The vice presidential debate between Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence offered up some of the same conflicts and spectacle of last week's head-to-head between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, much of it centering on Kaine's non-stop interrupting of both Pence and the moderator and his endless use of canned talking points.
The debate came at a critical juncture after Trump's awful week following his first debate with Clinton.
Held at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, Kaine had the home-field advantage, having served as governor in the Old Dominion and currently serving as senator, and he began the debate overly caffeinated and full of talking points.
Pence, who served in leadership in the House and has completed one term as governor of Indiana, was calm and deliberate and served Trump well as he mentioned Clinton's name repeatedly – keeping the heat off of his partner and focused on her weaknesses.
Kaine repeatedly interrupted both Pence and the debate moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS – and kept a laundry list of talking points flowing so much that after one particular long list Pence deadpanned, "Did you work on that one a long time?"
Pence handled the difficult task of stopping Trump's slump effortlessly and proved that he was a strong second in command and held a firm grasp of policy and the issues.
Kaine came prepared as the aggressive attack dog, likely to test market issues for Clinton to use against Trump for the second presidential debate on Sunday, which will be moderated by CNN host Anderson Cooper.
Vice presidential debates are typically uneventful, said Jeff Brauer, political science professor at Keystone College. "The goal of the VP candidates is usually 'to do no harm,' that is, don't make any gaffes that will draw attention away from the presidential candidates or create a spectacle that will sidetrack the campaign."
Americans usually tune in to make sure that the VP candidates are qualified to step in as president. This is not much of an issue this cycle. Both candidates are very qualified, especially by vice presidential standards. Both, in fact, have remarkably similar backgrounds and extensive experience.
"This cycle, while the candidates are very qualified, they remain fairly unknown – 40 percent of Americans can't even name the candidates – so this debate served as a good introduction to the nation," he said.
Kaine espoused that he would be Clinton's partner and right-hand man and immediately claimed his great personal trust in Clinton, trying to address her major trust problem with the American people, said Brauer.
"Pence gave more legitimacy to Trump's candidacy, especially with rank-and-file Republicans and evangelicals," said Brauer. "He was very good at articulating traditional conservative values and policies, something that Trump often has difficulty in doing himself."
The debate will be remembered as a defense of the presidential candidates and their personas and views.
Most of the time, Kaine and Pence really just acted as surrogates for the candidates rather than discussing their own views and experiences, said Brauer. "They often talked over each other as they defended their own presidential candidate and his/her vulnerabilities and they leveled many of the same attacks the presidential candidates have used against each other," he said.
Most of the debate was defined by frequent interruptions by Kaine while Pence remained cool, confident and poised even when faced with attacks by Kaine on various awkward or questionable positions and remarks made by Trump.
"Kaine, who usually comes off as folksy and even hokey, came off tonight as a tough prosecutor. Pence was steady and articulate, as he always is," Brauer said.
The canned campaign talking points made by Kaine did begin to wear on viewers and the responses on Twitter reflected irritation with his interrupting with a string of practiced attacks.
Former Barack Obama chief strategist David Axelrod tweeted: "Tim Kaine is interrupting more than Mike Pence, which I don't think is serving him well, scoring more on positives."
Salena Zito covers national politics for Newsmax.
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