How Mike Pence won the debate

Vice Presidential candidates Republican Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine went 90 minutes in the ring Tuesday night in Farmville, Virginia without either side scoring a knockout punch. But Pence won the debate by conveying the Trump ticket’s vision for the future.

He deftly avoided a slugfest over the petty issues that have dominated headlines –birtherism, Miss Universe, and the candidates’ tax returns. Though he was interrupted at least 39 times by Kaine, Pence managed to maintain a statesmanlike composure and stick to the messages he wanted to deliver.

Viewers were the ultimate winners. They heard far more about the Trump ticket’s plan for jumpstarting the economy and securing the nation against foreign threats than during the first presidential debate. Kaine, unfortunately, offered little to convince the audience that a Clinton-Kaine administration would keep the nation safer or produce more jobs.

Hillary Clinton and the Virginia senator are running to give the nation a third term of Obamanomics. It’s no surprise that Kaine had to stretch the truth to defend Obama’s economic record, claiming that the current president has created 15 million new jobs. Not a chance. That claim, uttered often by Clinton and Kaine on the campaign trail, has already been shamed with Three Pinocchios from the Washington Post.

Mike Pence won the debate by conveying the Trump ticket’s vision for the future.

Pence looked directly into the cameras and reminded viewers that they personally have experienced the pain of Obama’s  stagnant economy. Pence promised that a Trump administration would produce 3.5 percent growth or better (compared with the current 1.2 percent) and enumerated four strategies to higher growth: tax cuts, deregulation, unfettered energy production, and better trade deals.  Pence reminded the Virginians in the debate hall that a Trump administration would put coal miners back to work.

Kaine laid out the Clinton plan for economic revival.  Nearly all of it “investments” by government in infrastructure, education, and child care.  In other words, more government spending paid for by higher taxes.

Kaine claimed that tax cuts are what caused the recession nine years ago. That’s a whopper  -- one that Clinton repeats almost daily on the campaign trail. But no economist would agree that tax cuts caused the economic crash at the end of the Bush administration.

Pence summed it up at the end of round one:  A Trump administration will lower your taxes. A Clinton administration will raise them.

On foreign policy, Kaine tried to gain the upper hand by claiming Hillary Clinton “worked a tough negotiation” to “eliminate the Iranian nuclear program.”  Huh?

The Iranian nuclear agreement was actually the work of Secretary of State John Kerry, her successor.  But more important, that agreement does not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.  The deal expires in 15 years, at which point Iran will be poised to complete its nuclear armament. Worse, Iran continues to threaten Israel with destruction, has launched cyber-attacks against the Unites States, taunts the U.S. Navy, takes our sailors for ransom, and sponsors terrorism worldwide. Now they have $150 billion provided by the U.S. government.

Pence also methodically deconstructed Kaine’s bogus claims that Secretary of State Clinton had gotten the better of Vladimir Putin.

All the while, Pence used fancy footwork to keep the debate from bogging down on the same old issues voters hear in the mainstream media day after day.

When Kaine questioned a fourth time whether Donald Trump was paying his fair share of taxes,  Pence reminded viewers in his quiet, common sense way that nobody pays more taxes than the law requires.

Like Clinton does on the stump, Kaine was intent on making racial bias an issue.  Debate moderator Elaine Quijano did not disguise her own viewpoint that cops are racially biased citing South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s claim that he is targeted often by cops because he is black. Quijano pressed Pence, coming back to the issue twice.  But Pence counterpunched, defending the sacrifice and commitment of most law enforcement officers.

Pence didn’t cite statistics, but they support his view. Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald’s research shows that police are not more likely to stop an African-American for speeding than a white driver speeding.  Data also show that African-Americans committing a crime are less likely to be shot by cops than whites committing the same crime.

Kaine and Pence disagreed sharply on many issues, but the most striking contrast was in their demeanors. Kaine the pitbull, interrupted, attacked, and parroted again and again the charges Clinton hurls at Trump on the campaign trail and in paid ads.

Pence, choose his shots carefully, declining to jab back at every insult, and keep the debate focused on the future.

That’s probably what most voters would want in a vice president.