Now that was a debate.
The Mike Pence-Tim Kaine bout Tuesday night wasn’t the main event of 2016.
It was what they call in boxing an “undercard” match. It was a contest between two natural lightweights - the VP candidates.
There was no exciting 12th round knock out.
But Pence and Kaine engaged in a good, spirited political fight that provided much more substance and entertainment value than the Trump-Clinton debate.
Pence easily won on points, both for what he said and what he didn’t say. In their post-debate analysis everyone from Rachel Maddow to Sean Hannity agreed on that.
Poor Tim Kaine. Everyone - even his wife - also agreed that he made himself look like a rude jerk by interrupting the moderator and Pence way too many times.
Kaine was wound up so tight in the opening rounds that the presidential debate commission probably should have ordered a drug test to see if Kaine was on some sort of performance drug.
Seriously, though, I hope Trump was watching Pence’s debating style closely.
I hope he has been studying the video over and over to see how Pence deflected or ducked his opponent’s punches and pivoted to offense.
Pence not only showed Trump how to win a political debate, he was an absolute gentleman while doing it.
He didn’t have to say derogatory things about women or Latinos or Muslims. He didn’t suggest using nuclear weapons to fight crime in Chicago.
And when Kaine tried to drag him down a rat hole by making him defend something dumb or insulting Trump had said, Pence kept his cool and flicked the example away as silly or untrue.
The major criticism from some Republicans and Trumpsters was that Pence didn’t do more to defend Donald Trump.
But the reality is, you can’t defend half of what Trump has said and Pence could have wasted two weeks of air time trying.
Pence was perfect Tuesday night. What he did won’t move the needle for Trump’s chances to win next month, but it moved the needle on his future.
Twenty minutes into the debate lots of people, including those I watched it with, were saying, “Gosh, I wish Mike Pence was on the top of the ticket.”
It’s obviously way too late for the GOP to make that happen, but Pence might be the top choice of Republicans in 2020 if Trump loses to the Clinton Crime Family a month from now.
The only thing that concerns me about Pence’s pummeling of Kaine is that Trump was so quick to take credit for it.
The next day at his rallies Donald was doing his usual “Look at me” routine, praising Pence and boasting he was his first hire.
Sorry, Donald. As I tweeted, your first hire was actually campaign consultant Paul Manafort. How did that work out?
Trump’s the clear underdog, a raw amateur up against a political heavyweight. He has to win his debate with Hillary Sunday night or at least fight her to a draw.
Pence has shown him how the professionals do it.
Whether he can learn to box with Hillary without tripping over his huge ego may determine whether Trump ends up the 2016 champ or the 2016 chump.
Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter