We’re a sports-oriented society here in America, which means that instead of conducting a thoughtful discussion about the efficacy of the policy proposals raised in the Vice Presidential debate last night or the Presidential debate last Monday, people are looking for the answer to one simple question this morning: Who won? We believe that in order to answer this question, we must raise another: Who gives a shit? Early estimates are saying that somewhere between 36 and 50 million viewers tuned in last night, easily falling short of debate ratings in 2012 and 2008, and possibly representing a 16-year low. Just for the sake of context, 84 million people watched the Presidential debate, and if previous elections are any indication, around 130 million people will show up to vote in November.
For the small percentage of the population that did watch, many people were getting introduced for the first time to Senator Kaine and Governor Pence. Both are Boring White Guys who have led Boring White Guy lives, and the thought of researching either one of them causes an onset of drowsiness comparable with popping four Tylenol PMs and washing them down with half a bottle of Nyquil. But regardless of the fact that it almost certainly won’t affect the outcome of the election, we still have to point to one of the candidates and say they won. To this end, we arbitrarily assigned our senior political reporters to a candidate, and asked them to make an argument on behalf of their respective jars of wheat paste.
Tim Kaine Won
I was wary of Tim Kaine when I first saw him at the DNC because I thought he was wearing mascara. But Kaine showed up to the debates last night proving he was a bit more of a bull dog, one without long eyelashes. I thought Tim Kaine won last night’s Vice Presidential debates because he was on the attack. His defense was tight and quick, his bark and bite registered with equal force. Maybe he was taking cues from some of Hillary’s critics who found she was too soft on Trump at the debates last week. But Kaine was eager to pounce on Pence, especially when he believed Hillary’s campaign was misrepresented. There was one moment in particular when Pence claimed that Hillary had been the more insulting candidate after calling Trump’s followers ‘deplorable.’ Fortunately, Kaine had every demoralizing Trump rhetoric against minorities memorized like it was one of his favorite psalms. Although both candidates had to be warned that talking over one another was both unbearable an intelligible for the viewers at home, I’m happy that Kaine showed some spark in a rather passionless assemblage of average white guys having an argument.—Lily Waronker
Mike Pence Won
First and foremost, I’d like to say that I’m well aware of the deplorable and discriminatory policies that Mike Pence has been a proponent of as governor of Indiana. That fact makes his victory last night all the more upsetting. Pence was up on stage giving a master class in denial, deflection, and straight up deception last night, and if you’re too lazy to fact check him, he convincingly downplayed the xenophobia and overall insanity that have been the hallmarks of Trump’s campaign. The VPs most pressing role is to be prepared to step into the Oval Office and take over at a moment’s notice, and a discussion of why either Pence or Kaine would be an effective President was conspicuously missing from last night’s discussion. That actually benefits Pence more than it does Kaine. Pence has a sordid record compared to Kaine’s, and he’s far less experienced. All the focus on Trump did lose Pence some points, and reports are coming in that Trump is actually angry with Pence for outperforming him. Whatever tension on the campaign trail is created by his efforts to distance himself from Trump, Pence showed that he was cool under pressure and effective at purveying his rhetorical narrative. It wouldn’t be totally unthinkable that Pence is playing a longer strategy, hoping to parlay the name recognition he’s gained during this cycle into his own presidential bid someday.—Evan Wood