A Left-Right Analysis of the VP Debate

Robert Brooks Contributor
A Left-Right Analysis of the VP Debate
Read Time: approx. 3:21

This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on October 8, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Photo Credit: Mike Pence, Kamala Harris, Gage Skidmore.


Last night, Vice President Mike Pence squared off—fly on his head and all—against Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City, Utah. Heading into the debate, plexiglass was one of the biggest media talking-points. Pence’s team challenged the installation of plexiglass barriers around him after the commission announced that they would be used. The current VP ultimately agreeing to their installation along with being separated from Harris by 12 feet. The Trump campaign also created some initial buzz by adding the parents of murdered ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller and deceased rapper Tupac Shakur to their guest list. Harris was asked in a CNN interview last month who the “best rapper alive” is and replied “Tupac,” before adding, “Not alive, I know, I keep doing that.” With USA Today’s Susan Page as the moderator, the two sparred over contentious issues that have been dominating the campaign cycle. In quick-hitting, bullet point form here is a headline analysis of the topics that were trending immediately after the debate on both sides:

On the Right: In no particular order, right-leaning outlets and conservative commentators focused on the following points.

  • Ebony Bowden of the New York Post said, “Vice President Mike Pence ripped Sen. Kamala Harris for undermining confidence in a coronavirus vaccine.” Pence said, “The fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine if a vaccine emerges during the Trump administration, I think is unconscionable.”
  • Tim Pearce of the Daily Wire said, “Pence slammed Democratic candidate Joe Biden over his plan to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, asserting the Democrat copied it from the Trump administration’s actions.” Pence said, “Quite frankly when I look at their plan, which talks about advancing testing, creating new PPE, developing a vaccine, it looks a little bit like plagiarism, which is something Joe Biden knows a little bit about.”
  • Randy DeSoto of The Western Journal said Mike Pence brought up the Obama/Biden administration’s record dealing with the swine flu outbreak in 2009. “60 million Americans contracted the swine flu,” Pence said. “If the swine flu had been as lethal as the coronavirus in 2009 when Joe Biden was vice president, we would have lost 2 million American lives.”
  • Tamar Lapin of the New York Post noted that “Fracking got a lot of airplay… as Mike Pence claimed a Biden administration would ban the practice. Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris fiercely pushed back on the suggestion,” and Lapin notes that “Biden’s position on Fracking has at times been confusing.” In a March Democratic primary debate, he said: “No more – no new fracking,” but then in an August campaign event in Pennsylvania Biden stressed that “I am not banning fracking.”
  • Alex Swoyer of the Washington Times said, “Harris refused to say if a Biden administration would pack the Supreme Court with new justices.”
  • Lastly, one of the most popular lines from Pence was: “Senator Harris you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

On the Left: In no particular order, left-leaning outlets and progressive commentators focused on the following points:

  • Andrew Prokop of Vox wrote that “Sen. Kamala Harris confronted Vice President Mike Pence about President Trump’s tax records.” Prokop says, “It’s true. President Trump has massive personal debt. Here’s what we know about who he owes hundreds of millions of dollars to.”
  • The New York Times fact-checking team wrote, “Mike Pence made a misleading claim” when he said “Trump “suspended all travel from China [and] Joe Biden opposed that position [saying] it was xenophobic and hysterical.” The Times fact-checkers said “Trump did not ban all travel from China and Biden did not call the order xenophobic. The restrictions only applied to foreign citizens and included exceptions allowing 40,000 people to travel from China to the US from Jan 31 to April.” This post was also one of the most popular on both CNN and the LA Times’s social media channels.
  • CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell reports that Mike Pence interrupted Kamala Harris 10 times during the vice presidential debate — twice as often as Harris interrupted him.
  • BuzzFeed News reporter Stephanie McNeal wrote that “Harris got a lot of attention online for how she reacted to repeated interruptions by her debate opponent, Vice President Mike Pence.” In her article, McNeal quoted someone online who said, “Can we make this a universal meme for responding to mansplaining.”
  • MSNBC noted that when Sen. Harris was asked about court-packing she said Abraham Lincoln was up for re-election and it was 27 days before the election and a seat became open on the Supreme Court … but Honest Abe said, ‘it’s not the right thing to do — the American people deserve to make the decision.’
  • The Huffington Post said, “People on Twitter joked that the bug on the vice president’s head during the debate with Kamala Harris should probably get tested for COVID-19.” Citing a tweet from comedian Dane Cook, Newsweek said “The fly on Pence’s head has passed away from Covid-19. He was 1 day old.”

Flag This: If you believe that President Trump lost the chaotic first debate last week, as many of his own supporters do, then it’s probably fair to say that Pence won round two last night. Harris wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t great. Both Pence and Harris had their moments, both dodged difficult questions that the American people deserve answers to, and both kept the conversation much more controlled, which was a welcomed change of pace. That said, Pence was more polished and prepared. The next question is, does his performance make a difference? Members of the GOP certainly hope it does. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) says he’s worried about what may happen on November 3 and in the polls above, Biden’s lead has widened every day this week. In terms of what’s next, the plans for the Oct. 15 presidential debate in Miami remain in place as President Donald Trump recovers from COVID-19. That’s in one week from today, which means we have an infinite amount of news cycles to go until then.