Well who knew boring could be so refreshing. We all knew this debate was bound to be exponentially not as entertaining with Donald Trump not involved, but that’s kinda what we needed. It was exactly what I was expecting and tried to explain yesterday in my preview column. Kamala looked to add some energy and Pence looked to lull us into calm. Kamala was very scripted and assertive and Mike Pence was relaxed and stuck to his main points.
There isn’t too much to break down from last night mostly because both the candidates dodged and swerved around many of the questions that were asked. I think it was overall a win for Mike Pence but not enough to sway any public opinion to the point where polls look better for the President. That is basically because Kamala didn’t have some explicit mess up that will tank the campaign. However, she did lie a lot and Pence did a very good job of exposing that while keeping his cool and defending the President.
I mean she hit a tic-tac-toe of mentioning the Charlottesville hoax, debunked Atlantic story, and shoddy Russian Bounty claim. The moderator did nothing to call out these lies but Pence did shut them down. That was important and Pence exposed the media and how Harris was peddling their lies. It’s dishonest to allow this propaganda to go unchecked by the moderator. There was almost no follow up questions and clarifications (for either side) from Susan Page and she did have a tough time throughout keeping the conversation on what was actually asked.
Pence pushed hard on packing the Supreme Court and once again Harris refused to answer for the Biden camp about what they plan to do. But again, it is crazy the moderator didn’t play on this issue either. It was Pence who had to even bring it up. Pence summed it up nicely by stating we can only assume it’s a yes at this point. The fact that the Biden campaign hasn’t come up with a better response than just trying to ignore the question entirely is puzzling to me. Mike Pence drove the point home saying that his administration supports the separation of powers.
Kamala used this question to try and paint a foggy history of Abraham Lincoln’s decision of not nominating a justice to SCOTUS a month before the election. In fact, the congress was in recess when the opening became available and there is no evidence to suggest that Lincoln wouldn’t have nominated anyone during his lame-duck session either, had he lost. Also, Lincoln didn’t have a nominee in mind when he was Commander in Chief because he was dealing with something a little more important, the Civil War. So, he had to have a much more robust vetting process that needed to be done when Trump had already administered with the list of nominees he presented before choosing ACB. This context is important and was just an attempt to further confuse the public about whether a Biden Harris ticket would add more justices to the Supreme Court.
This was a shrewd move by Harris, however, and probably was somewhat effective. She also had what has now been seen as a viral moment with her “Mr. Vice President I’m talking” declarations. I think it’s pretty split down the middle on how that approach will be taken by people. Frank Luntz was giving thoughts from his focus group of undecided voters and this pretty much seems to reflect that. Personally, I thought it was clear she had that line scripted out and even though it was a strong display of confidence, it seemed inauthentic. I say that because after she said she wanted to talk about packing the Supreme Court she still dodged the question and Pence was simply pointing that out. It wasn’t like he was completely cutting her off or not letting her finish. He was looking to keep the conversation on the point of court packing and Harris clearly had no interest answering.
Harris also was effective in her attacks on the pandemic and the administration’s bungled response. She clearly had rehearsed these points and executed them quite impactfully. Pence tried to have fairly reasonable responses but in total it’s just hard to refute the facts of the matter. Biden’s team knows this is where they are strongest and even if they won’t do anything substantively different than Trump and Pence it still may get them into the Oval Office.
Foreign policy was also a great opportunity seized by Pence to show the Trump administration’s accomplishments. He talked about peace through strength and called out many of Biden’s foreign policy blunders. I think the same could be said in the conversation about trade where Pence did go at Biden for NAFTA and noted that Harris voted against the USMCA.
The most eye opening moment of this, though, was when the foreign policy conversation turned to China and Chinese State TV literally cut out while Pence was bashing the CCP. It conveniently turned right back on once Harris had her time. I don’t believe that is a coincidence and honestly very telling as we head towards November 3.
Susan Page, the moderator of the debate, had a slightly below average night. I think she asked some good, thought provoking questions and kept the conversation largely policy driven. People are mostly mad at her for how time was distributed and how some felt she let Pence talk for too long. But, if you look at the actual data, Pence talked just a mere 3 seconds more than Kamala.
The biggest problem I had was that there was simply too many topics that she decided upon. 9 topics over a span of 90 minutes just didn’t do the conversation justice. I think there should have been 3 or 4 topics and then overall conversation around it. If that happened, then maybe we wouldn’t be having the conversation about Pence abusing his time, which as shown he didn’t.
Obviously, because there is only 1 VP debate it makes sense that they want to cover all these topics but Page should have had some sense of the show and adapt to the conversation. But, I can’t fault her too hard for sticking to the rules that the candidates agreed upon.
Personally, this is why the debates need a new format all together.
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fly that pretty much stole the show. That was another huge win for Kamala, to be honest. That fly sat on Pence’s head for a solid 2 minutes. Absolutely crazy. I guess the only explanation for not swatting it away could be Pence had too much hair gel to feel the fly that was literally nesting on his scalp. It’s an instant meme. There were some great ones too. My favorite was the Dodge Ram, but the Fleetwood Mac/Ocean Spray crossover tick tok was great too. But seriously, not noticing a fly on your head for 2 minutes is a tough look for the VP. I’m really not sure how he didn’t swipe it away. It brought up the memory of Hillary Clinton have a fly land on her face back in 2016. Clinton’s was still worse because it was right on her nose, but still just shows how weird politicians are. Biden’s campaign also leveraged the moment as well. Clear victory for the Democrats.
As an aside, it is too bad for Pence that the fly did come into play because when I went back to rewatch Pence said a pretty strong statement to Harris about her actions when blocking Tim Scott’s police reform bill. No one heard it because of the fly, and that again is a loss for Pence.
So again, this won’t have too much sway in the actual race but I think it was still an interesting conversation and shows just how vastly different these 2 tickets are. I’m concerned that this dichotomy won’t once again be highlighted next week as the debate commission took unilateral steps to try and switch the debate to virtual. That is an egregious move that clearly benefits 1 side more than the other. It doesn’t seem like a nonpartisan decision when they haven’t given enough time for Trump to test negative. It also is just silly if Trump is free from the virus and posts negative tests. If the second debate gets fully derailed, that’s a shame because we deserve 3 debates.
Both these candidates should have to answer to the public about a variety of issues and the fact that we are succumbing to the fear of potential COVID is dangerous and a slippery slope. Again, of course it needs to be safe and if Trump still is positive for the virus, then sure hold it online. But our leaders can’t live in fear and we have the testing capacity to have the reassurance that it is safe.