The first and only scheduled vice presidential debate had the feel of what the contest really amounted to: an undercard for the main event.
Democratic vice presidential nominee and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and his Republican opponent, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, faced off Tuesday at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, just over a week after most observers said Hillary Clinton outclassed Donald Trump in the first of three presidential debates.
During Tuesday’s debate, Pence repeatedly dodged questions about Trump.
After the moderator asked a pointed question about portions of Trump’s 1995 tax returns that were published Sunday by the New York Times that revealed Trump had a whopping $916 million net operating loss that year, Pence instead spoke about the Democratic ticket’s tax plan and said “the answer to this economy is not more taxes.”
After being pushed, Pence finally said, “Donald Trump is a businessman, not a career politician. The only thing the tax return showed is that Trump faced some pretty tough times in the 1990s and he used the tax code as they are meant to be used.”
Kaine asked Pence how he knew that Trump used the tax code as it’s meant, but received no response from the Republican.
As the debate heated up, Kaine said Trump is against raising the federal minimum wage, but the Wall Street Journal noted that the Republican candidate has shifted his position on that topic during the campaign.
In July, Trump said, “I would like to raise it to at least $10.” The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but many states have higher rates.
However, in a debate during the primary season, Trump said he opposed raising the federal minimum, saying wages were “too high,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Clinton has backed a national level of $12 an hour, but was pushed by her primary opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders to support a $15 hourly wage.
The Democratic Party’s official platform calls for a $15 federal minimum wage indexed to inflation.
Also, Kaine said it’s important to adopt community policing that creates bonds between police and local neighborhoods.
Pence said criminal justice reform is needed nationally. However, earlier this year, he signed a mandatory minimum law for dealing methamphetamine or heroin if that person had a prior conviction for dealing cocaine, meth or heroin.
During his tenure as governor, Pence signed one of the most extensive criminal record expungement laws in the country, according to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
Collateral consequences are those legal sanctions and penalties that are often attached to a conviction and in many cases just an arrest that are not part of the sentence but can create barriers to housing, college admission or jobs.
The American Bar Association estimates there are 46,700 regulations, rules, laws and prohibitions at the state level that can affect ex-offenders’ lives once they have completed their sentence.
The Indiana law, passed in 2013, gave residents who had criminal convictions the opportunity to virtually wipe their records clean if they did not commit new crimes within a certain time frame that varied depending on the original offense.
In signing the law, Pence said in a statement: “Indiana should be the worst place in America to commit a serious crime and the best place, once you’ve done your time, to get a second chance.”
Kaine noted Trump’s weaknesses or simple ignorance on several items, including “shooting himself in the foot” with his Twitter fight with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
He also said Trump was “enamored of dictators and nuclear weapons.”
The New York Times reported that the vice presidential debate arrived at a critical point in the presidential race with Trump reeling from a disastrous week and a new poll showing Clinton extending her lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania.
Clinton told reporters that Pence “has a huge burden defending both his own record and the record of Donald Trump.”
The former first lady said she was “very confident” in Kaine.
“He’s ready to take the fight to the Trump-Pence ticket,” she said. “I think America is going to be very impressed.”
Trump sent “best wishes” to Pence and said the debate will be a “contrast between our campaign of big ideas and bold solutions for tomorrow versus the small and petty Clinton campaign that is totally stuck in the past.”
Prior to Pence and Kaine even taking the stage, the Republican National Committee jumped the gun in their analysis of the debate.
Hours before the candidates took the stage, the committee published a blog post declaring Mr. Pence of the victor of the showdown with Mr. Kaine.
“The consensus was clear after the dust settled, Mike Pence was the clear winner of the debate,” the RNC wrote, praising his top moments as being Pence’s discussion of the economy and Clinton’s scandals.
The ill-timed and very premature post was quickly deleted after the party’s presumptuousness was noted on social media, the Times reported.
Clinton, the Democrat and former secretary of state, and Trump, the New York businessman, will square off again Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis.
The third and final debate before the Nov. 8 election is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
A Monmouth University survey of Pennsylvania, an important swing state, released Tuesday found 50 percent of likely voters supporting Clinton and 40 percent backing Trump.
In August, Clinton held an eight-point lead in the state, but an avalanche of political advertising on behalf of her campaign has started to have an effect.
The poll attributed Clinton’s growing lead to a shift in support from white women, who now back her over Trump, 55 percent to 35 percent. Previously, the two candidates were deadlocked with that group.