I’ve got to confess: For safety’s sake I set up a plexiglass shield between me and the TV.
OK — that’s a joke, but so were the oval barriers between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris.
Although the set was the same as for the last debate, this time the candidates sat at desks, while President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stood — and hurled insults at each other.
This time it was civil, but a tiny bit testy, and was marked by each candidate speaking over allotted time, and playing dodge ball with questions they didn’t want to answer.
Moderator Susan Page, of USA Today, repeatedly and pointedly tried to cut them off, but she failed to follow up when each dodged a question. By my count, Pence was the major time traveller, plowing ahead to complete a memorized point, no matter what Page said.
Naturally, COVID-19 was a main topic of discussion, and the first topic to be tackled — and evaded. When Pence was asked why the U.S. death toll was higher than any other country, he said Trump’s plan was working and that Biden’s plan was a copy of Trump’s and slipped in a line about Biden and plagiarism, which most people won’t understand.
When asked why everyone ignored CDC safety suggestions at the Rose Garden ceremony that introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Pence praised the American people, but did not answer the question.
Harris ducked when asked what would happen if Biden fell ill in office. Pence skipped that one, too.
The Big One that Harris evaded was whether she would approve of Democrats trying to pack the Supreme Court. She also did not say what she and Biden would do if Trump lost the election and refused to leave office. Pence dodged by saying Trump would win and also breezed by the question on how Trump would protect people with pre-existing conditions.
Pence lost points with this judge by his constant overruns. Harris gets a penalty flag when, legitimately questioned about her record as a D.A. and attorney general, said, “I will not be lectured by the vice president,” and “I am the only one on the stage” to prosecute a case. It came off snotty.
I think Pence wasn’t convincing on how well Trump fought the coronanova virus, and polling shows only a minority of Americans approve of Trump’s actions. Biden’s plan actually isn’t much new.
Pence’s strongest selling topic should have been the economy, but, to me, that was a push.
Harris accused the Trump administration of disrespecting the American people by lying to them, while Pence scored points by mentioning Harris’ “radical environmental agenda” and noting that Newsweek called her the most liberal member of the Senate.
Unlike Harris in the Democratic debates, in this one she dropped the harsh tone she had used on Biden, coming across as a more likeable person. Pence seemed defensive and, I don’t know, a little depressed? She got under his skin.
Measured against expectations, as the lesser known person, I think Harris won on points, but I doubt that anyone’s mind was changed by the debate. And thankfully, it was not a debacle.