The Pence-Harris debate, by Paul Mirengoff. This year’s VP debate is more important than usual because Kamala Harris will probably run the administration, one way or another, if Biden is elected.
This was a real debate, a good debate. It was one of the best debates associated with a presidential election that I can recall.
Both participants were sharp and both landed plenty of blows. Both talked over the moderator, but not over each other. Neither was very obnoxious. Only one was relatively honest. I’ll get to that later.
There was a clear winner, I think. It was Mike Pence. He won on points on nearly all of the nine topics in the debate. Some he won narrowly; others decisively.
Unfortunately, Pence didn’t win the first round — the one about the Wuhan coronavirus. Harris won that very important round. …
After that, Pence was the consistent winner, as I said. Harris hung in there gamely for the most part, but looked really bad when she continued to dodge the question of whether Biden will try to pack the Supreme Court if he wins. Any trial lawyer would admire Pence’s handling of her on that matter, I think.
Pence was also the clear winner on the economy. Pence effectively lambasted Biden-Harris on the Green New Deal, cleverly citing USA Today, the moderator’s newspaper, for the proposition that the Biden-Harris plan is, essentially, that Deal. Harris’ denials were so unconvincing that even the moderator displayed skepticism. …
I was very much put off by Harris’ dishonesty. She kept spouting uncorroborated, and in some cases largely debunked, slanders about President Trump — e.g., that he bad mouthed American service members.
In a particularly powerful moment, Pence pressed Harris on the idea of packing the Supreme Court. “Your party is actually openly advocating adding seats to the Supreme Court, which has had nine seats for 150 years, if you don’t get your way. This is a classic case of if you can’t win by the rules, you’re going to change the rules,” he said.
“Now you have refused to answer the question, Joe Biden has refused to answer the question, so I think the American people would really like to know. If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden — if somehow you win this election — going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?” Pence asked.
Harris dodged. She returned to the issue of Barrett. She cited Abraham Lincoln, who she said refused to nominate a Supreme Court nominee in 1864, 27 days before the election. Harris went on to claim that Trump was already packing courts by not nominating black judges to federal appeals courts.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 8, 2020
Pence’s Superpower Is Debating
Mike Pence, a former congressman and talk radio host, started off strong and just kept getting stronger. He clearly came prepared for the debate. He had a ready recall of facts and figures to bolster his points. He nailed the questions he wanted to answer and deflected on the questions he preferred not to answer.
While he let several zingers fly, he stayed calm and steady, pushing back at what he perceived as unduly false statements but without the constant interruptions of the Trump-Biden debate. He spoke slowly and left few cards on the table unplayed. He was nice, firm, decent, and likable.
Harris’s Superpower Is Something Other Than Debating
The conventional wisdom heading into the debate was that Harris, a former prosecutor, would obliterate the nice and meek Pence. It was never clear why that conventional wisdom formed, considering she performed poorly in the Democratic primary debates….
Having said that, Harris had a very strong start to the VP debate, with a rehearsed but very effective answer about the Trump administration’s failures to handle the coronavirus epidemic the way she and Biden would. Pressed for details on what she’d do differently, she began to struggle and never quite regained a strong footing.
Both candidates declined to answer questions, usually effectively. But her refusal to answer repeated questions about whether she and her running mate plan to pack the Supreme Court in retaliation for Republicans appointing a new justice in a constitutional manner was uncomfortable.
She also lied frequently, and perhaps in ways that were too easily caught. She lied about Abraham Lincoln, she repeated the completely false Charlottesville hoax, and she falsely claimed Trump called COVID a hoax.