WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Mike Pence achieved on the debate stage what arguably President Donald Trump did not in a similar showdown last week: He offered a cogent and restrained case for why traditional Republicans and some swing voters should return the Trump-Pence ticket to the White House for four more years.
For Wednesday night’s vice presidential square-off, Pence was charged with trying to steady the ship after a tumultuous week in which the president was hospitalized with the coronavirus and opinion polls showed the Republican Trump’s re-election bid against Democrat Joe Biden slipping away.
But even if Pence had a strong night against Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, the reality is that Pence is not Trump, the candidate who dominates TV screens and media coverage so completely that everyone in his orbit becomes lost in shadow.
And there was nothing to suggest the vice president’s debate performance in Salt Lake City will help Trump with his biggest problem in the Nov. 3 election: women.
The televised clash felt weightier than in years past, with the 74-year-old Trump being treated for COVID-19. Biden, 77, has also faced questions about his fitness for office should he win in November.
That made Pence and Harris more than campaign stand-ins. They were dueling backup quarterbacks, ready to take the field at any time if needed.
In the course of the 90-minute event, Pence reeled off a list of Trump campaign priorities such as low taxes, a powerful military, a conservative judiciary and an aggressive posture toward China – often refusing to directly answer questions in favor of his prepared remarks.
It was a notable difference from the erratic and caustic performance Trump himself turned in at a debate against Biden last week, one that sent polls spiking further in Biden’s direction. The most recent