5 top takeaways from the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence

5 top takeaways from the vice presidential debate between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence
Source: AP
Source: AP

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine met Tuesday night in Farmville, Viriginia, for the first and only vice presidential debate of 2016 — a debate that wasn't much hyped but turned into a testy meeting of the VP running mates.

Both men began the night largely unknown to the general electorate.

And as such, expectations were pretty low for how both would fare.

However, Pence came to the debate with the goal of plugging the leak his running-mate Donald Trump sprung last week with his own dismal debate performance — leaving the Trump-Pence ticket behind with five weeks to go before Election Day.

Did he succeed?

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the night.

Pence is a much better debater than Trump, and Clinton is better than Kaine

Pence is the debater Republicans wished Trump could be.

He was cool, calm and collected on stage. 

Unlike Trump, who interrupted and scowled throughout the night, Pence was steady. 

He had comebacks ready and was able to bring the debate back to weak spots for Clinton, including her personal email server and tying her to the status quo — which voters have expressed frustration with. 

If Trump had those debating abilities, the election might look different today.


Just like Pence bests Trump in debating skills, Clinton was far better on the debate stage than Kaine.

Unlike Clinton, who kept her cool throughout the first debate despite Trump's attacks, Kaine appeared flustered, interrupting Pence multiple times.

His interrupting didn't fare well with some focus groups. 

This debate wasn't about Pence or Kaine — it was about Trump and Clinton

Very little of the night was spent on the records of both Pence and Kaine — both of whom have long careers in government and a long record.

Instead, the debate focused on Clinton and Kaine.

Kaine was forced to defend Clinton's trustworthiness.

Pence was forced to defend Trump's temperament and past gaffes. 

Kaine took a more forceful defense of his running-mate, while Pence hemmed, hawed and deflected. 

Pence could attack Clinton, but he struggled to defend Trump

Pence was deft at bringing the debate back to Clinton's emails and saying she supports the status quo.

But when forced to defend Trump, he faltered. 

Instead of defending Trump, he shook his head and sought to rewrite history on things Trump has said and done, all of which are chronicled in video. 

Pence claimed he and Trump never said Russian President Vladimir Putin was a stronger leader than President Barack Obama — a statement both men did in fact make.

Pence also claimed Kaine was hurling insults, when he was often merely quoting things Trump has said throughout the campaign.

Kaine got in one of his best lines on the night on this issue.

"[Pence is] asking everybody to vote for someone he cannot defend," Kaine said.

The biggest problem for Pence is that Trump is the leader of the ticket

Stylistically, Pence performed better at the debate.

However it's Trump who is at the top of the ballot.

And if Pence was unable to defend Trump's past comments, that doesn't spell good news for the Republicans' hopes this fall. 

And most of his deflections could make for powerful ads in the final five weeks of the contest. 


The line of the night came in the last five minutes

It didn't happen until the very end of the debate, but the line that will likely be replayed over and over again was a comment Pence made about Mexicans in the final moment of the match-up.

Throughout the night, Kaine kept bringing up Trump's comments on Mexicans, whom he called "rapists" who "bring crime."

"When Donald Trump says ... Mexicans are rapists and criminals, he is showing you who he is," Kaine said.

And Pence, clearly frustrated with the line of attack, made an outburst that will get played over and over. 

"You whipped out that Mexican thing again," Pence said.