After watching Tuesday’s debate, we can only come to the conclusion that Donald Trump is making a big mistake by not giving his running mate a bigger share of the spotlight. In his performance, Indiana Governor Mike Pence was a clarifying spokesman for the Trump agenda in a way the Republican nominee himself struggles to be. And while Trump’s unique personality is not to be undervalued, Pence is the perfect antidote to those Americans immune to the billionaire’s charm.
In some ways, the VP debate was a mirror reflection of the one Hillary Clinton and Trump had a week prior. Whereas Hillary was reserved and rehearsed, Tim Kaine was overly excitable and goofy. Whereas Trump was erratic and ill prepared, Pence was sharp and clear. It was obvious that Kaine came to the debate as a programmed attack dog, and he made a fine Chihuahua. Pence, on the other hand, fiercely defended Trump without giving away all of his gravitas. That made all the difference.
Pence brought a combination of warmth and self-respect to the table, retaining his composure while his opponent ran through every cheap pre-packaged insult he could think of. One site estimated that Kaine interrupted Pence upwards of 70 times throughout the course of the debate. That Pence was able to resist backhanding that weaselly face for 90 minutes is a testament to the man’s restraint. If it had been Trump sitting across the table, we might be discussing the life and career of Tim Kaine in a mournful tone today.
Beyond proving to viewers that he would make a respectable president should tragedy befall his boss, Pence gave wary conservatives a message they could latch onto. Trump’s core base of supporters know that his agenda will set America back on track, but that message isn’t always getting to the mainstream in the clearest possible way. Some of that is the media’s fault, some of it is Trump’s. Regardless, Pence cut through the distractions and delivered Trump’s message in a way that everyone can understand.
If the waters look choppy for Trump over the next month, it might not be the worst idea to put Mike Pence in front of the cameras a little more often.