Vice Presidential Debate Gave Us Glimpse of the Future

The night's big loser: the questions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2020 3:59 AM CDT
Updated Oct 8, 2020 6:00 AM CDT
VP Debate Wasn't a Game-Changer
Some analysts say the fly on Mike Pence's head generated the most buzz.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Wednesday night's vice presidential debate was a more civil affair than last week's presidential debate—which wasn't exactly a high bar to clear. Analysts say Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence turned in solid performances in the Salt Lake City debate, but there was little that would have swayed undecided voters either way—and the moment most likely to be remembered beyond the next news cycle was when a fly landed on Pence's head. Some takeaways:

  • Not a game-changer. The debate did nothing to change the trajectory of the race, Shane Goldmacher writes at the New York Times. Despite high expectations from Democrats, Harris "did not eviscerate Mr. Pence," he writes. "As for Mr. Pence, he turned in an effective, dutiful, conservative case for Mr. Trump." He predicts that "the debate could have a bigger impact on the 2024 race than on 2020."

  • "More than a draw" for Harris. With her ticket ahead in the polls, Harris only needed a draw, but Niall Stanage at the Hill argues that she did better than that. Her performance wasn't perfect, but she "was excoriating the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic," and also landed punches on "health care, Trump’s alleged disparagement of members of the military, and the president’s finances," he writes.
  • "Boringness a strength" for Pence. The vice president is not an especially exciting politician, but "boringness was a strength" for him Wednesday night, according to Vox, which notes: "The pressure to seem halfway normal was high. And by cogently stating Republican talking points in ways that might have seemed colorless in another time, Pence ended up looking like a polished statesman compared to Trump."
  • The biggest loser: The questions. The candidates repeatedly "responded to direct questions by pivoting to what they wanted to talk about, rather than the question that was asked, and they were seldom called out," writes Aaron Blake at the Washington Post. He notes that even when Pence called out Harris for not answering a question on packing the Supreme Court, "it came as he was declining to answer a question about protecting preexisting conditions." Moderator Susan Page "asked great questions," Blake writes. "It would be great if there was something in the rules that made it so the candidates actually had to answer them."
  • A glimpse of the future. Ryan Lizza at Politico says the night was a "boring, unfocused debate between two well-prepared and polished candidates"—reminding us what politics was like in the pre-Trump era, and giving a glimpse of how the parties might look in the post-Trump and post-Biden era: "A more conventionally conservative and much less theatrical Republican, and a younger, more diverse, and more progressive Democrat."
(More vice presidential debate stories.)

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