Winner: Mike Pence
When this night began, more than 40 percent of Americans couldn't name the vice presidential nominee for either major party. I am not sure that is going to change after tonight. But if viewers walk away knowing only one name, it will be Mike Pence, who put in a valiant effort and won hands-down.
It is not so much what Pence said or any standout one-liner, it was how he did it. Pence was Trump's foil in every way. He didn't fall for the traps; he exuded normalcy and displayed a cool, calm and collected demeanor — something that downright irritated his Democratic opponent, the rather interrupt-y Kaine.
More importantly, Pence changed the campaign narrative with five weeks to go from what had been a terrible past week for Trump by throwing him a lifeline. For one night, Trump's judgment cannot be assailed: His selection of Mike Pence, after all, was his first major leadership decision.
If Trump is wise, he will give Pence his day in the sun on Wednesday and parlay it to outshine Clinton this Sunday in St. Louis.
O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Mangement, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."