Essentially the most memorable components of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate had little to do with the marketing campaign itself. One of many high Google search results was pink-eye. At one level, a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and stayed there for 2 minutes earlier than disappearing—as if it, too, had someplace it will quite be.
The VP debate shouldn’t transfer the needle—it by no means does—but it surely does supply a glimpse of two campaigns at radically completely different locations proper now. And proper now, the Trump marketing campaign simply doesn’t have lots in its tank. Pence, much more so than Trump in his debate final week, caught to his message and hit the speaking factors like he’d practiced them in a mirror. He spoke on to “the American people” just a few occasions, furrowed his forehead when he wished to look disenchanted (which was typically), and even stated one thing good about Sen. Kamala Harris, congratulating her on her choice to the ticket. However his efficiency confirmed simply how weak the Republican ticket’s hand actually is correct now.
On COVID-19, which Pence was tasked with main the administration’s response to, the vice chairman struggled to land a punch. Like Trump earlier than him, Pence invoked the Obama administration’s dealing with of the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. The White Home botched that pandemic badly, Pence claimed, including that if the virus had been as lethal as COVID-19, two million individuals might have died. That’s a reasonably large if! Asking voters in charge Joe Biden for what occurred to them in an alternate universe than the one by which they lived solely underscores how flimsy Pence and Trump’s document is on this pandemic. Is a counterfactual about swine flu actually the most effective they’ll do? At this level, it looks like it.
The same downside occurred when Pence tried to assault Biden for opposing an early shutdown on journey from China. Pence defined that the journey restriction had purchased the nation vital time by which to organize for a pandemic. However that’s solely a very good message if the nation then subsequently ready for the pandemic. As Harris rightly famous, Trump spent months downplaying the virus, killing time as an alternative of utilizing it. “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you,” she stated. It’s powerful to rebut one thing the president bragged about on tape. Pence did his greatest to select and select stats and moments that might exhibit management, however there’s not likely something he can say that may reverse what Trump has carried out. Greater than 210,000 individuals are lifeless. That is all they’ve received.
When the dialog shifted to the Supreme Court docket, Pence downplayed the cost that Supreme Court docket nominee Amy Coney Barrett would assist overturning Roe v. Wade. (Barrett’s place is, the truth is, fairly clear; she even signed onto a newspaper commercial prior to now calling for the choice to be overturned.)
As an alternative, Pence most popular to redirect the Supreme Court docket query to Harris, making an attempt to pin her down on whether or not she and Biden would pack the court docket if Barrett is confirmed and the Democrats win the White Home. It’s not a nasty query, truly, and the Democratic ticket has been cagey about its reply. (Harris didn’t present one.) Court docket-packing will surely be an enormous departure for Democrats and the Supreme Court docket, however does anybody actually assume the election goes to hinge on it? It’s a desperation play you name when the issues the election truly is about are trending within the unsuitable path. And maybe the form of argument you lean on when the choice to maneuver ahead with the nomination is as unpopular as it’s.
The very best card in Pence’s hand—the one which at one level they believed made them favorites for reelection—was the financial system. Pence repeatedly invoked the power of the American financial system for a lot of Trump’s time period, and highlighted the flawed restoration out of the Nice Recession (which, as Harris famous, Biden was chargeable for shepherding within the Obama administration). This was a slam-dunk case at one level—an argument that match on the proverbial bumper sticker. However it’s not 2019 anymore. The financial system is a catastrophe, Disneyland is shut down, the airways are in hell, a lot of the eating places in my metropolis are on the chopping block, and there’s a looming eviction disaster that Washington is doing nothing to avert. At this level, making an attempt to brag concerning the financial system is simply reminding voters how dangerous issues have gotten—and the way a lot worse they’ll probably get.
Pence was characteristically unflappable, and after watching Trump, it’s kind of surreal to see somebody as relentlessly on-message and well-prepped as he was. However there simply wasn’t a lot Pence might do on Wednesday. These are some issues even Regeneron can’t repair.