Three Points about the Vice-Presidential Debate

1. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Mike Pence is not a stupid man. Whatever happens in November, he helped his political career tonight.

2. Tim Kaine won the night on debater's points. This is partly because of his professional formation (for better and for worse, he sounded like an experienced litigator), and partly because he had the better points to make.

3. Pence did not try to defend Trump's execrable utterances about women, minorities, and foreigners. Presumably, he knows those utterances are indefensible. Instead, he deftly changed the subject to points of ideological contrast between Republicans and Democrats. The way he spoke tonight, you would have thought someone like Jeb Bush was at the top of the GOP ticket. Pence's artful dodges, bemused facial expressions, and conventional right-wing rhetoric all had the effect of normalizing Trump, whose only fault, according to Pence, is that he isn't as "polished" a politician as Kaine or Clinton.

Matthew Boudway is senior editor of Commonweal.

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