Since we are living in the age of celebrity worship with instant fame through social media and attention seekers everywhere, there is no greater buzzkill than being labeled “boring.” Once pinned to your persona, the label can result in being ignored, outshined, denigrated, and forgotten.
In Hollywood, boring means career death. But now, in “Hollywood on the Potomac” and by extension, the presidential campaign trail, boring means one heartbeat away from the presidency. Why in this election cycle did boring suddenly become an asset leading to the potentially history-changing title, vice president of the United States?
My one-word answer is “balance.”
Given that decades before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won their party’s presidential nominations they were two of the world’s biggest A-list celebrities. They were equally loved and hated but commanded national and global attention. Their lives, loves, friends, enemies, and family splashed on the pages of supermarket tabloids. They have always been, and especially are now, the polar opposite of boring.
Since both are the brightest stars in their universe, they would never select a running mate who could equalize or outshine their radiance.
Precisely why both presidential candidates chose to bring a “boring” balance to their respective tickets — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for Trump and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine for Clinton. And both VP selections were widely applauded by each side.
Here is how Republican strategist Mark McKinnon sizes up the VP candidates’ performances thus far:
Mike Pence and Tim Kaine are the epitome of second fiddles. They are solid and reliable but never outshine the first chair. This is the one job where dull is an asset.
Kaine even joked about being boring on “Meet the Press” when he said, “I am boring. But boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country.”
Therefore, if “boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country” does that mean we can expect high ratings for the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.? Stop right there. A “boring” VP debate in Farmville, Va.? What, Plainville was not available?
OK, let’s set the stage for Tuesday night’s debate by comparing the “boring” backgrounds of Kaine and Pence.
Both Kaine and Pence are married to their first wives.
(More commendable than boring.)
Moreover, Kaine’s wife Anne Holton is a daughter of A. Linwood Holton Jr., a Republican who served as governor of Virginia from 1970 to 1974. Tim met Anne when both were students at Harvard Law School. (Again, commendable, not boring.)
Kaine and Pence each have three children.
Amazingly and coincidentally, both are Marine Corps dads with their elder sons currently serving on active duty. (Super commendable and far from boring.)
Both are men of faith.
Kaine is a practicing Catholic.
Pence raised Catholic is now an evangelical Christian. In the past, he was quoted as calling himself “a born-again evangelical Catholic.”
(Boring, only if practicing Christian/Catholic faith is considered boring, so count me in as boring too.)
Both plug huge political gaps created by the top of the ticket.
Kaine has always been a moderate Democrat in a party that is decidedly tilting left.
Pence is from the conservative right-wing of the Republican Party. He has now become the conservative darling among leaders on Capitol Hill and with base voters.
(Balanced political partnerships are never boring.)
They were born a year apart.
Kaine in 1958 and Pence in 1959. (Not necessarily a sign of boring.)
Both men are qualified to be president of the United States.
If called upon to assume the office at a time of crisis, that is when “boring” ceases to matter and “qualified” matters most. So how do their qualifications compare?
Kaine is currently a U.S. senator having served previously as governor of Virginia.
In 2012 Pence was elected governor of Indiana after spending the preceding 12 years as an Indiana congressman.
Obviously, both VP candidates are equally qualified with executive and legislative experience. Furthermore, on the campaign trail and in the media spotlight both have performed admirably and are likely to do so at the debate.
The media’s obsession with the “boring factor.”
Due to the media’s obsession and despite Kaine’s claims that “boring is the fastest-growing demographic,” no one expects the audience for Tuesday’s VP debate to match the record-breaking 2008 VP debate. If you recall that was when a whopping 70 million viewers tuned in to see veteran Delaware Sen. Joe Biden joust with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a political neophyte plucked from Wasilla. And to everyone’s surprise, Palin performed admirably.
Ratings aside, check out these memorable VP debate highlights going back decades. Not only have many VP debates been unexpectedly entertaining, but some even generated unforgettable one-liners. (See 1988, Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle: “You’re No JFK”)
Back to tonight’s debate with “boring” Tim Kaine and Mike Pence. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. With these two evenly matched political pros at the top of their game in a tight race, expect colorful fireworks to light up the Farmville sky.
Finally, and most important, there have been 44 presidents since the founding of our nation. Fourteen vice presidents have ascended to the higher office translating into a 31.8% conversion rate. More than half (8) were due to the death of the president. Hence, we never know when “boring” can suddenly become “comforting,” and end on that somber note.
Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner