(Full disclosure – I did not watch the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate moderated by CBS correspondent Elaine Quijano. I tried watching for about five minutes and even I with my extensive political affinities could not muster up enough interest to devote any more of my time – settling instead for checking highlights afterwards.)
Just about a week ago, James Pindell wrote an article in the Boston Globe entitled “Are these the most irrelevant VP picks in modern history?” Pindell explained that while both candidates, Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, were both “politically logical” picks for the presidential camps, in many ways they were also the most bland and unimportant vice presidential nominees in modern times. Most Americans had never heard of either candidate before they were chosen (I know I hadn’t). The article detailed how Kaine and Pence had failed thus far to garner any tangible differences in poll numbers, even in Kaine’s home state of Virginia. It fittingly ended with a prediction for Tuesday’s debate: “While the first presidential debate between Trump and Clinton was the most watched in American history, Tuesday’s sole vice presidential debate could be the most ignored.”
He wasn’t wrong.
While it is important to point out that these ratings do not include online streaming which presumably accounted for many of the younger viewers, this does nothing to disprove Pindell’s point. People simply don’t have any reason to pay attention to Sen. Kaine and Gov. Pence because the candidates they back are attention-worthy enough to steal the entire spotlight. And after Tuesday’s debate, it is safe to assume not much about that changed. Still we can examine some takeaways media outlets had about the debate:
- “From the very beginning, Pence was the more comfortable of the two men on the debate stage… The Indiana governor was calm, cool and collected throughout — a stark contrast to the fast-talking (and seemingly nervous) Kaine.” – Chris Cilliza, Washington Post
- #ThatMexicanThing becomes a trending hashtag after Pence lets the catchphrase slip during a rebuttal to Kaine’s attack on Trump’s controversial immigrant comments (via this New York Times article)
- “While Tim Kaine did not have an especially strong debate performance – appearing more rigid and scripted compared to Pence – he did no harm and he reinforced several important campaign themes. Now, the rest is up to Hillary Clinton.” – Kyle Kopko, Newsweek
Safe to assume that most people have declared Gov. Pence the winner – after the debate of course, and not 30 minutes before as the GOP did. But the most important idea to note is that no matter who won this debate, it truly will not make any difference come November 8. This has been without a doubt one of the most hotly contested elections in history (and possibly the most hotly contested election in history), and it has completely divided the nation on everything from foreign policy to race relations and even campaign behavior. No matter who wins in November, it’s very unlikely that victory will have much of anything to do with who that candidate chose as a running mate – and more upsetting to consider, it’s also unlikely that the opposing side will quietly concede. The lines of policy and ideology have been drawn, and it is up to the electoral college to determine which half of the nation will go home victorious.
Post Script Note: My favorite quote regarding this debate is this one, also from Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post:
For most of the 95 minutes or so that the debate lasted, it was borderline unwatchable. There was so much cross talk and so little actual question-answering that it felt like watching two kids throw mashed potatoes at each other. (Actually, watching two kids throw mashed potatoes at each other would have been a heck of a lot more entertaining.)”