Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic running mate Kamala Harris had quite a time verbally debating Wednesday night in Utah. Their focus landed mainly on the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the economy and a couple of other issues.
And while the lone vice presidential debate didn’t have the fireworks of last week’s showdown between President Trump and Biden, it was able to brush on more substance, when the candidates actually answered the questions.
The Post’s panel of election analysts agreed on the fact that the obvious winner of the debate was the house fly that landed on Pence’s head and relaxed there for 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
“Both sides made their points well. Both sides went on the attack. Both ignored questions they didn’t want to answer,” said Matt Mackowiak, a longtime Republican strategist, podcast host and chairman of the local Republican Party in Austin, Texas. I’m not sure either side made up any real ground.”
Another analyst for The Post, longtime Republican Staten Island political strategist Leticia Remauro, gave Pence the edge.
“Mike Pence won this debate. He delivered his message in a measured, even tone which connected with viewers,” said Remauro, a regular on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” who is planning a run for Staten Island borough president on the GOP line in 2021. “Harris didn’t connect as well with viewers because she came off angry and jumpy,” she added.
But Eric Soufer, who worked on the Democratic presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Barack Obama, said Harris came out on top where it most counted — the COVID-19 pandemic issue.
“COVID and its devastating consequences are the only things that matter,” said Soufer, who was also a top adviser to former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“The head of the coronavirus task force had to speak behind plexiglass because he works in the world’s most infamous cluster,” he said, adding, “Pence’s greatest achievement was remaining cool under pressure of the fly.”
However, our panel’s analysis of key portions of the night are as follows:
- Mackowiak: Harris opened strong on COVID, but Mike Pence effectively presented the administration’s case for how it has saved lives. — Pence B+ / Harris B
- Soufer: Harris gave aspiring politicians a master class on how to dismantle your opponents’ record of failure. Pence did fine given his team’s record, but offered nothing new for moderate Republicans or swing voters. — Pence F / Harris A–
- Remauro: Pence wins this one because he managed to turn Harris’ claim that the administration didn’t do enough into an assault on the American people who sacrificed to stop the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Harris reverses whether she would take the vaccination. — Pence A / Harris C
- Mackowiak: Pence rightly focused on the Biden-Harris plan to increase taxes by $4 trillion. — Pence B+ / Harris B
- Soufer: Mike Pence made the usual case for the three years of job gains, but couldn’t muster a coherent plan for what they’ll do to get us out of this mess. — Pence C- / Harris A–
- Remauro: Pence wins this one clearly. He put Harris off her game when he stated that she and Biden would raise taxes on middle America. — Pence A+ / Harris C
Police brutality protests:
- Mackowiak: Not sure either side won points here. — Pence B- / Harris B–
- Soufer: Harris spoke passionately about the tragic consequences of systemic racism and how our country has, and still can, come together to address it. Pence riffed on violence before stumbling into a line about the grand jury process, which no one knows or cares about. — Pence F / Harris A
- Remauro: Pence wins this one. Even though Harris passionately lays out the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Pence manages to remind her that she refused to vote on the Tim Scott bill, then brings up her record of prosecuting more black men than white and Hispanic as a prosecutor and district attorney. — Pence A / Harris B
- Mackowiak: Pence’s key moment came when he asked Harris about packing the court — and she declined to answer twice. Harris’ moment came when she hammered pre-existing conditions.
- Soufer: Harris on healthcare — they’re coming for you. And saying she wouldn’t take the coronavirus vaccine if Trump said to.
- Remauro: Pence dropped the hammer on Biden by recounting his plagiarism problems and dominated during the foreign affairs segment. Harris did better with the healthcare message driving here point home clearly and striking fear into viewers who may have pre-existing conditions.
- Mackowiak: Pence interrupting enough that the moderator had to reiterate the rules. Harris undermining confidence in the COVID vaccine.
- Soufer: Pence talking over both women despite audible appeals to let them speak. Harris making the case a bit too passionately that she and Biden won’t end fracking, which could alienate some progressives who don’t understand the politics of fracking in a handful of swing states.
- Remauro: Pence never really defended the administration’s reasoning for the Supreme Court case. Harris was visibly angry and rattled often during the debate. She had many scowls.
- Mackowiak: It wasn’t wearing a mask.
- Soufer: We all owe a debt of gratitude to that brave fly for finally giving us something to laugh about together in 2020. A+
- Remauro: The fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head seemed to like what he was saying as well.