What We Learned from the Mike Pence vs Kamala Harris Debate

There were other gender dynamics at play, including Mr. Pence’s regular interruptions.

“I’m speaking,” Ms. Harris pushed back at one point. “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking,” she said at another. “He interrupted me, and I’d like to just finish, please,” she said a third time.

It was hard not to see the interjections and pushback refracted through the lens of gender in a contest where the outsize support of women is lifting the Democratic ticket. (In the end, CNN calculated the two candidates had almost equal time.)

Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist, said that Ms. Harris “clearly came prepared with strategies for Pence interrupting, talking over her and running over time.”

“She was no doubt aware of the various dynamics and need to thread the needle on balancing being assertive and letting certain attacks go at points so as not to be seen as ‘angry’ or ‘overly aggressive,’ which are common sexist racist tropes about women,” said Ms. Finney, who was an adviser on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Mr. Pence, it should be noted, was the only man onstage on Wednesday, with Ms. Harris across from him and Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, serving as moderator.

The weakest moment of the night for Ms. Harris came on the courts, when Mr. Pence challenged her directly to answer whether she and Mr. Biden would endorse expanding the Supreme Court if Mr. Trump’s nominee for the current vacancy, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, was seated.

Ms. Harris dodged. Mr. Pence called her out. And Ms. Harris dodged some more.

Mr. Pence declared at the end of a squirm-worthy segment: “You gave a non-answer. Joe Biden gave a non-answer. The straight answer is, they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.”


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