Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris faced off Wednesday night in the first and only 2020 vice presidential debate. In contrast to last week’s presidential debate, the event was referred to as “a more traditional affair,” and the general consensus has been that moderator Susan Page, the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today, outperformed last week’s Chris Wallace. Of the event, it was said that the most interesting part of the night was the “fly that landed on Mr. Pence’s head partway through the debate.” Political reporter Will Weissert agreed, “[The fly] easily created more, well, buzz than nearly anything else that occurred,” and social media users seems to agree. A myriad of fly memes have been circulating on Twitter and Instagram since the incident occurred.
How about at future debates if a participant doesn’t answer a question the moderator could press a button that makes them fall into a pool of water. #Debates2020— Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) October 8, 2020
The Right thinks Pence won. “Mr. Trump has to make the election about the policy contrasts to have any chance of victory, and Mr. Pence showed how to do it,” wrote The Wall Street Journal. National Review‘s Senior Political Correspondent Jim Geraghty stated, “Pence was remarkably effective, and he does it in a way that seems to lull his opponents into underestimating him,” adding that “Kamala Harris was herself, with her now-familiar deliberate, polished, theatrical TNT-legal-drama-star persona that has never been my cup of tea.”
“[Pence] did more in a few minutes Wednesday to rebut criticisms of how the virus has been handled than all other administration officials combined have managed to do in the past eight months…After Harris mentioned Biden’s plan to combat the virus, Pence countered that it practically plagiarizes the Trump response.”Gary Abernathy, contributing columnist for The Washington Post
Regarding Harris, Fox News contributor Liz Peek wrote, “She constantly smirked and frowned and shook her head in derision while listening to Pence; no wonder Democrat primary voters decreed her ‘unlikeable.'” However, political commentator Michael Brendan Dougherty argued, despite Pence’s strong performance, “I don’t think the debate mattered to the election in any serious way.”
The Left thinks Harris won and argues that Pence’s interruptions and failure to stop talking after his time was up were both sexist and typical. Shane Goldmacher of The New York Times praised Harris’ performance while arguing that “Pence had few strong answers,” also noting, “It was hard not to see the interjections and pushback refracted through the lens of gender.”
“She was no doubt aware of the various dynamics and need to thread the needle on balancing being assertive and letting certain attacks go at points so as not to be seen as ‘angry’ or ‘overly aggressive,’ which are common sexist racist tropes about women.”Karen Finney, Former 2016 Clinton Campaign Adviser
“The main takeaway from this debate was that even Mike Pence cannot ably defend the president’s record or character…In contrast, Harris more than met the moment, with a cool, confident performance,” wrote journalist and attorney Raul A. Reyes. However, Vox news’ Matthew Yglesias criticized Harris for failing to utilize numerous opportunities to corner Pence with pointed questions.