Tuesday evening vice presidential candidates Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence took the Longwood University stage in Farmville, Virginia, to partake in the election season’s only vice presidential debate preceding the Nov. 8 elections.
The debate follows the first presidential debate, which took place a week earlier and drew the largest debate viewership in American history.
Presidential candidates square off in first fall debate
This debate was not expected to break the 84 million viewer record that was set in last week’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
A poll by NBC News reported that a majority of likely voters do not know enough about either vice presidential candidate to have a positive or negative impression of the picks, affecting the amount of potential viewers.
Some likely voters believe the vice presidential debate is not as important as the presidential debate and not significant enough to influence voters’ decisions.
“So many people believe that neither vice candidate will have anything to say that will make an effect on their decisions,” Monica Anderson, freshman in biology, said. “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are such loud voices in this election; it’s a noisy time for America. I don’t think people are going to allow for the voices of vice candidates to cut through that.”
Both candidates defended criticisms about their running mates’ policies and their recent campaign activities.
Kaine described the political background of Clinton in contrast to Trump’s business background.
“She has been focused on serving others with a special focus on empowering families and kids,” Kaine said. “Donald Trump always puts himself first. He built his career off the backs of the little guy.”
Pence defended Trump’s tax avoidance, which was recently published by The New York Times, revealing that the Republican candidate may have used a loophole to avoid paying federal income taxes for 18 years.
“Like virtually every other business, including The New York Times, he used operating laws, a tax code that actually is designed to encourage opportune ownership — encourage entrepreneurship,” Pence said.
Debate moderator Elaine Quijano quoted politician Loyd Bentsen to commence the topic of leadership during the debate.
“The vice presidential debate was not about the qualifications for the vice presidency, but about how, if tragedy should occur, the vice president has to step in without any margin for error, without time for preparation, to take over the responsibility for the biggest job in the world,” Quijano said. “What about your qualities, your skills, and your temperament equip you to step into that role at a moment’s notice?”
Manhattan resident Scott Droge watched the debate on live television and said he believed both candidates displayed the temperament appropriate for the role.
“Aside from each party’s policies and arguments, which are still important, everyone should be paying attention to the simple fact that either of the VP candidates could instantly become our new president if something were to happen,” Droge said. “I feel like there is a misconception that VP nominees don’t matter, and this is not true. In a way they are just as important as our candidates for president and thankfully tonight both of them showed responsibility and understanding of the way the country works, but in very different ways.”
The debate took place during a tight stage of the presidential race. Clinton and Trump went into the first debate nearly tied in the national polls, although Clinton benefitted from a post-debate bounce after a majority of polls revealed that viewers considered her the winner.
The New York Times reported that based on national polling averages, Clinton leads Trump by a margin of 4 percentage points, compared to the 3 percentage point lead she held preceding the first debate.
Clinton and Trump immediately took to Twitter to offer their reactions to the evening’s debate.
Clinton tweeted a message that said, “Seems like Pence forgot a lot of the things Trump has been saying throughout his campaign!”
Around the same time, Trump took to his Twitter to react to the evening’s debate, tweeting, “Mike Pence won big. We should all be proud of Mike!”
In a Twitter poll conducted by the Collegian, Pence was the winner grabbing 56 percent of the 218 that voted as of publishing.
Hannah Lane, a freshman in open option, said she expected strong reactions to the debate from student supporters of both political parties.
“After watching the first debate, and then seeing the feedback online from other students, I am thinking there will be some strong fights back and forth tonight,” Lane said. “We’re a generation that is definitely more in-tap with what we believe in than the generations that came before us. When we find our beliefs, we stick to them, and I think that’s why the left and the right clash so much during this election cycle. I hope that a lot of people get something out of tonight’s debate that will lead to some compromise.”
The vice presidential debate will be followed by the second presidential debate on Sunday and the third presidential debate on Oct. 19.