The year before he died, the late, great Los Angeles Times reporter Jack Nelson wrote
Republican Sen. Dan Quayle, clashing with Sen. Lloyd Bentsen on Wednesday in a vice presidential debate that focused on Quayle's qualifications to be President, compared himself to former President John F. Kennedy and insisted that, if necessary, he would be prepared to assume the presidency.
The 41-year-old Quayle said age alone was not the only measure of fitness for the Oval Office. Stressing his four years in the House and eight years in the Senate, he maintained that he had "as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency," a comparison that led to the most dramatic moment in the 90-minute debate.
'Served With Kennedy'
"Senator," the 67-year-old Bentsen shot back, glaring at Quayle, "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."
Quayle, tight-lipped and chafing, interjected: "That was really uncalled for, senator."
The Bentsen-Quayle confrontation, televised nationwide from Omaha Civic Auditorium, about Kennedy could prove crucial to the election between the presidential candidates, Vice President George Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
As shown repeatedly since then as an example of a great moment in political debates, Bentsen humiliated Quayle in what was thought might "prove crucial to the election between the presidential candidates," GHW Bush and Michael Dukakis. The final election tally: Bush 53.4%, Dukakis 45.6% with Bush scoring 426 electoral votes and Dukakis only 111. (This was back when the Electoral College tilted Republican.) And Senator Lloyd Bentsen never became President Lloyd Bentsen.
On several occasions on Tuesday night, Senator Kaine challenged Governor Pence to defend a statement or policy of Donald Trump, which the governor wisely avoided doing. Grabbing the low-hanging fruit, Pence secured a "victory" by taking the easy path of criticizing Hillary Clinton while eschewing the hard, politically risky role of defending his own running mate. On Monday, an aide to the Senator reportedly had asked “Is Mike Pence going to aggressively defend his running mate when he hasn’t necessarily been inclined to go on full defense [in the past]?” The answer turned out to be a resounding "no."
Among the two Democratic nominees and the two Republican nominees, Mike Pence currently is the least unpopular and could win an election held today against any of the other three. "If Kaine and Pence had been debating for an Ohio Senate seat," Matthew Yglesias slightly exaggerates, "any fair-minded person would have to conclude that Pence won in a landslide." But he is not at the top of the ticket and is not vying to be part of a winning ticket in 2016.
Pence established himself as the leading GOP candidate- for the little that's worth- for the 2020 presidential nomination (assuming the Trump loss Pence is banking on), Tim Kaine denounced Trump and boosted his own running mate, who is running for President. Mike Pence already has determined that he's on a sinking ship, and he's not going down with it.