Who won last night’s vice presidential debate?

5 October 2016   
Who won last night’s vice presidential debate?

Understandably so, political coverage surrounding the race for the White House is almost always dominated by the presidential candidates. Their running mates, while important for a slew of reasons, receive only a fraction of the media coverage surrounding the campaign. However, all eyes were on the vice presidential candidates last night, as Tim Kaine and Mike Pence squared off in their only debate of the election season.

According to a CNN poll taken after the forum, Pence defeated his Democratic counterpart. Analysts reason that this is due to the calm demeanor he was able to maintain throughout the entire event, which directly contrasted with Kaine’s slightly aggressive, know-it-all, nervous disposition. This, according to pundits, outweighed the fact that Pence's knowledge on crucial policy matters and issues pertaining to his running mate’s shady history was far beneath that of the Virginia senator. “Even if he didn't fully answer questions on race relations and questions on Trump's business acumen, Pence was the cooler alternative to Sen. Tim Kaine, who came off as canned, too-clever and nervous, interrupting Pence throughout the debate,” wrote CNN’s Errol Louis. He interrupted Pence throughout the evening with erratic bursts that made him seem anxious. While it may seem that policy matters should hold more weight than tone and demeanor, viewers hardly ever recall policy details and instead remain fixed on the overall tone that each candidate puts forward.

Moving from the question over demeanor, however, it was palpable that Kaine was better prepared than his Republican counterpart when it came down to explaining his ticket’s policies. Pence faced questions about Trump’s immigration plan that has been at the heart of the Republican presidential ticket, and he simply continued to repeat the fact that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement group endorsed Trump for the presidency. He also had immense difficulty defending Trump’s tax evasion that has been a controversy plaguing the campaign for months.

On the contrary, Kaine had canned responses and zingers to respond to questions he was clearly expecting to answer on stage. Despite the fact that they seemed superficial and overly rehearsed, that does not change the fact that he did have answers.

With a general consensus among politicos that Pence’s performance was better than Kaine’s, despite the fact that Kaine had better responses to tough questions and was better able to argue against his opponent’s running mate, the question then becomes one of how much this could affect the presidential race at large. The most recent poll finds that Clinton is leading by six percentage points nationally in a four-way race, however that could change after last night’s debate. Tara Setmayer, a leading CNN pundit, however, does not think it will make a difference at all. “Although Pence emerged the victor overall, it won't move the needle at all for voters. Vice presidential debates rarely do. In this case, it simply reminded many Republicans how much different this race would be if a knowledgeable Republican who could effectively articulate the issues were at the top of the ticket instead of a self-aggrandizing demagogue like Trump.”

What did you think of last night’s debate? Will it affect the presidential race?