Pence praised, but Kaine lands jabs on Trump

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Josh Le­d­er­man and Julie Pace

Repub­li­can Mike Pence won bi­par­ti­san plau­dits for a calm and col­lected per­for­mance in the vice pres­i­den­tial de­bate. But Demo­crat Tim Kaine was claim­ing mis­sion ac­com­plished for forc­ing his op­po­nent to con­front —or not — Don­ald Trump’s long list of provoca­tive re­marks.

Pressed by Kaine to de­fend his run­ning mate through­out the 90-minute de­bate Tues­day, Pence mostly dodged, sidestepped or let the mo­ment pass by. He vouched for the bil­lion­aire’s tax his­tory, but was less vo­cal when chal­lenged about Trump’s tem­per­a­ment or his in­flam­ma­tory words about women and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“I can’t imag­ine how Gov. Pence can de­fend the in­sult-driven, me-first style of Don­ald Trump,” said Kaine, the Vir­ginia sen­a­tor and Hil­lary Clin­ton’s No. 2.

Still, even Clin­ton’s team wasn’t claim­ing that Kaine had come out on top, de­spite the ch­est-puff­ing that usu­ally fol­lows a po­lit­i­cal de­bate. Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta said only that Kaine had suc­ceeded in his “strate­gic mis­sion” to chal­lenge Pence to de­fend his con­tro­ver­sial run­ning mate.

“Gov, Pence was smooth, he seemed sort of lik­able, but he didn’t get the job done,” Podesta said Wed­nes­day on MSNBC.

Pence, cam­paign­ing in Vir­ginia, said Trump had called him late at night to con­grat­u­late him. He said “some peo­ple” thought he had won but that “from where I sat, Don­ald Trump won the de­bate.”

Both sides ap­peared will­ing to con­cede that the only de­bate be­tween the vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates was un­likely to al­ter the tra­jec­tory of the race. Af­ter all, this year’s rol­lick­ing pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has been all about the pas­sion­ate emo­tions — pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive — that both can­di­dates of the top of the ticket stir up for many Amer­i­can vot­ers.

Yet for Repub­li­cans wor­ried their vot­ers won’t show up at the polls, Pence’s steady per­for­mance could help as­suage con­cerns that this year’s Repub­li­can ticket has veered away from the party’s core be­liefs. Pence, a for­mer con­gress­man and In­di­ana’s gov­er­nor, is widely trusted by the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment and the party’s so­cially con­ser­va­tive base.

Like Pence, Kaine also found him­self in the role of de­fender. He re­but­ted Pence’s at­tacks on Clin­ton’s fam­ily foun­da­tion, her emails and her strug­gles per­suad­ing vot­ers that she’s trust­wor­thy. Kaine said he and his wife trust Clin­ton “with the most im­por­tant thing in our life” — their son, a Marine who would serve un­der Clin­ton if she wins.

Yet for the most part, Kaine was de­ter­mined to make the show­down a ref­er­en­dum on Trump’s char­ac­ter. Typ­i­cally re­laxed and easy­go­ing, Kaine adopted a pugilis­tic ap­proach as he slammed Trump for hav­ing called women pigs and slobs, and con­demned his praise of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

Pence fre­quently avoided tak­ing the bait — a shrewd move for a con­ser­va­tive dar­ling who could have eyes on the Oval Of­fice him­self if Trump loses in Novem­ber. In­stead, he sought to defuse the line of at­tack by ar­gu­ing pre­emp­tively that it was the Democrats — not Trump — wag­ing an in­sult-filled cam­paign.

He didn’t dis­pute re­ports that the busi­ness­man might not have paid any fed­eral taxes for years as a re­sult of suf­fer­ing more than $900 mil­lion in losses in 1995. But he likened Trump’s sit­u­a­tion to those of other Amer­i­cans who have gone “through a very dif­fi­cult time.”


Vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees Tim Kaine, left, and Mike Pence shake hands on the de­bate stage.

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