In the moments following Tuesday’s lone 2016 vice presidential debate, ABC and NBC did their best to offer an overarching spin that while Democratic Senator Tim Kaine (Va.) constantly and in many cases rudely interrupted Republican Governor Mike Pence (Ind.) and moderator Elaine Quijano, the debate won’t matter much to final result and Kaine actually won despite his lack of decorum.
ABC News chief anchor and former Clinton administration official George Stephanopoulos used an analogy of Kaine being a loyal soldier jumping on a grenade to save Hillary Clinton to describe his interruption streak: “Yeah, it seemed as — let me bring that back to you, Matthew Dowd, it seems like in some ways Tim Kaine was willing to sacrifice himself to do the job for the ticket.”
Meanwhile, former Bush administration official and ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd did his best to not come across as a former Bush pollster in touting Kaine as having done better on arguments, discipline, and substance:
[Kaine’s] going to be willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he brings her, helps bring her over the finish line and he sacrificed a bit, as you’re right, on style on that. I thought substantively, Tim Kaine's argument and discipline in this was much better than Mike Pence. Mike Pence's style, won on style, but Tim Kaine's substantive arguments, of course, all along the way, making it and prosecuting a case against Donald Trump, which Mike Pence did not want to respond to.
<<< Please consider helping NewsBusters financially with your tax-deductible contribution today >>>
Moments later, Dowd ruled that the debate was “a draw” simply due to Hillary Clinton having won the first debate and all of Trump’s subsequent controversies, but he was immediately rebuffed by chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl.
“You know, Pence came in here, I think this was very reassuring to a lot of conservative Republicans who are deeply uneasy about Donald Trump. They saw Mike Pence come out and in a way not getting distracted, not taking the bait, able to go out there and articulate conservative positions...in a way that is more the language they understand. And I think that Kaine coming in and being so aggressive and all those interruptions will be something that will work against him,” Karl explained.
Over on NBC, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie admitted that “Kaine is probably going to get dinged for interrupting and seeming overeager at points during the debate” but “did land quite a few punches against Pence, but I think the question will be whether or not with all of that overtalk, and all that confusion people really heard those zingers.”
Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd agreed with Guthrie’s sentiment in diagnosing Hillary Clinton’s running mate as having an “off-putting” “style...to some, but he was relentless and he was hitting Trump left and right, probably used Trump's name a heck of a lot more than pence ever said with Clinton, and Mike Pence defended as much as he could and then at times just sort of walked away.”
In contrast to the spin from ABC and NBC, CBS took a more even-keeled tone looking at things more broadly and moving onto previewing Sunday’s second presidential debate. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley used the first seconds after the debate to equate Kaine to a hot facet versus the “cold” and “more deliberate” Pence:
The vice presidential candidates in their own debate, an argument of insults more than ideas. Precious few of the 90 minutes were spent on plans for America's future. The split screen seemed like a kitchen faucet — hot on the left, cold on the right. Senator Kaine of Virginia interrupting often. Governor Pence of Indiana, the more deliberate of the two, but we didn't learn much about either man or how either views the duties of vice president. Each acting primarily as an avatar for their running mate.
Moments later, Face the Nation host John Dickerson also lamented the “bickerfest tonight” but praised Pence for not “tak[ing] the bait” from his Democratic counterpart the way that Trump did on September 26 with Clinton.
“Tim Kaine from the word “go” was interrupting and kept interrupting all night. He seemed insistent on getting across the bad news about Donald Trump...He was, unlike Donald Trump in the last debate, Mike Pence was well prepared and he didn't take the bait. In many instances, he just let Tim Kaine keep interrupting,” Dickerson opined.