AUSTIN - If the vice presidential debate gave 2016 one thing, it's yet another catchphrase.
Responding to Tim Kaine's criticism of Donald Trump characterizing Mexican immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals," Mike Pence retorted, "You whipped out that Mexican thing again."
By Wednesday, the hashtag #ThatMexicanThing was trending across social media, and a visit to thatmexicanthing.com redirects to Hillary Clinton's campaign website. Typically the vice presidential debate is over-hyped and underwhelming; yet while this one may not move many voters, it could affect strategy.
The consensus among analysts is that Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, won on style -- despite lying about past comments. Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine correctly noted "Governor Pence said inarguably Vladimir Putin is a better leader than president Obama;" a claim Pence called "absolutely inaccurate."
Yet in a September 8 interview televised on CNN, Pence said, "I think it's inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country, and that's going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president of the United States of America."
Pence far outperformed the Republican candidate for president.
"He didn't defend him. He had different policies, for instance, foreign policy, they were totally different," said Glenn Smith with Progress Texas. "My big takeaway is that Pence realizes that Trump's going nowhere, and he used the debate last night to advance his own career and probably towards the Republican nomination in 2020."
"He was just much more likeable last night than Tim Kaine," GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak told KVUE. "Tim Kaine is not an aggressive, over the top guy. That's how he appeared last night, and I think that's what the Clinton campaign wanted him to do."
So what effect could it have?
"Really, voters will make up their minds on Clinton v Trump, not Kaine v Pence," said Smith. "We have another presidential debate on Sunday, so there's not very many news hours between now and the next presidential debate. In the end, this is probably a wash in terms of where the campaigns go."
"What's interesting to me is whether Trump watched that debate and saw how Pence did, and whether he's going to now take preparation more seriously with four or five days until Sunday's second presidential debate," offered Mackowiak, "Whether he's going to try to emulate what Pence was doing in terms of ignoring attacks, staying calm, being substantive, and staying relentlessly focused on your message -- and that's what Pence did last night so effectively."
Tuesday was the first and only contest between the two running mates. The next presidential debate is Sunday, October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. It will be moderated by Martha Raddatz from ABC News and CNN's Anderson Cooper.
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