In a vice-presidential debate so civil and calm that an insect briefly took center stage, what moments actually mattered? 17 experts weigh in.
ednesday’s vice-presidential debate between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence felt at times like a 90-minute throwback to another moment in American politics: two professional, disciplined politicians delivering carefully engineered takedown lines, smiling politely while dodging inconvenient questions.
In one sense, this was the exact kind of politics that Donald Trump has blown up.
But in another, the performance was all a veneer over the bigger issues Trump has brought to the fore, as the candidates sparred over Covid, cops and the fairness of elections. And much as Harris-Pence could be seen as a preview of a post-Trump partisan matchup, it was a much more revealing indicator of how the 70-something men at the top of the ticket are trying to pitch themselves in the last stretch of the campaign with their younger, more disciplined, more predictable mouthpieces.
What really mattered in a debate when the lines in the campaign are already so firmly drawn? Politico Magazine reached out to a group of political operatives and observers and asked them what stood out. As they watched, they saw Harris as a well-briefed prosecutor who “came for Mike Pence and didn’t miss,” but who also wasn’t willing to answer a direct question on the controversial idea of packing the Supreme Court. In Pence, some saw his constant interruptions of both Harris and the moderator as an “obnoxious” performance that would hurt him with suburban women—but others saw him land effective shots on behalf of the administration’s more successful economic messages, the “steady but biting hand that Republicans were eager to see.”