Well that sure felt much more civilized, didn't it?
The Vice-Presidential Debate carried so many storylines and drama going into it (i.e. The mess that was the first Presidential Debate and Coronavirus now running wild in the White House) that after this VP debate ended, it almost felt dare I say, normal!
Of course, the usual dodging of questions occurred as well as the over-running on time allotted for responses which have become the usual for election debates, however, despite the contrasting feeling to last week's debate, this one was just okay. It had its moments of great debate and retorts (more on that in a bit), missed opportunities, and a few stingers, but still carried way too much of the fluff talking points and non-committal (or ignoring) of responses that have become too common in this climate.
If you're asking to me pick a winner based on the debate itself, my scorecard of notes gave Senator Harris the victory. However, it should be noted, Pence did exactly what he had to do going into this debate - provide a calming front.
And yes, we had the infamous fly situation.
Nonetheless, here are a few other thoughts as the VP candidates locked horns:
- The opening segment explaining the rules of debates have grown longer and longer, and longer. It almost has come to feel like a segment in of itself when the moderator now must reiterate basic courtesy requests from the debaters.
Here is a pretty radical idea for television purposes - go the boxing route and have the moderator give these rules to the debtors while in their green rooms and make it part of the pre-show.
And speaking of made-for-tv, I think 1v1 Presidential election debates produce some of the most awkward entrances, and we saw that again in this VP debate. The strange short three-step to the stage and over-smiling waiving is tired. It's probably why Biden's double fist salute to Trump felt refreshing.
I know, it's petty - who analyzes debate entrances??!! But, I think it speaks so much to the formulaic approach election campaigns, specifically presidential debates, have had in their debate prep. This is what you do. Three steps, stand and wave to the audience.
- Susan Page did a heckuva job. She was short, concise, and really didn't feel like she interjected herself into the chaos that ensued. Of course, she wasn't dealing with Trump and Biden the way Chris Wallace was tasked with, but I really enjoyed her presence in the role.
Also, I haven't seen this discussed in many of the post-debate coverage - but we're doing it here! - Page's questions were extremely good and very well-timed. I wasn't a fan of the format as it left both sides without ample and precise preparation for the questions, but regardless, they were direct, short, non-leaning, and really provoking.
- Mike Pence is the robot hiding within the robot. Maybe, even the robot within that robot. Don't get me wrong, his monotonous approach is EXACTLY what the Trump camp needed coming off of last week's
debate disaster, but there are times his inability to show emotion - or a range of emotion - can get lost. He had some great moments tonight (more on that coming up), but I would like to see him get out of first gear for those moments to really drive his point home.
By the way, I'm pretty sure Mike Pence refers to his neighbors as, "The American People". Honey, the American People, as great as they are, have invited us over for dinner tomorrow. The American people are a great people.
- Going into this debate, I expected Senator Harris to walk away as the winner. My reason? I'm just not sure HOW to line up a defense for the Coronavirus topic if you're Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus Response task force. It really is a no-win argument, and this would be a section of the debate where we would prep to deflect, and possibly look to the future on.
Kamala of course did so without naming him as such (huge missed opportunity), but it provided an early moment in the debate where it created a hole in which Pence had to deflect, revert to talking points that have been said from the Trump campaign, and in the process, overrunning his time. Again, it felt like more of the same from what we saw last week, and that was not a good look early in the debate.
- The constant overruling of response time also MUST be curtailed in the third debate (are we even having one?). Again, Team Trump thus far has resorted to heavy overspeaking. At this point, it has made both Trump and Biden look unprepared and unable to manage their articulation of points.
If you have a handle on the topic, you never overspeak. Debate 101.
- The question of whether Pence and Harris have had discussions about the transfer of power procedures and protocols - as we will elect the oldest President in history in a few days - was a damn good one. Again, Page was crushing it.
Of course, the deflection of the topic from both candidates on this was very disappointing. Kamala's response felt even more disingenuous than the Vice President as she chose this question to unveil one of her stock answers prepared, which was her own personal story of her career and background. Wasn't a good look - poor timing.
- The follow-up question on health was yet another dime by Page. Again, we received another deferral response from Pence. However, while also deferring to answer the question, Harris had a nice spin with the issue of "transparency" and turned the attention to the President's taxes and financial situation. Nice touch.
- Kamala's response to Pence's overspeaking and attempts of interruption of "excuse me, I'm speaking" was simple and so effective in so many ways (i.e. mansplaining - I can't imagine how many women related to that moment.). Also, I'm sure many children with moms of color had a memory bell rung, as they know exactly what that phrase means.
Especially, the look and the point. I ain't playing with you!
- It has to be said, Harris did a tremendous job in looking strong, and not falling into the trap of becoming "the angry black woman". That is no easy feat, people of color know this, and she did a tremendous job of staying poised, strong, and refraining from stereotype pitfalls.
- The debate got better as it went along, leading up to my favorite part of the debate that rendered some good back and forth haymakers.
Pence taking time on a new question, to go back to the previous question and did so effectively by asking Harris to take a stand on whether Dems would expand the Supreme Court. This was something I did not see coming. Truthfully, I thought Pence could've gone for the KO in this segment. Whoa, OK, Michael! You go ahead!
Harris responded nicely with a history lesson on the precedent of appointing judges, using the parallel of Lincoln's election as the example. Nicely done.
Pence seemed like he wanted to go in for the kill, but again, Pence, unable to get out of 1st gear, let the moment fizzle, and the window closed.
I thought this was a great moment for Pence, especially as the conversation materialized into Harris' record. Why on earth has the Trump/Pence campaign not held Biden/Harris to the fire in regards to the Supreme Court expansion, and then, of course, piggybacking it with with the 1994 Crime bill (passed by Joe Biden) which served as a catalyst for mass incarceration? Why haven't they gone with the big uppercut of pinning Harris for her about-face on legalizing marijuana, an issue she prosecuted many black and brown people for in California during her time as an Attorney General?!!!!
Why? Why?? Why???!
The moment was so there, and regardless of my personal opinions, I wanted that for Pence. I actually want that as a voter. Those questions have not been attended to.
- The topic of racism in America really painted two distinctly different parties on stage. From that of Pence disagreeing with the idea of systemic racism, to Harris speaking as a woman of color to the injustices she has seen as a former prosecutor. The segment again was a strong one and was a powerful one overall. It really boiled down a lot of what this election comes down to.
The team of Trump and Pence struggle so mightly to discuss all topics on race. It is such an Achilles heel for them in EVERY debate.
- Speaking of weaknesses, I fully expect Team Biden to hammer the attack on the Affordable Care Act. your beliefs and interests aside, in a debate, the only counter we've heard on this topic from Trump/Pence is saying "that's not true" to Biden/Harris' claims. No substantial retort of plan, substance, or efficacy. It's been pretty glaring.
- Of course, I can't touch upon the debate without talking about, The Fly. Look, I don't know if the Vice President felt the fly or not. If he did, it would be soooo VP Pence not to do anything at all. Thank you, Susan. Look, the American people love flies. And they have a right as Americans, to have freedom flies land on their American heads. Donald Trump has stood firm behind this and supports American Flies, who love the American People.
Regardless, it again took the spotlight away from Pence's efforts to reach moderates and undecided voters. And also, to clean up the mess we saw last week. He did just that. Very unfortunate.
- By the way, I mean this very nicely - how is any voter STILL undecided at this point?!!! I really would love to chat with an undecided voter.
- If this is the last debate we see for the duration of this election, it's crazy to think that what I'll walk away from this debate season is the image of three old white men shouting at each other to perform a debate, and, a fly landing on the crisp white hair of Vice President Pence as he bumbled through a topic on race.
Be ready to vote.