FARMVILLE, Virginia — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, dominated his Democratic counterpart Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) in the only debate between the two before the election at Longwood University.
“Gov. Pence was flawless,” Jason Miller, the senior communications adviser to Pence’s running mate Donald J. Trump, told Breitbart News. “Tonight showed the strength of the Trump-Pence ticket and that our ideas are better for America. And ultimately, it showed the good judgment Donald Trump has in selecting such a strong number two in Gov. Pence.”
Pence’s win came on a night where the Democratic presidential ticket of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Kaine were set back significantly after a smooth past week since the first of three Trump-Clinton debates at Hofstra University last Monday. Trump, under fire from Clinton and her allies in the legacy establishment media since the last debate, has clawed his way back from the brink yet again with a series of successful rallies during the weekend, culminating with a major pair of appearances in Colorado on Monday evening. But it was Pence’s performance at the vice presidential debate, moderated by CBS News’ Elaine Quijano, that has put new spring in the Trump camp’s step heading into the next all-important debate on Sunday evening in St. Louis.
Pence took command of the stage from the outset. After both Kaine and Pence gave satisfactory answers to a fundamental question about readiness for the presidential job should that need ever arise, the first real question of the debate to Kaine from Quijano set the tone off the bat.
“Senator Kaine, on the campaign trail, you praised Secretary Clinton’s character, including her commitment to public service, yet 60 percent of voters don’t think she’s trustworthy. Why do so many people distrust her? Is it because they have questions about her emails and the Clinton Foundation?” Quijano asked Kaine.
In his answer, Kaine refused to defend Clinton at all on the Clinton Foundation—the source of controversy for perhaps the Clinton political dynasty’s biggest scandals, the Clinton Cash narrative—and wouldn’t defend her use of a private email server either.
Instead, when trying to explain why he trusts Clinton when so many Americans do not, he quickly pivoted the answer into an attack on Donald Trump instead—without giving any substantial evidence for why anyone should trust his running mate. When Pence got a similar question as a follow-up, he seized the moment to frame Kaine and Clinton as simply hurlers of insults running a policy-free campaign.
“Let me say first and foremost that, Senator, you and Hillary Clinton would know a lot about an insult-driven campaign,” Pence said, calmly and coolly, directly challenging Kaine. “It really is remarkable.”
As Pence proceeded to detail the many failures of Hillary Clinton’s time in government, Kaine interrupted him many times with what seemed to be petty interjections. All told, all evening, Kaine would interrupt Pence or the moderator Quijano scores of times—70 in some counts.
As Kaine unsuccessfully attempted to steal the momentum from Pence, the Indiana Governor joked playfully, “I must have hit a nerve here.” Kaine would spend the next minute or so continually trying to talk over Pence and failing, as Quijano eventually cut him off and told him he would eventually get a chance to respond.
At one point in this early exchange, in one of his many interruptions, Kaine declared it was his turn to talk. “Okay, now I can weigh in,” Kaine said, before Quijano held him back again: “Senator, you have an opportunity to respond.”
When he finally got a word in, Kaine claimed all was rosy on planet earth—claiming the status quo as his and Clinton’s campaign mantlepiece.
“Governor Pence — Governor Pence doesn’t think the world’s going so well, and he, you know, is going to say it’s everybody’s fault,” Kaine implored, to which Pence simply retorted, “Do you?”
Kaine then tried to take credit—on Clinton’s behalf—for killing Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 mastermind and al-Qaeda leader, even though she was not responsible for taking down bin Laden.
“Let me tell you this: When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, Governor Pence, did you know that Osama bin Laden was alive?” Kaine said.
“Yes,” Pence replied.
After that rocky start, Kaine never recovered—and Pence toyed with him all night while speaking directly into the cameras for the millions at home watching to hear his policy-focused agenda.
When the conversation turned to the economy, Pence delivered perhaps his best lines of the night—where he clearly laid out the success of his conservative economic policies as Indiana’s governor while subtly, but pointedly, undermining Kaine’s weaknesses from his time as Virginia’s governor.
“I think the fact that — that under this past administration of which Hillary Clinton was a part, we’ve almost doubled the national debt is atrocious,” Pence said. He added:
I mean, I’m very proud of the fact that — 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. That’s a little bit different than when Senator Kaine was governor here in Virginia. He actually — he actually tried to raise taxes by about $4 billion. He left his state about $2 billion in the hole. In the state of Indiana, we’ve cut unemployment in half; unemployment doubled when he was governor.
But I think he’s a very fitting running mate for Hillary Clinton because in the wake of a season where American families are struggling in this economy under the weight of higher taxes and Obamacare and the war on coal and the stifling avalanche of regulation coming out of this administration, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want more of the same. It really is remarkable that they actually are advocating a trillion dollars in tax increases, which I get that. You tried to raise taxes here in Virginia and were unsuccessful. But a trillion dollars in tax increases, more regulation, more of the same war on coal, and more of Obamacare that now even former President Bill Clinton calls Obamacare a crazy plan. But Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to build on Obamacare. They want to expand it into a single-payer program. And for all the world, Hillary Clinton just thinks Obamacare is a good start.
Look, Donald Trump and I have a plan to get this economy moving again just the way that it worked in the 1980s, just the way it worked in the 1960s, and that is by lowering taxes across the board for working families, small businesses, and family farms, ending the war on coal that is hurting jobs and hurting this economy even here in Virginia, repealing Obamacare lock, stock, and barrel, and repealing all of the executive orders that Barack Obama has signed that are stifling economic growth in this economy. We can get America moving again. Put on top of that the kind of trade deals that’ll put the American worker first, and you’ve got a prescription for real growth. And when you get the economy growing, Elaine, that’s when you can deal with the national debt. When we get back to 3.5 percent to 4 percent growth, which Donald Trump’s plan will do, then we’re going to have the resources to meet our nation’s needs at home and abroad, and we’re going to have the ability to bring down the national debt.
In his answer, Kaine started with a canned catch line that did not go over well.
“On the economy, there’s a fundamental choice for the American electorate,” Kaine said. “Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump? I think that’s not such a hard choice.”
From there, Kaine struggled to detail his and Clinton’s economic plans—then admitted that there’s tax hikes in them—before spending the rest of, and the majority of in total, his answer attacking Trump, rather than telling the audience about their own plans.
Whenever Kaine or Quijano tried to shift the conversation back to Trump’s tax returns, as they often did throughout the night, Pence handled them with ease.
“Well, this is probably the difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Senator Kaine. And, I mean, Hillary Clinton and Senator Kaine — God bless you for it, career public servants, that’s great — Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. He actually built a business,” Pence said when Quijano pressed him on the matter for the second time, specifically about Trump’s illegally obtained tax documents from 1995 that The New York Times had published during the weekend.
“Those tax returns that … came out publicly this week show that he faced some pretty tough times 20 years ago. But like virtually every other business, including The New York Times not too long ago, he used what’s called net operating loss. We have a tax code, Senator, that actually is designed to encourage entrepreneurship in this country.”
After more back and forth on the taxes—during which Pence swatted away attack after attack— and a brief exchange on Social Security, Quijano moved the conversation to the issue of community-police relations. Pence hit another home run.
“You know, my uncle was a cop, a career cop, on the beat in downtown Chicago. He was my hero when I was growing up. And we’d go up to visit my dad’s family in Chicago. My three brothers and I would marvel at my uncle when he would come out in his uniform, sidearm at his side,” he said, before broadly defending police officers:
Police officers are the best of us. And the men and women, white, African American, Asian, Latino, Hispanic, they put their lives on the line every single day. And let me say, at the risk of agreeing with you, community policing is a great idea. It’s worked in the Hoosier state. And we fully support that.
Donald Trump and I are going to make sure that law enforcement have the resources and the tools to be able to really restore law and order to the cities and communities in this nation. It’s probably — probably why the 330,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Donald Trump as the next President of the United States of America, because they see his commitment to them. They see his commitment to law and order.
But they also — they also hear the bad-mouthing, the bad-mouthing that comes from people that seize upon tragedy in the wake of police action shootings as — as a reason to — to use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of — of implicit bias or institutional racism. And that really has got to stop.
I mean, when an African American police officer in Charlotte named Brentley Vinson, an all-star football player who went to Liberty University here in the state, came home, followed his dad into law enforcement, joined the force in Charlotte, joined the force in Charlotte in 2014, was involved in a police action shooting that claimed the life of Keith — Keith Lamont Scott, it was a tragedy. I mean, I — we — we mourn with those who mourn. We — we grieve with those who grieve. And we’re saddened at the loss of life.
But Hillary Clinton actually referred to that moment as an example of implicit bias in the police force, where — where she used — when she was asked in the debate a week ago whether there was implicit bias in law enforcement, her only answer was that there’s implicit bias in everyone in the United States.
Next up was immigration, and it was here where Pence delivered the best line of the night—but first Pence, in depth, detailed exactly what Donald Trump’s immigration plan is:
Donald Trump’s laid out a plan to end illegal immigration once and for all in this country. We’ve been talking it to death for 20 years. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine want to continue the policies of open borders, amnesty, catch and release, sanctuary cities, all the things that are driving — that are driving wages down in this country, Senator, and also too often with criminal aliens in the country, it’s bringing heartbreak.
But I — Donald Trump has a plan that he laid out in Arizona, that will deal systemically with illegal immigration, beginning with border security, internal enforcement. It’s probably why for the first time in the history of Immigration and Customs Enforcement their union actually endorsed Donald Trump as the next President of the United States because they know they need help to enforce the laws of this country.
And Donald Trump has laid out a priority to remove criminal aliens, remove people that have overstayed their visas. And — and once we have accomplished all of that, which will — which will strengthen our economy, strengthen the rule of law in the country and make our communities safer once the criminal aliens are out, then we’ll deal with those that remain.
But I have to tell you, I just — I was listening to the avalanche of insults coming out of Senator Kaine a minute ago.
Kaine, attempting again to interrupt Pence, was stopped by the Indiana Governor who reminded him it was his time to speak. Quijano confirmed Pence still had the floor, and then Kaine apologized for interrupting yet again.
“I apologize. It’s your two minutes. I apologize,” Kaine said.
“Thanks. I forgive you,” Pence replied.
That’s when Pence, sensing a Kaine weakened from overextending throughout the debate to this point, stuck the knife in his opponent.
“He says ours is an insult-driven campaign. Did you all just hear that? Ours is an insult-driven campaign?” Pence said, adding:
I mean, to be honest with you, if Donald Trump had said all of the things that you’ve said he said in the way you said he said them, he still wouldn’t have a fraction of the insults that Hillary Clinton leveled when she said that half of our supporters were a basket of deplorables. It’s — she said they were irredeemable. They were not American. I mean, it’s extraordinary. And then she labeled one after another “ism” on millions of Americans who believe that we can have a stronger America at home and abroad, who believe we can get this economy moving again, who believe that we can end illegal immigration once and for all. So, Senator, this — this insult-driven campaign, I mean that’s small potatoes compared to Hillary Clinton, calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters a basket of deplorables.
Kaine, in his rebuttal, falsely claimed that Clinton retracted and apologized for calling Trump supporters “deplorables.”
“Hillary Clinton said something on the campaign trail, and the very next day, she said, you know what: I shouldn’t have said that,” Kaine claimed.
Pence quickly corrected him: “He said she shouldn’t have said half.”
Then, after Kaine commenced rattling off a series of progressive complaints with Trump, the Virginia Senator shifted the conversation back to immigration by attacking Trump’s reform plan.
“Donald Trump proposes to deport 16 million people, 11 million who are here without documents,” Kaine said. He continued:
And both Donald Trump and Mike Pence want to get rid of birthright citizenship. So if you’re born here, but your parents don’t have documents, they want to eliminate that. That’s another 4.5 million people. These guys — and Donald Trump have said it — deportation force. They want to go house to house, school to school, business to business, and kick out 16 million people.
“That’s nonsense. That’s nonsense,” Pence corrected Kaine again.
“I cannot believe that Governor Pence would sit here and defend his running mate’s claim that we should create a deportation force to — so that they’ll all be gone,” Kaine trudged on.
“Senator, we have a deportation force. It’s called Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,” Pence explained to Kaine. “And the union for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement for the first time in their history endorsed Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States of America.”
After Pence further explained Trump’s common sense immigration reform plan, he delivered yet another zinger against Kaine.
“Senator, I’ll work with you when you go back to the Senate, I promise you. We’ll work with you to reform the immigration system,” Pence told Kaine, an implicit dig at him since the only way he goes back to the Senate is if he and Clinton lose in November.
Kaine was clunky in his reply again, playing into Pence’s game once more. “I look forward to working together in whatever capacities we serve in,” Kaine said.
Later, on cybersecurity, Pence landed the jab on Kaine again. “I look forward if I’m privileged to be in this role of working with you in the Senate to make sure that we resource that effort,” Pence said about the cybersecurity issue.
“We will work together in whatever roles we inhabit,” Kaine shot back.