Pence Won the Debate but Declined to Defend Trump
Kaine’s repeated attempts to tie Pence to Donald Trump’s more controversial positions were met with a stone wall of denial and unflappability.
Pence showcased a candidate that falls in line with conservative values, particularly when talking about building up the military, foreign policy, birth control, family values, and the economy.
The Governor of Indiana also pressed Kaine on topics that Trump was criticized for not bringing up more in the presidential debate, such as the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, and the Iran nuclear deal.
He also attacked Kaine on his governorship in Virginia, while presenting his own state of Indiana as a model of success.
“I come from a state that works. The state of Indiana has balanced budgets. We cut taxes, we’ve made record investments in education and in infrastructure, and I still finish my term with $2 billion in the bank,” Pence said.
However, the Republican’s reluctance to defend his running mate’s more controversial positions left an awkward aftertaste to an otherwise strong performance.
In one such example, Kaine accused Pence and Trump of having said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a great leader,” to which Pence responded, “No, we haven’t.”
However, at NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum last month, Trump said of Putin that “in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.” Pence said in an interview on CNN on Sept. 8 that it is “inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.”
At the debate, Pence also danced around defending Trump’s comments about illegal Mexican immigrants, the proposed “extreme vetting” of Muslims entering the country, and his statements on releasing his tax returns.
“Six times tonight, I have said to Governor Pence, ‘I can’t imagine how you can defend your running mate’s position,’ on one issue after the next,” said Kaine. “And in all six cases, he’s refused to defend his running mate.”
When asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about who had the better performance at the vice presidential debate, chair of the Clinton campaign John Podesta attacked Pence by saying: “He didn’t get the job done. The vice president’s job is to go in and try to defend the top of the ticket. Mike Pence looked more like he was looking at 2020 than 2016.”