During the vice-presidential debate, both Governor Pence and Senator Kaine focused on policy and candidate records. The discussion was interesting and compelling—so much so that the candidates often tried to talk over each other in a competition to see who could be more compelling than the other. This effort was lead by Sen. Kaine, who interrupted Gov. Pence 19 times. Through the outbursts from Sen. Kaine, it was clear that Gov. Pence is the more skilled debater. Gov. Pence calmly stated his position while Kaine interrupted him, making his points quite confusing and unpleasant for the viewers. Still, during those periods in which the candidates were talking one at a time, we got a glimpse of the debate that Americans should be watching.
The candidates covered a range of issues from tax policy to improving law enforcement to America’s relationships with Russia and North Korea. Both nominees tended to stick to the policies, but often they continued to bring up the same issues.
Senator Kaine had a penchant for countering almost any issue with Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. Yet, although it is worrying that Trump is so resistant to releasing them, tax returns are hardly the most important issue facing America. Instead, Kaine’s incessant mentioning of the tax returns felt like more of a distraction from those real problems.
Trump’s tax returns was not the only issue that Sen. Kaine mentioned repeatedly. Kaine took every opportunity to mention how Trump labeled Mexicans “rapists and criminals”. He continually praised Clinton for the Russian Reset, before they invaded the Ukraine, and the Iran Nuclear Deal, which, Kaine assured, achieved an end to their nuclear program “with no shots fired.”
Pence, too, had troubles. Although Sen. Kaine repeatedly asked him to defend some of Trump’s troubling statements, Gov. Pence would deflect, trying to talk about more general issues instead. However, defending these deeply offensive statements is quite a difficult task for Gov. Pence. Many of these remarks range from thoughtless to verging on racist and sexist. In either case, these statements are indefensible, and it was better for Gov. Pence to avoid explaining them.
At many points during the debate, the candidates pushed topics that were relatively superficial and tended to talk over one another. But the bulk of the discussion focused on real issues that are important to Americans. It is a shame that the presidential debates have not followed suit.