Pence is an incredible debater, Dems warn Kamala Harris against taking him lightly: 'He's the king of sound bites'
With just a couple of days left for the first vice-presidential debate of this year, set on Wednesday, October 7, voters are expecting an exhilarating showdown between the two candidates on the ballot — Vice President Mike Pence and Democrat Senator Kamala Harris. Familiar with Harris' prosecutor-style questioning, a snippet of which went viral in 2018 when she grilled now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many have already declared who the winner of the debate would be. However, Democrats and Republicans alike have cautioned Harris not to underestimate Pence and his debating skills.
"Oh, he's an incredible debater," Emmy Ruiz, a former Harris senior adviser said of Pence during Harris' presidential run. An Indiana Democrat, John Gregg, who went to law school with Pence and ran against him in the state's 2012 gubernatorial race, also expressed the same views, saying people underestimate Pence's skills at debating.
“You know, he's easy to poke fun at. A lot of people do because he's conservative — or different things he’s said," Gregg told USA Today. "But they underestimate Mike. He's a very good debater." The vice president who spent some years as a radio show host has helped him become the "king of sound bites," according to Gregg, who added that when you combine his skills with a message of focus, it makes the vice president "the most disciplined candidate I’ve ever run into." Gregg referred to Pence's exceptional performance against Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in 2016. “I think you'd have to admit, Mike Pence got the best in that debate,” Gregg said.
A former staffer of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while talking to Newsweek of the 2016 debate, said that one of the most "frustrating" parts of the 2016 vice presidential debate was the "strategic decision to rattle him and make him defend the indefensible positions of Trump." The staffer added that it was "hard to pin him down" as Pence continued to deflect and deny Trump's statements and positions.
Although vice presidential debates are generally unremarkable and more publicity is given to presidential debates, this year the situation is different. President Donald Trump, at 74, has been diagnosed with the Covid-19 disease that has killed 200,000 Americans, and his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is 77. Considering these factors, voters will be watching to see the leadership and substance of Pence and Harris, either of whom could one day serve as president of the United States.
As reports of Pence's "incredible" debating skills emerge, it appears that Harris has not taken her opponent lightly either and is well aware of her political rival's skills. When California Senator Toni Atkins. at a virtual fundraiser last month, asked questions of Harris about her upcoming debate with Pence, the senator interrupted him to remark on how good a debater Pence is. "Let me just say something. He’s a good debater,” Harris said. “So, I’m so concerned, like I can only disappoint.”
Voters are also expecting much substance from Pence and Harris during their debate, including details on multiple talking issues, which appeared missing from the presidential debate last month. “Mike Pence is as smooth as Trump is crude,” Democratic strategist David Axelrod said on his podcast. “He’ll probably give the performance that Trump’s handlers wished that he had given something like.”