Those who watched Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine debate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in Farmville, Virginia, saw two experienced politicians trying to penetrate issues that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump only grazed during their first face-off.
“This might be best the best shot voters will get to take a deep dive to see what these people will do if they are elected,” elections expert Michael Miller, who teaches political science at Barnard and Columbia University, told Metro.
Pence has the backing from conservative bona fides, he’s got a pretty long and distinguished career in Washington where they really respect him in conservative circles, Miller said.
“Trump has a bombastic personality that leads to rhetoric in debates that leads away from these details.”
The VP debate “may be nerdy by comparison,” but was a good opportunity to hear about things the things voters need to hear about from two people with strong policy backgrounds. “It’s what voting is all about,” he said.
Final tallies of viewership will be revealed today, and could contrast with the 51 million TV viewers who watched the 2012 vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. That was a big audience for a VP showdown, considering this year’s first presidential debate reeled in a substantial 84 million from TV alone.
The impact of this debate is less about who was better, and more about who fumbled.
“You kind of want a quiet night,” said Miller. “A mistake is what garners media attention.”
In this particularly stormy election, creating any waves in the media or in the election outcome would require a major accident.
“The best way to help Trump is to not commit any fatal error,” said Miller. “Do no obvious damage.“
In that sense, Pence has redefined what it means to “balance” a ticket, he said.
“It’s really about matching strengths to weaknesses, and I think Pence is pretty well chosen in that sense,” Miller said
For Kaine, the goal as Clinton’s running-mate last night was less to balance the ticket and more to remind voters of the things Pence wanted to distract from: shocking news stories, and Trump’s tax-records controversy, for example.
Kaine’s approach was more to “try to pin Trump to Pence, and inject the unfavorable things back into the living rooms,” Miller said.
“It is very tempting to look at any one of these moments and say this is the one that changed the race. We don’t even think the presidential debates ever changed the race in history. They tend to swing polls a little bit. The VP debate is even less salient in election outcomes.”
The impact of this debate will be determined by the way each campaign utilizes their pocket card.
With a mere 33 days until the election, “the crucial resource for the candidates right now is time.”
“Every day the Trump campaign spends explaining and defending him that’s one day lost to really convince the people of why to vote for him. On the Democratic side, the final moments will have to be spent reminding voters of the bad things occurred throughout the election year,” Miller said.