FARMVILLE, Va. — “I will remind you both, this is about North Korea,” vice presidential debate moderator Elaine Quijano said during an argument Tuesday night between Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
This statement from Quijano effectively described a debate in which the two vice presidential candidates deflected and attacked the respective running mates.
Prior to the debate, Trump supporter former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said to a reporter he expected a “calm” debate that “gets to the issues.”
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said in the “spin room” at Longwood University before the debate that he was expecting Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine to focus on the issues that “matter to the American people.”
Mook did say that the challenge for Kaine would be having “to have to answer for whether he can defend Donald Trump.” These two predictions from campaign surrogates were rather accurate. The debate was without personal attacks and rather calm and focused heavily on the issues and the two presidential candidates.
A good example of the pivoting and attacking is when Quijano asked Kaine why a majority of American voters think Clinton is dishonest and Pence was asked by Quijano why a majority of American voters think Trump does not have a suitable temperament to become president.
“As a civil rights lawyer in the South with the Children’s Defense Fund, first lady of Arkansas, and this country’s secretary of state, it has always been about putting others first. That is a sharp contrast with Donald Trump,” Sen. Kaine said in his response. He added “Donald Trump always puts himself first,” and “I cannot imagine how Gov. Pence can defend Donald Trump.”
Gov. Pence in response to a question about Trump’s temperament said, “First and foremost, Senator, and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign. That’s you and Hillary Clinton, would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign.”
The Indiana governor added, “We see entire portions of the world, particularly the Middle East, spinning out of control in a situation we are watching hour-by-hour in Syria today, a result of the failed for policy that Hillary Clinton helped lead in this administration and create.”
Gov. Pence deflecting and calling the Clinton’s an “insult-driven” campaign was frequent throughout the debate.
Pence focused on the message of the Republican nominee’s campaign. During a question about the economy, Sen. Kaine pointed to “fifty million new jobs” being created during President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Pence responded by saying that the people in Fort Wayne, Ind. or Scranton, Pa., have not felt a recovery. While Sen. Kaine spoke about his government experience, Gov. Pence turned that on him and said he is a “fitting running mate” for Hillary as they represent “more of the same.”
Sen. Kaine focus on the debate was clearly about trying to tie Pence, who has previously said he abhors insults in campaigns, to Trump. Pence, though, consistently deflected and hit the Clinton Foundation and immigration in ways Trump hasn’t. When asked about a deportation force, Gov. Pence said “we already have one” and pointed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It seemed at times that the two candidates were dealing with two separate sets of facts as Kaine vehemently argued that the Iran nuclear deal prevented Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons while Gov. Pence rejected Kaine’s premise. The New York Times recently released Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns and suggested in this article that this means Trump could not have paid up to 18 years of taxes.
Sen. Kaine said, “I am interested to hear whether he’ll defend his running mate’s not releasing taxes and not paying taxes.” Pence defended these attacks on Trump’s tax returns by saying, “do you take all the deductions that you’re entitled to?”
The two vice presidential candidates agreed with each other on the merits of community policing, but disagreed on the idea of “implicit bias.” Kaine mentioned that he would like to decrease crime by fighting “the scourge of gun violence in the United States,” and pointed to his experience as governor during the Virginia Tech shooting.
In his response, Pence said Clinton and Kaine need to stop “the bad mouthing that comes from people that seize upon tragedy in the wake of police action shootings.” He then added that Clinton said the Charlotte shooting of Keith Lamont Scott was an example of implicit bias but pointed out the fact that the police officer who shot Scott was black.
The other place where Pence and Kaine found disagreement and agreement at the same time was religion. The two are personally pro-life, but Gov. Pence hit Kaine on his running mate’s stances.
“What I can’t understand is Hillary Clinton — how she can support a process like partial-birth abortion. I know you hold pro-life views personally. At the very idea that a child almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them, I cannot in conscience understand a party that supports that,” Pence said. “I know you have historically opposed taxpayer funding for abortion, but Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the long-standing provision when we said we would not use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.”