What was present in Tuesday's vice presidential debate that went missing from the first presidential debate in late September? Civil political discourse.
Despite a high amount of crosstalk, the vice presidential debate between Donald Trump's running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence and Hillary Clinton's running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine was a relatively civil one, at times even polite, especially in comparison to the presidential showdown the week before.
The two found common ground in a discussion on law enforcement and race relations. "At the risk of agreeing with you, community policing is a great idea," Pence said in one exchange with Kaine.
At the end of the debate when the pair, both devout Catholics, discussed their religion, Pence said, "I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kaine's sincere faith."
Pence came into Tuesday's debate against with a tough task ahead, and, by all accounts, he exceeded expectations, with many post-debate commentators saying the former radio host and accomplished debater won on "style points." Still, he may have fallen short in explaining all the actions and rhetoric of his running mate, Trump.
Kaine repeated time and again Tuesday evening his disbelief at Pence's defense of the real estate magnate, reiterating versions of the same line: "I can't imagine how you can defend him."
"I'm happy to defend," Pence shot back at one point late in the debate, launching his own attacks and attempting to turn the tables on his opponent. But, on many issues -- Trump's talk about nuclear weapons, his long-standing and aggressive support for the claim that President Obama was not an American citizen, for example -- he did not defend Trump.
The Virginia senator laid out a laundry list of some of Trump's biggest missteps and most outrageous statements on the campaign trail -- his comments about Mexicans and women, his critique of Arizona Senator John McCain, his claim that African Americans are living in hell, his perpetuation of birtherism. Related: Is the Fed Playing Politics?
"I cannot believe that Governor Pence would defend the insult-driven campaign that Trump has run," he said.
After one especially long riff from Kaine, Pence quipped, "Did you work on that one a long time?"
He argued several times it is Clinton and her campaign, not Trump's, launching bombs. "The campaign of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine has been an avalanche of insults," he said.
On form, Pence -- a former television and radio host -- appeared to best Kaine, who at times seemed overly-rehearsed and often interrupted. Still, Trump's numerous missteps hung over him, and he did not always appear eager or able to issue the strongest of defenses.
On the New York Times report over the weekend that Trump reported a $916 million loss in his 1995 tax returns, Pence said the documents showed his running mate "faced some pretty tough times 20 years ago." On Trump's comments in March that women should face punishment for having an abortion, he argued he's "not a polished politician" like Clinton and Kaine.
The question at the end of all of this is, of course, whether vice presidential debates matter. Most agree they don't. Prediction markets on who will win the presidency in November remained unchanged throughout the evening.
Pence appears to have dominated the online chatter. According to data from Twitter, the Indiana governor occupied 60% of the conversation on the social media platform, while Kaine got 40%. Pence added 22,000 followers on Twitter, while Kaine added 15,000.
But as was perhaps the biggest takeaway of the night, it was ultimately Trump who overshadowed everything. The GOP nominee got 63% of the Twitter conversation, compared to Clinton's 37%. He also had the most retweeted message, and a positive one at that. Maybe his running mate's attitude is starting to rub off on him.
Mike Pence won big. We should all be proud of Mike!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 5, 2016