Friday, June 18

‘Pence Proved Better at Politics Than His Running Mate’

While neither performance was particularly revealing, both candidates’ deliveries were exactly what members of their party had hoped for. Harris focused on prosecuting the case against Donald Trump, and Democrats will likely laud her performance as strong. However, Harris’ delivery was similar to Biden’s in last week’s debate—meaning that, while both Biden’s and Harris’ performances did no harm, they were inconsequential in the sense that they did nothing to project leadership. Similarly, Republicans will likely praise Pence’s performance as strong and commanding, and as a clear display of leadership. However, Pence at several instances talked over and interrupted Harris, as well as the moderator, Susan Page, prompting Page at one point to pause and remind the vice president that his campaign had agreed to a set of speaking rules for the debate. Taken together with Pence’s waffling on abortion rights and Roe v. Wade, the night likely did not bode well for the Trump-Pence ticket among suburban female voters, a bloc that the campaign is struggling to gain ground with.

The Biden-Harris Court-Packing Bind

Timothy P. Carney is commentary editor at Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

We learned the most when Kamala Harris spent more than two time allotments refusing to answer the straightforward question of whether she and Joe Biden would try to pack the court. This refusal highlighted the bind the ticket is in, fearful to offend either its activist base or the swing voters. Say you’ll pack the court, and give the GOP fodder to attack you as extremists. Deny you’ll pack the court, and deflate the base, which you’ll need to win and to govern effectively.

‘Pence was a lower key version of Donald Trump last week’

Atima Omara is founder and principal strategist of Omara Strategy Group. Since 2016, she has been one of Virginia’s elected representatives to the Democratic National Committee.

Mike Pence was a lower key version of Donald Trump last week. Pence still managed to interrupt Senator Harris at every turn, not let her finish, run over his time if he could and interrupt the woman moderator. So while he was more pleasant sounding, he did not have that much more decorum than Trump. If he was trying to get more women back, particularly suburban women, he failed.

Also it is clear, like in 2016, Pence will continue to lie about even the obvious. More than 200,000 people died from Covid-19, and 7 million plus infected since March. He claimed that President Trump has put the health and wellbeing of the American people first, when all you have to do is look around and look at the mismanagement of this pandemic.

‘If this had been the Harris who had come to the 2020 Democratic primaries, she’d have been a far more effective challenger for the nomination’

Tom Nichols is professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.

Kamala Harris performed better than I expected and Mike Pence worse than I expected, and the difference said a lot about the state of the two campaigns. Harris found her stride as a running mate, defending Biden, laying punches on Trump and generally staying out of areas where she could find herself in a quotable bind (such as on court packing). She was well-prepared and stayed on the preferred Democratic message of the evening: the Trump administration’s incompetence and scandals. I actually think that if this had been the Harris who had come to the 2020 Democratic primaries, she’d have been a far more effective challenger for the nomination; Wednesday night she seemed ready for the job if needed. Pence, by contrast, seemed deflated compared to four years ago. He was rude to moderator Susan Page, seemed generally tired and annoyed compared to the happy warrior he was four years ago against Tim Kaine, and in general stuck to low-energy recitations of the president’s talking points. It was as close to a normal debate as we’ve seen in four years, and it summed up the race, where the energy and optimism is with the Democrats and a pall and exhaustion have settled on the Republicans. Mike Pence even looked like he didn’t feel well and had something wrong with his eye, which itself seemed a symbolic addition to the evening.

‘We’re getting a vice president who is on the fringes on abortion’

Liz Mair is a Republican campaign communications consultant.

The most revealing moment came with both candidates’ refusal to honestly state their positions on abortion, which underlined how far out of line each position actually is with most Americans. Either way, we’re getting a vice president who is on the fringes on this topic.

“Thank you, Mr. Vice President…”

Robert M. Shrum is a former political strategist and director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California.

Aside from the fly, the most revealing moment(s): the number of times Susan Page had to say—over and over—“Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” as Mike Pence plowed ahead, exceeded his time and also repeatedly interrupted Kamala Harris. He was no Donald Trump, but he was obnoxious in the way he dealt with the two women on that stage. Trump is already in deep trouble with suburban women, who will recoil from Pence’s display of condescension and sense of superiority.

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