Will the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate Matter? What to Expect in Mike Pence Vs. Kamala Harris Debate

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

 

Vice President Mike Pence will take on Senator Kamala Harris in the 2020 vice presidential debate tonight. As far as prime time television goes, it is definitely a thing that is happening.

It’s really hard to get excited about this one. The last debate was a train wreck and since the last debate, the news cycle has been insane. I mean, President Donald Trump got COVID-19. It’s been an insane ride ever since that bit of info dropped. I almost forgot this debate was even happening. But, happening it is, and it is something to pay attention to.

In the past, vice presidential debates have never really mattered. People don’t vote based on who the running mate is. They vote for who the presidential nominee is. The running mate is just along for the ride. There have been no elections that were transformed in any meaningful way by this debate.

And yet, 2020 is out there, lurking around every corner and waiting for the perfect moment to destroy any and all preconceived notions. If any year is going to see a vice presidential debate turn the tide of an election, it will be this year.

What to Expect?

Well, Harris has been laying low and been very quiet on the campaign trail. A couple of her public appearances and media hits have been a bit problematic for the campaign, like the time she referred to a “Harris administration” instead of a Biden one. She has also been out of sync with the campaign on key issues.

However, Harris has had experience debating using her skills as a prosecutor to tear opponents apart. The problem she’ll face is doing so without alienating the voters, like she did in the primary race to be the Democratic nominee. Still, she’s not battling other Democrats. She’s battling a Republican. Chances are she won’t scare off Democrats. Her goal here will be to attack and to hit the Trump administration on the issues of race and COVID-19.

But if she doesn’t handle herself well on issues that may chase away moderate voters, like healthcare, taxes, and the Green New Deal, you can expect moderate voters to get antsy.

That is where Pence’s strength comes in. In 2016, Pence debated Tim Kaine, whose debate strategy appeared to be 35,000 dad jokes ,in lieu of a personality. This time, he’s taking on a more aggressive opponent in Harris, but his strategy will likely remain the same. He’ll focus on being calm and collected throughout, while attempting to tie Harris to extreme progressive policies.

The goal will be to frighten moderate voters away from the socialist policies the Harris-Biden… er… Biden-Harris administration will try to enact. Pence will be focused on touting the successes of the Trump administration, but he will be sure to add “And you will lose all this if Biden and Harris win,” because they’re super-progressive and will be out to get you.

Who Will Win?

Given last week’s debate, I’m not sure anyone can “win” here, but I expect that there will be plenty of opportunities to lose. The goal of both campaigns in 2020 appears to be more “scare people away from the other side,” rather than “attract people to our side.” Trump has got to expand his base, and this is Pence’s chance to do it. Likewise, Biden’s campaign has to show that there is unity and strength in the ticket, and Harris has to succeed in being aggressive where Biden can’t always be.

The debate begins at 9 p.m. ET tonight and will air on every major news network.