stances towards Putin and the Russian Government. Kaine’s strong offense, while helping to keep focus on Trump throughout the evening, came across as, “tough and aggressive, sometimes even nasty, and that’s the role Donald Trump is expected to play.” This allowed Pence a different kind of victory, one that is looking beyond the 2016 election.
For the most part, Pence was able portray himself as candid and, “calm” according to political analyst Bill Schneider. Although it was clear that Pence could not successfully mold a positive spin on Trump’s most concerning policies and opinions, he “defended himself well and refused to allow Kaine to drive a wedge between himself and Donald Trump.” Pence made a point to favor politeness in the face of Kaine’s tough offense. This was not necessarily in an effort to come across as more of a “gentleman,” but to establish a positive image that he can build on for a future presidential bid. New York Times reporter Ashley Parker presented the best analysis when she said,
“For Pence, and certainly his aides, 2020 is definitely a calculation. He wants to defend Trump and be a loyal soldier. But he also needs to make sure that he emerges as a viable politician with a political future, should he and Trump not win in November.”
This debate should have left viewers with at least the following three questions. Will Clinton will build on Kaine’s efforts to divide the trump campaign? Will Trumps strategy adopt any of Pence’s traits in the upcoming debate? Will we see Mike Pence in a national election again, or will his association with the Trump legacy (whatever that will be) sink his oval office dreams?