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Presidential Horse Race 2016: To win his next debate, Donald Trump needs to Be Like Mike

With most pundits in agreement that Mike Pence got the better of the whiney complaining Tim Kaine on Tuesday night, talk turns to what benefits the Republican ticket might derive from the thorough whitewashing of the Democrats in the nationally televised second presidential forum of 2016.

The consensus (including myself) seems to be of the opinion that in his next debate (Sunday night in St. Be Like MikeLouis), Donald Trump simply needs to be more like Mike.

After noting that vice presidential debates rarely make a difference in the overall race,  W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner wrote, “This race maybe be different because it is closer, has been more volatile and Pence might reach some Republicans not totally sold on Trump. But Pence has set an example for how Trump can win his next debate…

“When Clinton brings up Trump's tax returns, Trump must pivot to Clinton's emails. When Clinton assails Trump's business record, Trump must say that both candidates have benefited from the ‘rigged’ system but only he is running to change it. The less time that is spent on Alicia Machado or birtherism, the better. Let Clinton be the only one to talk about it.”

Antle’s is sound advice and I believe Trump has gotten the message that he must do better than the last debate. Trump didn’t “lose” the debate itself as much as he butchered the days after it in focusing almost entirely on what the Democrats were saying about him.

On Tuesday night Tim Kaine was trying to get the same kick-Trump/get them defensive pattern started. Fortunately, Pence wouldn’t let him.

I would have thought going into the debate one of the strategies for Tim Kaine would have been to present himself as a more honest and likable version of the candidate at the top of the Democrat ticket. Seeing as this was Kaine’s first introduction to millions of Americans, many, many of whom are trying desperately to find a reason to give the Democrats another four years, the Virginia senator’s goal should have been to try and offer them one.

Instead, Kaine came across as a grotesquely grimacing and rude jerk who couldn’t go three seconds without interjecting some sort of focus group inspired talking point about Donald Trump.

Note to Kaine: the people who already dislike Trump weren’t going to be goaded into greater hatred by a weasel-like second in command to Hillary Clinton. She’s got her own enormous relatability problems; you were supposed to help alleviate people’s fears, not add to them, Tim.

The American people want to see in a vice presidential candidate a person who can contribute to the discussion, not try and dominate it by constantly talking over someone. Can you imagine a cabinet meeting with Tim Kaine now?

On the other side, Pence’s downhome Hoosier State personality was one of the biggest winners on Tuesday night.

Let’s not forget the last major party vice presidential nominee from Indiana was Dan Quayle. Quayle was a fine man with good conservative credentials that the media absolutely skewered because his Midwestern shtick didn’t match what the east coast media and ruling elites considered an acceptable degree of sophistication.

In contrast to Quayle, Pence not only presented himself as “Midwestern nice,” he also demonstrated an excellent command of the issues. I’m not sure many in the viewing audience understood what the Hillary spearheaded “Russian reset” really meant, but it showed that Pence had done his homework and possesses an excellent command of foreign policy.

Kaine merely regurgitated the same old tired talking points time and again, even insisting that the notorious Iran deal (which was mostly done under John Kerry anyway) ended the American enemy’s nuclear weapons agenda.

It didn’t. The deal merely delayed the program while releasing assets to Iran so they can pay for their nukes when the time comes. Real smart.

Pence’s performance was so well received that even some of Trump’s Republican enemies begrudgingly admitted he was superior.

Gabby Morrongiello of the Washington Examiner reports, “Those watching who have long opposed Trump said Pence showed a command of the issues and, in many cases, explained his running mate's positions better than Trump himself.

“Conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who plotted to deny Trump the nomination at the GOP convention in July, admitted that he had been wrong about Pence when he said the Indiana governor disqualified himself from potentially running for president in 2020 by joining Trump on the Republican ticket.”

As has been well documented in this space, Erickson’s been wrong on a lot of things since he flipped the #NeverTrump switch back at the beginning of March. It’s certainly a positive that Erick and others like him are now recognizing the quality that is Mike Pence, but there’s more to their journey to redemption than just one night’s token twitter compliments.

There’s still time for Erickson and the others to get back into the fold in the effort to not only defeat Crooked Hillary, but also restore conservatives to power. The Trump administration as a whole will be one conservatives can be proud of.

Mike Pence is a shining example of the type of person that will be manning the machinery of the Trump administration and all but destroys any last credibility #NeverTrump would possess. A President of the United States is the chief executive and commander in chief, but he’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the people that make up the executive branch.

It’s true the president is the public face of the administration but most of what the executive branch does is proffered through surrogates. It’s clear to me that Mike Pence will have a major role in the Trump administration in formulating policy. I believe this because Trump does not appear to enjoy the minutiae of policy particulars. Trump the “TV star” likes rallies and setting the broad outlines of policy.

Trump knows what he wants to accomplish but leaves the details to his staff. It’s a well-known fact, for example, that Senator Jeff Sessions played a major role in putting together Trump’s immigration plan.

We can expect more of the same starting next January if Trump is elected president.

Every president must rely heavily on others since it is simply not possible to know everything about everything all of the time. Is that concept so difficult to understand?

Mike Pence made a convincing case for Trump on Tuesday night. Now all the nominee has to do is follow suit.

To destroy the Clinton Death Star, Trump should work with Pence on debate prep

After the first Trump vs. Clinton presidential debate last week many conservatives gave Donald Trump credit for “winning” the first half hour of the program when he successfully talked about jobs and trade but then were somewhat concerned when the balance of the time was filled with his odd personal explanations on matters that Crooked Hillary brought up, such as his tax returns and the stupid and irrelevant “birther” controversy.

It was plain for all to see that these things do not matter in the greater context of an issues-driven election, yet Trump couldn’t stay on message – and it has hurt him in the polls.

Now that Mike Pence turned in a roundly praised debate presentation on Tuesday night, however, Republicans are urging Trump to adopt more of a Pence-ian strategy.

Ben Schreckinger of Politico reports, “Mike Pence’s cool-headed performance on Tuesday night’s debate stage has Republicans wistful that the Indiana governor is not their nominee and hopeful that Pence’s prowess will rub off on Donald Trump before Sunday’s crucial rematch with Hillary Clinton…

“Whether Trump likes it or not, Republicans on Wednesday morning were imploring him to take a page from Pence’s book in the second and third presidential debates, which could help reverse the backslide that Trump has suffered since he delivered an erratic performance last Monday.”

It’s only natural for conservatives to be a little “wistful” about the fact Pence isn’t leading this year’s ticket after the complete beat-down he delivered to whiney Tim Kaine the other night. Conservative leader Richard Viguerie even asked, “Is It Too Late To Replace Donald Trump With Mike Pence?”

Pence was, as Trump would say, “fantastic” on Tuesday night, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation. Donald Trump is the GOP nominee and he still has many good things going for him, not the least of which is a devoted populist following.

But there’s also little doubt Trump needs to get it right on Sunday night.

Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico reports, “[W]hat emerged from the vice presidential debate venue on Tuesday night was something close to a bipartisan consensus: Team Trump is still in need of a jolt…

“Republicans' sense of relief was palpable after Pence’s performance on Tuesday, but the nominee's window is rapidly closing: early voting has begun in a handful of battleground states, like Iowa and Wisconsin, and it’s on the brink of starting in others like North Carolina and Florida. Clinton’s field operation has revved up on the ground in such states — with the campaign estimating that more than 40 percent of this year’s electorate in key states will vote prior to Election Day — and her high-profile surrogates like Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders are fanned out across the country hammering home her message that Trump is unfit to serve as president.”

Ah yes, the Democrat slime machine is in full operation. It’s kind of like in the movie Star Wars when Darth Vader’s empire had finally armed the giant still-under-construction Death Star space station and was rapidly moving to within range of destroying the planet containing the last rebel alliance base.

We all know the rebels fought back and blew up the Death Star before it could destroy them…and perhaps the same will be true for Trump’s on-the-ground forces since they didn’t need much prodding to vote early during the Republican primaries.

If 40 percent of the electorate votes early I’m betting at least half will be for Trump. If you know otherwise, tell me that I’m wrong.

But the greater point is, Trump definitely needs to do better in Sunday night’s debate. Republicans know it, Mike Pence knows it and Trump knows it. One can only hope Trump will listen to others’ advice and let Pence give him some pointers. It can’t hurt, right?

Obamacare is the political hot potato in 2016 for both parties

One major topic that no one seems to want to talk about this year is the disaster that is Obamacare. Whenever she’s confronted with it, for example, Hillary brags about what a great success the health law has been yet barely mentions it on the stump. Donald Trump typically includes a reference to Obamacare in his rallies but provides no specifics on what to do about it other than he intends to repeal it.

I had Mike Pence mentioning Obamacare just twice (not a transcript by any means) on Tuesday night and both of those references came in the first fifteen minutes of the program. I’m not sure Kaine even brought it up at all – he was too busy interrupting Pence and bashing Trump.

In other words, if you hosted a drinking game based on the 2016 campaign with “Obamacare” as the key word, everyone would still be able to drive home at the end of the night.

Why all the hot potato behavior towards Obamacare?

Newt Gingrich thinks the Democrats know the law is so flawed that someone’s even trying to sabotage it. Writing at Real Clear Politics, Gingrich speculated, “Whether intentional or not, the conclusion is inescapable: President Obama’s Department of Health & Human Services has pushed the individual market into a death spiral.  Insurers are fleeing the marketplace and premiums are expected to spike dramatically (the average proposed increase for 2017 is 24 percent).

“So as Hillary Clinton and other Democrats propose more big government health-care as solutions to the crisis that big government health-care created, ask yourself if this was their intent all along.”

It’s an interesting theory…namely that the Democrats made the law so bad so as the only way to “fix” it would require bigger and bigger waves of government.

For what it’s worth, even Big Bubba Bill Clinton can’t get his story straight on whether Obamacare is “the craziest thing in the world” or if it just needs repair.

Lisa Hagen of The Hill reports, “One day after his criticism of ObamaCare made headlines, Bill Clinton on Wednesday said he strongly supported President Obama’s signature healthcare law while acknowledging that problems still remain.

“During a speech in Youngstown, Ohio, the former president sought to reverse his harsh critique of ObamaCare by touting that the law has provided 20 million Americans with health insurance. He also praised the law for helping individuals with pre-existing conditions to get coverage.”

Everyone knows Bill Clinton can skillfully lie his way out of practically any situation, so to have him confused over the political value of Obamacare says something right there.

I think the bottom line is Democrats are hesitant to talk about Obamacare because they know how unpopular it is and avoid it like the plague. And Republicans aren’t in a hurry to bring it up either because one, they’ve repeatedly failed to do anything about repealing it or stopping it when they’ve had the chance and two, in the case of Trump, he just doesn’t know what he’s going to do about it other than sign a repeal.

To Trump, this is one of those “I’m a successful businessman -- elect me and I’ll fix it after we figure out how” type scenarios. Fair enough. Without knowing what’s going where in terms of federal law and expenditures it’s irresponsible to promise too much other than Obamacare will be trashed and everyone will start over.

Americans should hope that whatever comes after is based on individual choice and market freedom. The government corrupts practically everything it touches and Obamacare is a shining example of a bureaucratic nightmare – and it’s also unconstitutional, no matter what John Roberts says.

Trump should bring Obamacare up often in the final weeks of the campaign… and force the Democrats to explain it away.

Ratings are in for the VP debate and they’re down from past years

Finally today, many experts predicted the viewership for Tuesday’s vice presidential debate would be significantly lower than it was for the first presidential forum – and they were right.

Joe Concha of The Hill reports, “Thirty-six million people watched Tuesday night’s fiery vice presidential debate, the lowest number since the 2000 VP contest, according to preliminary numbers from Nielsen Research.

“Final numbers that include all cable networks covering the event will push the number higher, likely into the 38 million to 40 million range.

“Either way, the audience would be the smallest for a vice presidential debate since 29.1 million watched Republican Dick Cheney take on Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2000.”

Just over 51 million watched the 2012 match between “Uncle Joe” Biden and Paul Ryan, though the media did a much better job of promoting the “fight night” potential of that one. The same was true for Sarah Palin vs. Biden in 2008, which took in almost 70 million interested onlookers.

For those of us who saw Tuesday night’s debate, it was much better than the 2012 version. If you didn’t see it, you missed out. (Here’s a link to the full debate.)

It should be noted that Trump vs. Clinton Part I drew a record audience of 84 million. Therefore, there is interest out there -- just most of it is concentrated on the headlining act.

I would expect Sunday’s audience to be fairly large as well. If for nothing else, people will be tuning in to see if Trump can stay on message. We only have a few more days to find out the answer.

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