The one and only battle of the vice presidential candidates was like the less well funded, less well cast, less popular movie sequel to the presidential debate. The main protagonists were the folksy, polite soccer-dad-next-door VP candidates Virginian Democrat Tim Kaine and Indiana Republican Mike Pence. The expectations were low, the goals were simple and the modest audience prepared for a civil (aka: boring) policy-driven debate. Instead what they got was a proxy war in the form of a dodgeball game, and an energetic Kaine held all the balls.
Kaine challenged Pence repeatedly to defend or explain Donald Trump’s positions on many issues, keeping Pence on the defensive all night as he tried to duck and dodge what he couldn’t defend. To be fair, Pence had the more difficult task at the debate: to broaden Trump’s appeal to minorities, women and moderate Republicans, in a year when Trump controversies outnumber his policies. However Pence held up his end admirably, keeping calm in the face of Kaine’s increasingly aggressive interruptions and pivoting many times back to President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy failures. Kaine’s strategy was clearly to be the Clinton campaign’s attack dog, and he hit Trump’s ties to Russia, his birther accusations, his business record, his offensive remarks about immigrants and women, and his taxes, all while successfully pushing Clinton’s agenda.
Throughout the night Kaine and Pence represented their parties’ mainstream views and avoided the dirty politics and personal attacks that their presidential candidates persistently engage in. This debate will fast become a distant memory, especially once the next presidential debate occurs. But the debate also revealed the alternate realities that Democrats and Republicans live in, which makes it difficult to see how the next president would be able to heal the divide between such a deeply split America. And unfortunately there’s just no dodging around that issue.
Feel like dodgeball is just a stupid kid’s game? Movie for your mature mood: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story