CNN’s polling gave Republican Mike Pence a 48-42 win over Democrat Tim Kaine in the presidential debate last night and the figures indicated that he won that sample more on likability, not facts.
Pence seemed smooth. Kaine, particularly in the beginning, interrupted often and seemed agitated.
Who would not be agitated by Pence’s strategy to refuse to defend all the indefensible things Donald Trump has said and to misstate things (lie, really) time and again.
Among Pence’s whoppers: Syrians were responsible for the terror attack in Paris (they weren’t); most money raised by the Clinton Foundation doesn’t go to charitable use (90 percent does); he didn’t call Vladimir Putin a “great leader” (he did, moments before.) The CNN poll sample said, 58-35, that Kaine did a better job than Pence at defending his running mate.
Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrapped up Pence’s calm demeanor in refusing to defend Trump:
…. it answered the question of how a man who supposedly prides himself on his virtue defends a running mate who is often bereft of it. He sets his jaw. He slows his pulse. He practices a bemused chuckle, perfects deafness to anything he prefers not to hear and purges from his memory anything he doesn’t want to own.
That included the whole grotesque cornucopia of Donald Trump’s slurs and bad behavior, which Tim Kaine had studied up on exhaustively, knew by heart and kept throwing at Pence, pressing for the barest glimmer of shame or the slightest hint of apology. It was pointless — a point that Kaine himself made about an hour into this exercise in futility.
“Six times tonight, I have said to Governor Pence: I can’t imagine how you can defend your running mate’s position on one issue after the next,” Kaine said, his voice somewhat squeaky with frustration. “And in all six cases, he’s refused to defend his running mate, and yet he is asking everybody to vote for somebody that he cannot defend.”
Mike Pence flatly rejected a number of the GOP nominee’s more high-profile comments as false, even in the most open-and-shut cases.At the end of the night, the verdict was in: the running mate had virtually severed himself from the GOP nominee.
“The indelible image that will shape the debate in the coverage to come is Mike Pence repeatedly shaking his head, ‘No, no, no. Donald Trump didn’t say that,’” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt told MSNBC’s Brian Williams. “Almost in every instance, in fact, Donald Trump did say that.”
The Trump camp brayed that Pence won. Viewers, who won’t long remember this, might even edge toward a similar scorecard. As long as you don’t score it on facts. Which is the story of the Trump campaign from the beginning. The best report of the night was from Vox, which said Pence might have hurt himself with his boss by showing Trump up.
This debate didn’t change anything about the election, which is the main takeaway.