Vice President Mike Pence won his first debate against Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., according to liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias.
Yglesias argued in a column for Vox that although Pence’s hand was “weak,” he “outperformed” Harris by a wide margin.
He said the vice president successfully spinned tough questions and focused them back on “popular Republican positions and unpopular Democratic ones — positioning the Trump/Pence ticket as the moderate choice compared to Biden/Harris, which he cast as a radical and risky alternative.”
Both Harris and Pence managed to avoid giving substantive answers to just about every question moderator Susan Page asked them.
But Pence, unlike Harris, did so with skill, Yglesias said.
For example, Page’s question on whether Pence would “ban all abortions” if Roe v. Wade were overturned did not shake Pence. He simply chose to ignore it, and instead jabbed Harris for vilifying Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process, and pointing out that Democrats have already begun doing this exact same thing to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Harris could have pressed Pence in her response, but she did not, according to Yglesias.
Instead, she attacked Barrett’s nomination, which led Pence to ask Harris about court-packing, a radical policy that is deeply unpopular among a plurality of voters. Harris couldn’t answer that question either, but she also couldn’t turn the conversation away from it, said Yglesias.
Pence also won in an exchange about the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts, Yglesias said. Harris could have hit Pence for “enriching the wealthiest” Americans, but she failed to do so, he argued.
Pence, however, successfully “hewed to the talking point that the average family of four saved $2,000 a year” because of the tax cuts, and continued to point out that Biden “promised to repeal the Trump tax cuts, thus raising taxes on everyone.”
This was the pattern throughout the entire debate, Yglesias noted. Harris failed to explain Biden’s positions, and failed to point out what was wrong with Trump’s. Pence, however, successfully “downplayed Trump’s failures” by pointing to Biden’s, Yglesias explained.
“What Harris did instead was repeatedly get visibly annoyed at the way Pence would go over time, attack her or Biden in dishonest ways, or misrepresent his own record,” Yglesias wrote, referencing Harris’s constant sneering and laughing.
Yglesias attributed Harris’s failures during the debate to her lack of experience with normal, moderate voters.
“Harris is a donor favorite and the likely future of Democratic Party politics. But having come up in California, she has essentially no experience with running races where she needs to appeal to moderate cross-pressured voters,” he wrote.
“Pence has also spent his entire career running in a safe House seat and then statewide in a very red state,” he concluded. “But somewhere along the way, he has picked up the knack for focusing on his good issues and downplaying his bad ones. Harris hasn’t, and it showed.”