According to most polls and pundits, Mike Pence “won” the debate last night against Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine. He was the more calm and collected debater, while Tim Kaine was the more aggressive one, which is to say, Tim Kaine — in being on the attack against Donald Trump all night — took one for the team and gave up a few likability points to get across his message. Mike Pence, on the other hand, may have “won,” but he had to throw his team under the bus in order to do so. He won by ignoring and denying his running mate’s actions and comments, and by lying. So much lying. But, he was calm and collected while lying.
"Mike Pence just lied for 90 minutes straight but he was SO CALM ABOUT IT." -all media #VPDebate— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) October 5, 2016
And while Pence did win the debate, he didn’t win where it matters: In convincing voters to cast their votes for Donald Trump.
CNN POLL: Who better defended their running mate:— Josh Dorner (@JoshDorner) October 5, 2016
By being a better debater than his running mate, and by failing to defend Trump, Mike Pence didn’t exactly win the favor of Donald Trump, either.
Trump adviser on debate after Pence passed up opportunities to defend him: "Pence won overall, but lost with Trump"— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 5, 2016
more from adviser on Trump reaction to strong Pence debate following poor Trump showing last week: "he can't stand to be upstaged"— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 5, 2016
It's surprisingly entertaining watching Trump surrogates defend Pence for not defending Trump. #VPDebate— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) October 5, 2016
There were, in fact, a lot of headlines coming out of the debate suggesting that Donald Trump could learn a thing or two from Mike Pence. I’m sure that Trump was thrilled by that. Note to Hillary: On Sunday night, your first line should be, “How’s it feel to be outdebated by your running mate, Donald?”
In fact, though Pence won the debate for himself, he ended up making his running mate look worse not only by comparison, but by completely sidestepping Trump. Pence, instead, created a fictional running mate who never said all those things he said. The narrative this morning, in fact, will be that Trump said all those things that Pence said he didn’t say (several posts have already collected a list of statements Donald Trump made that Mike Pence denied he made).
I am getting a kick out of Mike Pence constantly saying Trump didn't say things that he's literally said like five times. #VPDebate— Fortune Feimster (@fortunefunny) October 5, 2016
Mike Pence is gonna be pretty upset when he learns that Trump indeed said all the things he's claiming he didn't. #VPDebate— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) October 5, 2016
Every time Kaine says something true about Trump, Pence denies it. I can read lips: Pence keeps mumbling “Lord Jesus forgive me!” #VPDebate— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) October 5, 2016
Kaine hammering Mike Pence on his inability to defend Trump. Pence simply denies Trump said the things we've all heard him say #VPDebate— Richard Hine (@richardhine) October 5, 2016
A lot of the commentariat also suggested that Pence treated Trump the way the entire GOP will after the election: As though he didn’t exist. In other words, Pence was not trying to win this election for Trump, but the 2020 election for himself.
KAINE, MOUTH OPEN: "Gov. Pence, why won't you defend Trump?"— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) October 5, 2016
PENCE, SMILING AT THE AUDIENCE: "Donald Trump isn't real. You made him up."
#vpdebate Kaine was a running mate tonight. Pence was just running.— Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) October 5, 2016
This morning, however, none of the talk on Twitter is who “won” the debate. What’s trending right now is #thatMexicanthing, referring to a statement Mike Pence made whenever Tim Kaine brought up the fact that Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists.
Folks making big deal out of Pence saying "that Mexican thing" at #VPDebate but to be clear, all he meant was that he and Trump are racists.— Frank Conniff (@FrankConniff) October 5, 2016
Millions of Latino voters, showing up at the polls to reject blatant hate #ThatMexicanThing— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 5, 2016
In the end, I think that what Mike Pence did more than anything was to make Republicans wish they’d elected a better nominee. Mike Pence may have fared well in the debate (if you ignore his lies, and his bigoted positions), but Donald Trump did not. Ultimately, this is not about who won the debate, but who will win the election, and Mike Pence did his ticket no favors in that regard.