Candidates discuss economics, foreign policy, faith

With the major party presidential candidates placed under intense scrutiny, one element of the election is often overlooked: the vice presidential candidates. Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s respective running mates, faced off in a televised debate for the first and only time at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, on October 4.

The debate began with each candidate defending himself as viable in the role of president in the event of a disaster. Kaine discussed his background as a lawyer and senator as well as his mission alongside Hillary Clinton to improve Americans’ lives. Pence responded by referring to his humble origins growing up on a farm, lifetime of experience, and strong leadership of Indiana. Then, each candidate attempted to justify their respective running mates’ poor polling on trustworthiness. Giving Clinton his full support, Kaine highlighted her ability to put the American people first and lauded her work as secretary of state. Pence discussed Clinton’s mistakes and spoke highly of Trump’s business acumen and company leadership.

The debate turned to the state of the economy and the burden of a $19 trillion debt. Pence criticized the current administration for allowing the national debt to double. Referencing his success in balancing the Indiana state budget, he articulated a plan to cut taxes, stimulate the economy, and then tackle the national debt. Kaine challenged him, “Do you want a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton, or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump? I think that’s not such a hard choice.”

Kaine went on to stress the need for bolstering small businesses and the middle class as well as placing a much heavier tax on the top tier of the economy. He further questioned why Donald Trump had not released his tax records as promised, and he implied that a man who avoids taxes cannot be asked to implement tax plans himself. Pence defended Trump’s business mindset as separate from the political sphere.

Spotlighted by Clinton and Trump’s heated discussion in the first debate was the topic of law enforcement. Both candidates agreed that community bonds need to be repaired. Kaine stressed mental health care and a crack-down on gun violence. Pence spoke out against Hillary’s blaming of implicit bias, acknowledging its existence, but disapproving of its use as a constant excuse. Kaine retaliated by saying that we should not fear talk of bias but rather see it as the pervasive problem it is.

One of the central topics of the race has been immigration. Pence used his time to outline a relatively basic plan which would involve first building a border wall and greatly increasing border security. He promised that the Trump administration would then deal with the large population of illegal immigrants. Kaine jumped on the attack, calling out Trump for his insensitivity and desire to deport illegal immigrants. He spoke of Hillary’s plan as one of solid reform compared with Trump’s radical deportation model.

On the subject of terrorism, Kaine spoke of Hillary’s achievements as Secretary of State, highlighting the Iran Deal and the death of Osama Bin Laden. “Donald Trump can’t start a Twitter war with Miss Universe without shooting himself in the foot,” Kaine said, questioning such a man’s ability to lead the nation’s military. Pence immediately retaliated, saying, “We’ve weakened America’s place in the world. It’s been a combination of factors, but mostly it’s been a lack of leadership.” He declared that Clinton was culpable as a part of the previous administration. Kaine stressed Hillary’s strength as a leader and commented that Trump, by avoiding taxes, refused to fund the military, whereas Clinton worked tirelessly after 9/11 to fund and support troops. Pence attempted to make it clear that Trump would reaffirm American strength on the world stage.

The debate also provided insight into both candidates’ personal beliefs. Both practicing Christians, they were asked how they balance faith and politics. Kaine spoke about the difficulty of being a governor in a state that administers the death penalty, a conflict with his personal beliefs. He acknowledged his role as a public servant and his duty to uphold the law. Kaine also stressed the idea of a First Amendment nation, saying, “We don’t raise any religion over the other,” and that the government must respect all religions. Pence stressed the topic of abortion and his pride for running on a pro-life ticket with Donald Trump. He stated, “A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.”

Each candidate took the time to express respect for each other as fellow Christians, a designation higher than any political title. Freshman Austin Derrick commented, “It was nice to see a segment full of respect and good manners compared to the turmoil of the race so far.”

The conclusion of the debate highlighted the sentiment that no matter who wins the election,

America must remain strong and united. Both candidates agreed that the nation must put its divisions aside if it is to conquer its problems. A CNN post-debate poll showed Pence as the victor.

Stephen Anderson is a freshman studying English and creative writing. He enjoys reading, writing, and is an avid fan of cinema. Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and Netflix number among his favorite things. You can contact him at