Last night we witnessed a strange event. A Vice Presidential debate that actually mattered. To be sure, the debate itself wasn’t all that important but what Mr. Pence accomplished, what he conveyed and most importantly the example he set was.
Mr. Pence looked solid and presidential. Mr. Kaine looked like he was channeling a poor man’s demented Jack Nicholson. Mr. Pence was composed and thoughtful contrasted by Kaine’s almost scripted interruptions and nervous mannerisms. It felt like we were seeing a dress rehearsal for 2020 or perhaps more likely 2024.
While Pence was busy looking presidential, Mr. Trump was tweeting insults (I’m still trying to adjust to the idea of a potential President “tweeting” anything). Trump could learn a lot from his running mate.
I saw three major themes in the manner in which Pence conducted himself:
- Pence kept his cool and his composure. He appeared calm for almost the entire debate and when he did show his exasperation it was at the appropriate points – he got annoyed when we expected him to and kept calm through some moments when we weren’t sure he could.
- Pence did not allow himself to get dragged into details that his opponent wanted to drag him into. He repeatedly refused to bite at the bait so stridently put forth by Kaine regarding Donald’s comments, Donald’s business, Donald’s taxes, etc. Pence stuck to the big picture.
- Pence kept a consistent yet almost gentle theme throughout the debate – that Clinton represented the “old guard”, that she held at least some responsibility for the last eight years. Part of me yearned for him to be even more fervent in his reminders of Hillary’s wrongdoings but his restrained approach may have resonated much better with those voters who really matter – the mythical undecided.
Now mentally transfer this approach onto Trump and imagine what it could look like.
To me it looked like the first 15 minutes of the first presidential debate. Then, of course, the wheels came off. Trump lost some of his composure, he tried to answer questions that should have been ignored (in an almost confusing and convoluted manner) and he completely lost sight of his primary themes. He lost the message. And the audience.
Trump showed us he could look presidential for 15 minutes. Pence showed us he could be presidential for an entire debate.
Trump doesn’t need to prepare with an entire army of advisers. He just needs to sit down with Mike Pence.
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