Tim Kaine just did something remarkable: He made Dan Quayle look good by comparison.
The Democratic vice-presidential nominee turned in the worst major debate performance since Lloyd Bentsen quashed Quayle like a bug in 1988 when the 41 year-old Indiana Republican made the mistake of trying to liken himself to John F. Kennedy when it came to Senatorial experience.
Tim Kaine was no Lloyd Bentsen. This time the Republican guy from Indiana—Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s running mate—crushed the Democrat. Pence never delivered a knockout blow, he just jabbed and parred and ducked and weaved. Kaine kept trying to deliver roundhouses, but almost every time he swung and missed and fell on his posterior as he did it.
He seemed determined to bait Mike Pence, but his constant interruptions and preachy assertions that Pence couldn’t possibly defend his running mate succeeded only in making him look annoying and insubstantial.
Pence’s ju-jitsu was masterful. After Kaine said Trump was running an “insult-driven campaign,” Pence asserted Kaine’s accusation was itself a mark of an “insult-driven campaign” run by Hillary Clinton—and continued to use the line against Kaine throughout the campaign.
From the first minute, Pence found an almost perfect tone—calm, reasonable, fluent, and understated. He responded more in sorrow than in anger when Kaine kept doing whatever he could to interrupt and throw him off his talking points. Like Kaine, he came well-prepared but unlike Kaine, he wore his preparation lightly.