Governor Mike Pence and Senator Tim Kaine debated tonight at Longwood University in Farmville, Virgina. The moderator was CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano.
We scored this debate based not on issues but on how we believe this performance will affect their poll numbers, including appearance and presentation.
Mike Pence +10 Pence established himself as the calm, cool voice of reason, and he became the dominant player after the first few minutes. The image I saw? He was center of attention, and was unflappable under the attacks of Kaine. Since we have seen relatively little of Pence, and frankly we thought him a bit stiff, it was surprising to see his flexibiliy and poise in responding to Kaine.
Mike seemed to realize he was constantly on camera, he shook his head “no” and laughed at the appropriate times. This, we believe. had great effect on the believability of Kaine’s accusations.
Pence was well versed in the issues, better than Kaine, and took no losses there.
Much of the audience, because of media coverage on this, were expecting Mike Pence to avoid defending some of Trump’s positions. In fact, Pence defended Trump very ably in every case, and anyone listening got a very clear picture of how Pence and Trump stand on the politically contentious issues.
We awarded Pence 10 points for his posture, his dominance, gravitas, presentation, his clear defense of Trump’s positions, and his knowledge of the issues.
Tim Kaine +4 While Tim Kaine was aggressive and occasionally eloquent, he lost audience poitns with his interruptions of Mike Pence and his continual rehashing of nebulous issues and accusing Pence of not defending Trump (which Pence was doing). At one point my impression was that Kaine was putting on a Perez Hilton performance. After the debate, one NBC commentator called him a “twit.”
Kaine seemed to forget that he was on camera (split screen) when Pence was speaking. His posture and the opportunity to “mug” for the camera were lost there.
On the positive side, a wider American audience now knows him and has had exposure to the Hillary agenda. His purpose was really not to increase his own popularity, but rather to attack Donald Trump, which he did with alacrity. People will remember the tax return issue and the “not defending Trump” memes even though in context they were readily defended by Pence. For these reasons, Kaine gets a positive score.
Moderator -4 Elaine Quijano seemed to lose control frequently with the candidates talking over each. Initially Kaine took advantage of this, but Mike Pence quickly adapted to a debate with less decorum. She seemed to have asked questions slightly in favor of Tim Kaine, avoiding some serious issues with Clinton. She also seemed to talk over Mike Pence much more often as he was making his final points than she did Kaine. Pence frequently did not get a chance to respond after contentious statements from Kaine.
My winner? Mike Pence, 10 to 4.
Do I think this will move the needle toward Trump? It depends on the audience size. The scheduling was good, in a prime hour and covered on most major networks. It may not have reached 84 million (according to CNN) people as did the presidentila debate, but even half of that could have an effect.
I believe the issues were presented more clearly and fairly than have been portrayed in the media recently. This could solidify people who were leaning toward Trump. I do not believe Clinton will get the same benefit.