From Farmville, Virginia –
Even as Republicans argued that Gov. Mike Pence was the winner of Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate, aides to Donald Trump weren’t making any sweeping argument that Pence’s face off with Tim Kaine had changed the dynamics of the overall race for President between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
But they were in a better frame of mind than after the first Trump-Clinton debate last week at Hofstra University in New York.
“I think this was a fantastic night for the Trump-Pence ticket,” said Jason Miller, a top Trump aide, who wouldn’t take the bait from reporters who wanted to know if this was a game-changing debate night.
“What tonight shows is that Mr. Trump has fantastic judgment in that he picked such a successful, highly qualified number two,” Miller said just outside the debate Spin Room at Longwood University.
Trump’s campaign team seized on the game plan of Tim Kaine, who repeatedly went after Pence, interrupting the Indiana Governor a number of times to launch various jabs at Trump.
“With all the attacks he was subjected to, he handled it with great dignity,” said former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, who needled Kaine over his aggressive tactics in the debate.
“Tim Kaine on the other hand does not have case,” Gilmore said. “And as a result, he had to shout down his opponent,” as Trump’s campaign manager labeled Kaine “unhinged.”
In the Spin Room, the Clinton campaign defended Kaine, though the tone of many questions from reporters was basically – what was up with all the interruptions by Kaine?
“I don’t like the phrase ‘attack dog’ – but your job is to stand up for your running mate,” said the Clinton campaign’s Karen Finney, who didn’t give any hint of disappointment with Kaine’s efforts to go after Trump.
“I think he did that very effectively,” Finney said.
“It’s all about the top of the Republican ticket,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, who told reporters: “It’s all about Donald Trump.”
“Mike Pence could have given the performance of his life tonight, and it wouldn’t have made a dime’s worth of difference to convince the American public that Donald Trump is temperamentally fit to be President,” Fallon said in the Spin Room.
Team Clinton also went to great lengths after the debate to argue that Pence conveniently side-stepped a number of Trump positions.
“You heard again and again that Mike Pence didn’t answer the questions,” said Clinton campaign chief Robbie Mook.
But across the Spin Room, the GOP zeroed in repeatedly on Kaine, who seemed to constantly interrupt Pence during the debate.
“He immediately lost his cool,” said long time Pence aide Nick Ayers of Kaine.
“He immediately seemed off his game and felt the need to immediately begin interrupting and try to take over the debate,” Ayers added, declaring that it didn’t work.
Team Clinton had a different view about Kaine’s night.
“I think he got under his skin,” Finney said of Kaine’s effort to get Pence off message.
The next Trump-Clinton debate is Sunday night in St. Louis.