The Vice Presidential Debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night was a vast improvement over the first presidential debate. Interruptions were kept to a minimum.
The moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, did not insert herself into the debate outside of trying to keep the debate going. Perhaps someone will take the time to clock it, but it seemed to me that she was more forgiving of Harris going over time than she was Pence.
Even so, it was a vast improvement. The debate was watchable and informative. I don’t know how much impact the Vice Presidential debate has on the race outcome, but I think Pence helped the Trump campaign, which has had a rough couple of weeks.
Pence did a decent job sidestepping the President’s comments on COVID-19 and came out of it with this zinger of a line when discussing a future vaccine.
“Senator, please stop undermining confidence in a vaccine,” he said.
Where Trump failed, Pence articulated the Obama-Biden missteps with the H1N1 pandemic, including leaving the national PPE stockpile depleted.
Harris blamed President Trump for the lockdowns and business closings, something Biden did last week. I find that particular talking point incredulous considering just about every epidemiologist and their brother was calling for it, and governors are the ones who had to execute it. DEMOCRATIC governors are the ones who have extended the lockdowns.
The biggest problem (not the only problem) with the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19 was President Trump’s inability to keep his mouth shut and let his point people on this issue speak without comment.
From the COVID-19 discussion, it only improved for Pence.
She called for repealing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017; he pointed out that would raise taxes on the middle class, which it would.
Discussing climate change, Pence pointed out her support of the Green New Deal. He later pointed out she voted against ratifying the USMCA trade because it didn’t do enough for climate change.
He painted Harris into a corner on the issue of court-packing and asked her directly about Biden and her intentions. She demurred.
Pence rebuked attacks on Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s faith and pointed out that Harris questioned a nominee about his involvement in the Knights of Columbus.
He effectively painted a potential Biden-Harris administration as extreme when it comes to abortion and taxpayer-funding on abortion.
After Harris discussed her ideas about police reform, Pence pointed out she joined the Senate Democrats’ filibuster of the Justice Act. He pointed out both Biden and Harris’ poor criminal justice records highlighting that Trump signed substantive criminal justice reform in his first term.
When Harris said Trump lost the trade war with China, Pence replied, “Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it… Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades.”
He pointed out the Obama-Biden administration’s failure to confront ISIS and save Kayla Mueller. “When Joe Biden was vice president, they hesitated for a month. Her family say if President Donald Trump had been president, they believe Kayla would be alive today,” he said.
Even when asked whether President Trump would accept the election results should Vice President Biden win, he pointed out that he thought they would win. Then he pivoted and said, “When it comes to accepting the results of the election, Senator your party has spent the last three-and-a-half years trying to overturn the results of the last election.”
Pence had a strong debate performance and was better prepared than Harris. The Trump campaign should hope that President Trump won’t lose any momentum in the second debate that his vice president gained for them.