Listening mostly on radio, I thought Mike Pence won the debate by a fair margin, if what he said was true. However, he sounded as though he was stretching the truth, again by a fair margin. His problem was that he had to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, or defend the indefensible. This can stretch his credibility, which to me it did.
However, what I think does not matter to the election outcome.
Do VP debates matter? The conventional wisdom is that on balance they mostly don’t by election day.
Except this debate did matter as an opportunity to stop the drift against Trump. Pence needed a knockout. He did not get it, so he failed.
David Brooks is a syndicated conservative commentator, who I read in the AFR and found at the Seattle Times. Brooks tells us that the election campaign has largely shrunk from grand ideological issues to two practical problems: how to get rid of Trump and how to beat COVID-19. He says Biden and Harris have run a professional campaign. They have:
- ruthlessly and effectively focused their campaign on the Exhausted Majority — people who are disgusted by and semidetached from politics in working-class homes in the Midwest, in retirement communities in Florida, in suburban cul-de-sacs everywhere.
Harris’ debate performance was the perfect implementation of the strategy and the perfect illustration of why it is succeeding. A lot of the conversation about who “won” the debate misses the crucial question of who effectively implemented their campaign’s strategy. Harris did. The Republicans don’t have a strategy, so Mike Pence’s performance was beside the point.
FiveThirtyEight teamed with Ipsos to answer the question Who Won The Vice Presidential Debate?
- The verdict: While the debate didn’t really change how people are planning to vote, Harris did improve her favorability ratings.
Matt at WTF Just Happened Today drew attention to Susan Page, the moderator, and Pence’s practice of interrupting and stealing time:
Pence repeatedly interrupted Sen. Kamala Harris, ignored the moderator, went over time, and refused to directly answer the questions asked during the vice presidential debate. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking … I’m speaking,” Harris repeatedly had to say when Pence interrupted her. And, about an hour into the debate, moderator Susan Page noted that Pence had spoken more than Harris while trying to stop Pence from taking more time than allotted.
At FiveThirtyEight they said Pence interrupted 16 times to Harris’s nine. However, Pence was more often successful in his interruptions. was given more time in the first place by Page, often refusing Harris a right of reply to a blatant attack, but offering Pence a right of reply when attacked. Pence was rude and disrespectful, basically a bully. I imagine women would have been especially unimpressed.
Matt at WTF has some good links, including Ryan Lizza at Politico in The VP debate offers the nation a glimpse of a post-Trump future
Fact check: Pence echoes Trump’s false claims at vice presidential debate and David Smith at The Guardian in Looks speak louder than words as Harris makes quotable case against Pence. Smith sees Pence and Harris as contrasting types:
It was always going to be about the two faces of America.
One: white, male, midwestern, evangelical Christian. The other: Black, female, coastal, progressive.
Then there was Kamala Harris’s ability to weaponise facial expressions with raised eyebrows, pursed lips and withering stares. She was trying to look presidential rather than simply attack:
That didn’t happen by accident.
It was hardly a surprise that Pence reeked of white male privilege; it was less anticipated that the target was the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, as much as Harris. Showing no respect for her questions, rules or timekeeping, he just kept talking and often called her “Susan”.
Struggling to gain control, she pleaded: “I did not create the rules for tonight … I’m here to enforce them.”
So with that, Republicans may have lost more suburban women voters, if that is even possible. But the bottom line is that this VP debate won’t change the race.
Here’s graph showing the gender gap:
My view is that how people come across on TV is more important than what they say in the game of political persuasion, a reason why we don’t have Bill Shorten as PM and probably won’t have Anthony Albanese.
Nevertheless truth and facts matter. Here is a fact-check from ABC News and The Associated Press:
Kamala Harris did not get everything right, but Pence’s performance looks like deliberate wholesale distortion of the truth.
Here is grist on Fact-checking Mike Pence’s half-truths about climate change. What Pence said was sad for the United States and for the world.
However, Mark Kaufman at Mashable says VP debate shows we’re stuck in first grade on climate change. Journalists should not be asking politicians whether they believe in the science of climate change.
Prof Katharine Hayhoe:
For the gazillionth time:
Climate change is not a religion. It is a science.
Do I believe in it? No.
I look at the data, and the data is clear: it’s real, it’s us, it’s bad, and the time to fix it is NOW.
Journalists should be holding politicians to account. In our patch at least The Guardian educates all its journalists on the climate change and the ABC has stopped giving equal time to climate nutters. In Uncle Rupert’s den the Oz still pumps out disinformation, while son James has given up trying to from within:
- James Murdoch says he quit his father’s media empire because it was ‘legitimizing disinformation’ and slams ‘crazy’ Trump for ‘infecting the US with cruelty’ and downplaying COVID.
He said “he couldn’t change the company from the inside and so no longer wanted to be associated with it.” He blamed the president for ‘infecting the population’ with ‘cruelty’ saying ‘it’s no coincidence the number of hate crimes in this country are rising’ and threw his support behind Joe Biden saying ‘hell yes’ when asked if he will be voting for the Democratic candidate in November’s election.
For discussion on the VP debate on a previous thread, I think it starts here.