Last night as Americans tuned in to watch the first and only vice-presidential debate of this election cycle, many were dazzled by the performance of Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. Before the debate, most of the public when asked about Mike Pence either didn’t know who he was or had no opinion of him. After last night, the country now knows the Republican vice-presidential nominee to be a hard-working conservative, a man of faith, and a guy who can stay calm under pressure while making sure to get his point across. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, provided a perfect foil to Pence’s calm demeanor and issue-focused speaking points. For every real solution Mike Pence offered, Tim Kaine rudely interrupted or interjected. By the end of the ninety minutes, Kaine had interrupted Pence over 70 times. Senator Kaine’s tactic for the evening seemed to rely heavily on the following: he would interrupt Governor Pence in hopes to throw him off his game and when he would have to answer a question of his own he would pull out his cue cards from the Clinton campaign for his designated one-liners. Watching the debate, I was struck by the phony and over-practiced note of Kaine’s answers. We heard very little about himself or his past experience from the democratic vice-presidential nominee; instead we heard a man trying to convince the American people that they can actually like and trust his running mate, Hillary Clinton. From Governor Pence, I was impressed by his command of the stage, his humble attitude, and his substantive answers. He didn’t fall for any of Kaine’s bait, even though there was plenty of it, and was able to stay on message. The entire debate focused on ideas and issues instead of name calling or unrelated tangents, which was a vast improvement from last week’s presidential debate.
Most experts and pundits will tell you that a nominee’s performance or the decided winner of a vice-presidential debate doesn’t matter; that an excellent performance won’t change a candidate’s polling numbers since voters focus on the top of the ticket. In this election cycle, though, where so many experts haven’t been able to predict this political climate, I like to think this may change. If there was ever an election year that the vice presidential nominee’s debate performance made a difference, I think this would be it. In a year where both presidential candidates have historically low excitement from their respective party bases, the vice-presidential nominees have a unique opportunity to bring some fire to their ticket. Donald Trump should be thrilled with Governor Pence’s performance because he solidified the conservative vote. Pence was also able to talk about a side of Donald Trump that not everyone has seen; one that sounds like he would make a much better president than the sexist bigot he’s portrayed as in the liberal mainstream media.
There are still plenty of Republicans (and Independents) who just don’t like Trump and would only vote for him because they don’t want to see a Hillary Clinton Presidency. For those who think Trump isn’t conservative enough, he’s not experienced enough, or he doesn’t have the right temperament; Mike Pence eased those fears last night. He illustrated the conservative values and political experience he brings to the ticket and showcased a presidential demeanor while on the debate stage. His performance was spectacular and I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump does indeed have a bump in the polls because of it. If Trump wants to unequivocally win the next presidential debate on Sunday night against Clinton, he should start practicing with his running-mate. Bravo, Governor Pence, you impressed us.