The two major party candidates for vice president faced off in a debate Tuesday that one political scientist said won’t make a difference in the race.
Dr. Hal Bass, Ouachita Baptist University professor emeritus, said vice presidential debates historically haven’t moved the needle.
“I think it matters for junkies,” he said. “I think it gives folks something to talk about, but as far as being a game-changer in any way, shape or form, I don’t think so at all. But I don’t think one should, on the basis of history, expect a vice presidential debate to have that kind of effect. I think it’s doubtful that presidential debates have that much effect, and I sure don’t think vice presidential debates do.”
Bass said he thought both candidates, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, did well.
“I thought that both came prepared,” he said. “I thought that both clearly were in command of the subject matter they addressed. I thought it was a little sloppy in terms of the talking over each other back and forth.”
An Ohio focus group led by consultant Frank Luntz judged Pence the winner, 22-4. Throughout the debate, Luntz tweeted that Pence was winning the exchanges with his group.
Bass didn’t see it that way.
“I thought that Kaine took as his job to make sure that the audience knew what Trump was saying, and I thought that he was relentless in putting that forward,” he said. “And I didn’t think that Pence did a particularly good job of responding to the presentation of Trump’s remarks. I did think that (Pence) has a good, I guess, commanding style to him. … He was a little more commanding presence, I thought, than Kaine was. I give him a slight advantage on style points.”
The next debate is Sunday, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in a town hall style format.
Doyle Webb, Republican Party of Arkansas chairman, said he listened to the debate on radio while traveling.
“I thought that Gov. Pence did a very good job of explaining the Trump-Pence positions for this election and for America, and I didn’t think it was very appropriate that Sen. Kaine kept interrupting him,” he said. “I think when individuals are debating, they should be gentlemen in that debate.”
H.L. Moody, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said both candidates were prepared.
“I thought that Pence spent a lot of time talking about what Donald Trump had said and defending Donald Trump and his outrageous comments, and less time talking about substantive issues, but I thought that they did a very good job of presenting both sides, and obviously I’m biased, but I obviously think that Sen. Kaine did a great job, represented our side very well.”
The debate was spirited, with both candidates interrupting each other frequently. Kaine repeatedly tried to get Pence to defend Trump’s comments. After Kaine listed some of Trump’s insults during the campaign, Pence reminded voters that Clinton had said that half of Trump supporters were part of a “basket of deplorables.” A question about what the candidates would do about the national debt elicited responses from both candidates that had little to do with the question. Responding to a question about preventing North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons, Pence briefly focused on the importance of rebuilding the military and then pivoted to a criticism of the Clinton Foundation while Kaine defended the Foundation and criticized Trump’s.
On improving race relations, both supported community policing but disagreed on the practice of “stop and frisk,” which Trump has said he supports and Clinton opposes. Pence accused the Clinton-Kaine ticket of assuming the worst of law enforcement after incidents involving African-Americans. They agreed on the need to establish safe zones in Syria.
Asked about a time when they struggled to balance faith and policy positions, Kaine said he personally opposes the death penalty but as governor of Virginia carried out executions because he had taken an oath. Pence did not list any person conflicts but did describe his opposition to abortion, criticizing Clinton and Kaine for their pro-choice positions.