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Christian Rickers, a former official in Tim Kaine’s gubernatorial administration and currently backing a PAC of Democrats supporting Donald Trump, said he was saddened by his former bosses debate performance on Tuesday.
During an interview with Business Insider, Rickers said he had “no idea what happened” to Kaine, a Virginia senator who is Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate, during the debate face-off with Trump’s running mate and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
“That is not the Tim Kaine that I know,” Rickers said. “I mean he is one of the finest public servants I’ve ever known. He is a principled man and he’s a good guy. Like he’s a good, nice guy. And I have no idea what happened.”
“I mean what they prepped him on, what they put him through, what they told him to say – It was not the Tim Kaine that I know,” he continued. “I mean, I was … I was a little bit sad. I was sad about it. He’s a great guy. What was that all about?”
Kaine was criticized by many on both the right and left for his frequent interruptions of both Pence and debate moderator Elaine Quijano during the debate, and Pence hit him for “pre-done” lines after Kaine said a line about wanting “a ‘you’re hired’ president in Hillary Clinton, or do you want a ‘you’re fired’ president in Donald Trump?”
Clinton’s running mate hit Pence repeatedly for Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, while Pence repeatedly denied a long series of controversial statements made by Trump in the past.
An instant poll from CNN/ORC had Pence as the debate winner, with 48% of respondents selecting him, while 42% chose Kaine.
“His demeanor, his attack dog strategy, he would’ve been much better served being the Tim Kaine he’s always been, which is a really genteel and good, you know, just a policy focused person that cares,” Rickers said. “I mean it was tough to watch.”
Rickers admitted that, even though he’s a big fan of Trump, he was “never really a big fan of Mike Pence.”
“I thought he was sort of like a polished funeral director,” he said. “But now, I mean, tonight, he did a good job and he came across as genuine. That’s what I was expecting from Tim Kaine, not from Mike Pence.”
But Rickers said the debate itself was not particularly well-done.
“I mean I think a lot of people turned off the television or changed the channel after the first few minutes,” he said. “The format was kind of awkward. I think the moderator did a poor job. They were talking over each other the whole time.”
“They talked very little about the problems we’re facing in this country domestically,” Rickers continued. “And it was a foreign policy debate which I thought was odd for vice presidential candidates. Like, the whole thing was about foreign policy. I don’t get it.”
A Virginia Democrat, Rickers runs the American Uprising PAC and has branded his group the “Trumpocrats.” He supported Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the primary season, but shifted allegiances to Trump after Clinton sealed up the Democratic nomination.
In 2002, he was appointed as a special assistant for policy in the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development by then Gov. Mark Warner – currently a senator from the state and a Clinton backer. Rickers was reappointed to the post in 2005 by Kaine, who succeeded Warner as governor. Rickers called Kaine “one of the finest people in politics that I’ve ever known” during a September interview with Business Insider.
On Tuesday, Rickers downplayed the importance of the vice presidential debate, referencing the first such event he watched as a pre-teen in 1988.
“I mean, shoot, I can remember when I was a kid and I watched [Michael Dukakis’ running mate] Lloyd Bentsen literally wipe the floor with [George H.W. Bush’s running mate] Dan Quayle and I was, gosh, 12-years-old and I thought that was going to make a big difference and it obviously didn’t,” he said. “So, I mean, these vice presidential debates are damn near meaningless.”
“But it certainly helped Trump,” he told Business Insider. “I mean, it had to. Right?”