A Fair Fight: The Vice Presidential Debate Comes as a Breath of Fresh Air

Image courtesy of BBC

By Jack Rowing 

Last month the two presidential candidates squared off in a debate that was widely chaotic and unruly with, according to Slate Magazine’s count over 128 interruptions from President Trump.. With the majority of opinions from both the left and the right in agreement that the debate was a catastrophe. Wednesday night, however, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence squared off in a much more civilized and decent affair.  

During the vice-presidential debate, the candidates talked about a number of issues. It opened with moderator Susan Page, from USA Today, asking the candidates about the current coronavirus crisis, which then quickly divulged into a referendum on the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic. This has been largely understood to be in line with the Biden-Harris campaign strategy. In large part that is what the American public saw from the candidates, a series of well-planned out and concise points in line with the campaign messaging. There were a few key moments beyond the fly that landed on Vice President Pence’s head.  

In large part, Vice President Pence did a good job of pressing Senator Harris on a number of issues that the Trump-Pence campaign has been hammering home. He asked a number of questions as to where the primary candidate Harris and the vice-presidential candidate seemed contradictory, such as fracking and raising taxes on families making less than 400,000 dollars a year. She clearly said, “Joe Biden will not end fracking” back when she was running for President. The majority of the Vice President’s attacks fell flat on a candidate well versed in her campaign’s plan and capable of defending it and Senator Harris did an excellent job on staying on message. The only question posed by Pence that was dodged entirely was the issue of court packing. The Biden-Harris campaign has been hesitant to expressly state a position on court-packing. Tonight was no exception, the exchange ended with Vice President Pence saying, “I just want the record to reflect she never answered the question. Maybe in the next debate Joe Biden will answer the question, but I think the American people know the answer.”  

Strong moments from Senator Harris were by no means absent at the debate. From the simple but strong “I’m still speaking” to more concrete official stances on issues. She defended Obamacare and attacked the President’s response to the epidemic. However, the issue where she struck back on the hardest was on police reform. Harris, a former prosecutor and California state attorney general, has certainly had an exceptional amount of experience on Law and Order, and while it may have hurt her in the primary, it was an area where she dominated in the debate. Echoing former Vice President Biden’s line “Law and Order with Justice” from the last debate was “Bad cops are bad for good cops”. Neither one of these is the stance that the Trump campaign has created for the Biden-Harris campaign and made a very clear and obvious point about their position being a moderate one and creating a center-left coalition.  

This center left coalition is not without its critique, last night as Senator Harris clearly stated that she and Joe Biden will not ban fracking, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “Fracking is bad, actually” This may be perceived as an attack on their left flank that may play out more in their Presidency, but it is important to place it into to the context of a series of attacks form the Representative Ocasio-Cortez on Vice President Pence that very same night.  

A quickly accomplished CNN poll had Senator Harris winning the debate 59%-38%, however the question of if either candidate will get a bump in the polls will come out shortly. The debate was exactly what the candidates planned on, an issue based, clean, and relatively unexciting debate, where policy is at the center of attention and both candidates made their points clear, and with respectful disagreement as to what the country should do in the next four years. 

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