OPINION: Trump and Biden should learn from VP performance

POLITICO

POLITICO

POLITICO

 

Just a day over a week ago from this Wednesday, President Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden took to the stage for the first time in what was anticipated to be the showdown of the most important election in recent history. Instead of getting a well-organized, competitive debate, what America saw was the two 70-year-olds talking over each other for over an hour with arguments filled with petty insults and jabs as they kept going over their time and not spending nearly enough time talking about what the people want to hear. Both candidates showed major weaknesses in the sloppy debate which in effect caused the debates to be one of the worst debate performances in history by two U.S presidential candidates.

On Wednesday, America witnessed the first and only debate between the two vice-presidential candidates Kamala Harris (D) and Mike Pence (R). Vice presidential debates are not usually seen as being very mood swinging or having too much of an importance in a general election, but this time around it seems like this specific debate will have more of an impact on how the public sees the presidential candidates.

The vice-presidential debate looked to be more civil and well-spoken than the main show, the presidential debate last week. The information that came out of both Harris and Pence was clearer, more vital, and more understood by the American people. Both candidates were able to get important points across without yelling over each other or getting too visibly frustrated when they were out of time and were forced to move on. What we saw last week in contrast, was a complete slop fest with no winner and all losers. The losers being both candidates and the biggest being the American people who expected to receive vital, compelling information from the president and former vice president in a time of uncertainty and difficulty that’s currently plaguing the nation.

Going into the debate last Tuesday, Trump could be thought of as the sharper, more energetic candidate between him and his opponent. Trump had several opportunities to use that energy in a positive way to highlight his critical points over Mr. Biden’s and to put a spotlight on his achievements throughout his three years in office. Mr. Trump instead felt the need to use his energy to insult and intimidate Biden throughout the debate. The move by Trump was a strategic mistake, as he spent more time and effort talking about Biden personally than he did talking about his achievements in office. Trump came off even to prominent conservatives as being too aggressive when he did not need to be.

First presidential debate: Full video - CNN Video
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Coming into his debate with Trump, Biden was widely known as a candidate who makes frequent gaffes and did not seem to always be there. Based on his previous debates, people did not expect him to be as energetic as President Trump. But with Trump’s frequent mistakes of talking too much about Biden personally, Biden had a golden opportunity to be the more reasonable man on the stage and highlight his plans and Trump’s failures all while concurrently making Trump seem childish in the eyes of the debate viewers. Instead, Biden attacked Trump back with personal insults and America got an hour and a half of frequent personal insults and not nearly as much talking policy-wise. It already turned a lot of people off to see how little control the moderator had of the situation, as thus the debate was seen as childish, confusion, a disaster, and one of the worst debates in U.S presidential debate history. Or as CNN’s Jake Tapper put it, “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.”

However, what America witnessed on Wednesday night was a sign of hope in this election. More importantly, a lesson for Donald Trump and Joe Biden on how to put on a good, compelling debate for the American people that feature what they want to see along with things they care about and want to see.

After Trump’s over-aggressive performance while debating Biden, Pence took the calm route and decided to debunk senator Harris’ points in a calm, seemingly gentle manner filled with important information. Pence was able to get in multiple good points without personally insulting Kamala Harris at all in the debate. Pence was more active and spoke more in the debate than Kamala Harris did, but he did not do so aggressively. This slick behavior of his to be able to take jabs at Kamala Harris while keeping low key has been praised by strategists watching the debate. It was odd to see how Pence was able to defend the president’s record better than the president could himself. Pence talked more in-depth about Trump’s record and policies than Trump did while he debated Joe Biden last week. Pence seemed more civil and more well-spoken than Trump, which is likely to appeal to the many independent and undecided voters who seem turned off by the president’s personality. Pence also went over his time many times in the debate like Trump, but the way the two-handled being told that they were going overtime was very different. President Trump ignored the moderator most times and kept going or was visibly frustrated, while vice president Pence went along with the moderator, let her continue, and used part of his time on the next question to go back and answer what he didn’t have time to finish. Vice president Pence looked more prepared and more professional than Trump did the previous week, and this is something Trump needs to take into account since what he says is more important than what his VP says, and he cannot allow for his VP to have better-talking points and behavior than him while addressing the American people.

Kamala Harris, on the other hand, was being the more energetic between her and Pence which is the opposite between her running mate and her opponent’s running mate. But in the actual debate, she was the quieter one and the person who did not seem to be dominating as much as people thought she would. This is the same scenario that people expected Biden to be in against Trump. And yet, some people still argue that Kamala Harris still won the debate and that she performed better than Pence. This should be a point of reference as well as a wake-up call for Joe Biden. Kamala Harris showed that he does not need to speak so much like Trump to be a winner in a debate against him, so long he stays professional and follows Kamala Harris’ performance. Harris also spent more time talking about Biden’s plans than Biden himself did the previous week. The vice-presidential debate turned out to be what the presidential debate should have been. And it proved that the American people would appreciate that kind of debate more.

Just because of how poorly the presidential debate was conceived to be, with both sides being seen as disastrous, and with no clear winner, the vice presidential debate could be seen as being much more important this time around than it usually is, since it’s a better source of information than the presidential debate was. But that was the only vice-presidential debate of this election cycle, and there and two more presidential debates left. The two candidates for president need to step up their game and learn from their running mates. They are the stars of the show and everyone’s eyes are glued to the stage when they are on. The next debates can be crucial to the algorithm of the presidential election, so we will have to wait and see what the two candidates do and if they learn from their mistakes and build on them.

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