The Vice Presidential debate underscored what a wise choice President Trump made when he picked Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. That in and of itself isn’t news (we endorsed Mr. Pence for a second term as soon as it was known with whom Vice President Biden would be running). What we just saw was just how politically skilled the man from Indiana is in the high-stakes arena.
We gained a glimpse of that in 2016, when Mr. Pence schmeised Secretary of State Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine. That wasn’t as much of a feat for Mr. Pence as was last evening, though, because Mr. Kaine lost owing to his own obnoxiousness. Senator Harris, by contrast, was on her best behavior, even if she tried repeatedly to cast Mr. Trump as a racist (a move she made on Mr. Biden in the primary).
What we liked about Mr. Pence’s performance was that he really nailed certain points — starting with taxes, where he caught the Coast senator in a contradiction. Mr. Biden has been running around saying he’s going to repeal the Trump tax cuts — that is, raise taxes — on “day one.” Yet Ms. Harris is boasting of his pledge not to raise taxes on persons earning under $400,000 a year. Mr. Pence pounced on that contradiction.
The vice president also clobbered Ms. Harris with the Green New Deal. Ms. Harris seemed to be reluctant to embrace the idea of a massive spending program on the weather, although she and Mr. Biden had embraced it in the past. He also cornered Senator Harris in respect of packing the Supreme Court. By refusing to deny the scheme, she, like Mr. Biden, confirmed that it’s exactly what, given the chance, the Democrats would do.
Ms. Harris’ nastiest moment came when Mr. Pence condemned the attacks on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s religion — a reference to Senator Feinstein’s criticism of Judge Barrett’s religious convictions. Ms. Harris failed to defend the judge and made a point of contending that she and Vice President Biden are “both people of faith.” Yet she failed even to acknowledge what happened to Judge Barrett, let alone promise to avoid religious tests.
That came up when the moderator — USAToday’s Susan Page, on whom more in a moment — raised the abortion question. Senator Harris made a point of standing for abortion rights. Mr. Pence returned to the point to mark that both he and President Trump are unapologetically pro-life candidates — a useful contrast at a time when even some pro-abortion-rights figures are predicting an end to the Roe era.
It is being said that the debate doesn’t really matter, in that it is unlikely to affect many, if any, votes. Then again, too, though, the vice presidential stakes on the Democratic side are greater than normal, owing to the age and frailty of Vice President Biden. The debate left us thinking that the Republicans are in better shape on the vice presidential front than the Democrats. Are we, after all, prepared for a hard-left president?
Which brings us to the question of the moderator. Michael Goodwin, in the New York Post, was especially strong on this head. Ms. Page’s mind-set came through with particular clarity at the end, when she asked each candidate about what she reckons have been several refusals by President Trump to say that he would commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power. It was a gross distortion of the president’s position.
Even so, if she wanted to put that question to Mr. Pence, she should have asked Senator Harris about the advice Mr. Biden is getting from Hillary Clinton never to concede under any circumstances. Had Ms. Page pressed the point properly, she’d have illuminated that the position of the two sides is the same. Neither side is promising to accept a loss until a reliable vote count is in. How should it be otherwise? It fell in the end to Mr. Pence to mark that point.