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EDITORIAL: No. 2 guys are 50/50 deal

The common wisdom is that debates between candidates for vice president don’t move the polls, but rather reveal previously unknown information about the people in the second slot on the ballot. In that purpose, the debate between Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic VIrginia Sen. Tim Kaine measured up, and more. Both men came prepared to explain and defend their presidential candidates, and both got the job done, although Pence had the steeper hill to climb because his man, Donald Trump, has said things that defy rational explanation or credible defense.

Nonetheless, both VP hopefuls parried each other’s shots well, even if it sometimes seemed neither of them believed what they were saying. Their job, after all, was to make the presidential candidates look good. To no one’s surprise, the Trump campaign said Pence won, although he ducked several of the biggest raps on Trump. The Hillary Clinton campaign said Kaine had the upper hand, although his early behavior in the debate was unnecessarily shrill and disruptive.

Pick your poison, which partisans will do according to their political bent.

Campaign camps’ hyperbole aside, the most notable feature of the debate was its departure from the nasty personal attacks of the first presidential debate. Pence and Kaine mixed it up on issues but did not lower the level of discourse to the kind of personal shots that characterized the exchanges between Trump and Clinton. While it’s obvious Trump and Clinton do not like each other, Pence and Kaine at least respect each other even as they occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum. It came through in the several humorous asides between the two men. That light element — including mutual recognition of their long records of public service — was nowhere to be found in the Clinton-Trump confrontation.

Some observers might conclude the tickets of both parties would be more appealing if they were flipped — that the two VP candidates are more liked and respected than Clinton and Trump, who are two of the most disliked presidential candidates in modern times. It’s not going to happen, of course.

Take heart. There will be a solid, experienced vice president in office no matter who wins the presidency in November.