I am on the record as finding the presidential debates, at least in their modern incarnation, somewhat pointless. I extend this point to the vice-presidential debates as well. But I decided to make an exception for tonight’s debate, mostly out of (morbid) curiosity for what I have been missing.
And since I did so, I might as well throw my own take into the post-debate morass of dueling subjectivities that I have described in this way:
The principal attribute of today’s presidential debates is high theatricality. “Victory” comes from a superficial and subjective analysis of collected moments in them, or by an even-more subjective attempt by the candidates and by their surrogates to “spin” the proceedings in their favor after the fact.
In my view, Mike Pence seemed more effective at both getting his points across, and in “hacking” the debate format to keep saying what he wanted to say. He did so without seeming aggressive or impolite, whereas Harris’s attempts to do the same came off as cloying or whiny. Harris landed some effective attacks on Donald Trump, attacks Pence tended to sidestep by bringing people into his far rosier — some might say imaginary — view of the Trump presidency. Pence’s best moments were the surprisingly Tulsi Gabbard-esque attack on Harris’s prosecutorial record and his insistence on trying to get Harris to answer a court-packing question and pointedly noting when she failed to do so.
Will it matter? Probably not. And it may well be that my own take gets lost in the post-debate spin wars. But I humbly submit it to you all the same.