• Wed. Jan 20th, 2021

Who won the vice-presidential debate?

The vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night appeared to drive people back into their partisan corners. How you viewed the candidates depended mostly on your partisanship.

Republicans cheered Vice President Mike Pence; Democrats praised Senator Kamala Harris. And few minds were changed.

When Mr. Trump selected Mr. Pence as his running mate four years ago, the decision was in large because of the differences between the two. More reserved in style and practiced in political speechmaking, Mr. Pence has always been skillful in smoothing out his boss’ rougher edges.

“Trump should let Pence sub for him at the next debate,” said Rich Lowry, editor of National Review.

“Man is shiving people left and right with a smile,” said Ned Ryun, a conservative strategist, of the vice president’s low-key style.

While many of the vice president’s critics expressed frustration that he often ignored the questions from the moderator, Susan Page of USA Today, his supporters noted the same tendency to evade — and were impressed. “Susan, allow me not to answer your question,” said Guy Benson, a conservative writer and radio host.

Ms. Harris’s ability to lash her opponent with effective one-liners provided some of the more memorable moments of the evening.

“Biggest breakthrough sound bite: Harris wins. ‘If you have preexisting condition they are coming for you,’” said Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist who has been critical of the president and vice president.

Hanging over the assessments and perceptions of Ms. Harris’s performance was the historic nature of her candidacy. Never before had a woman of color participated in a presidential or vice-presidential debate, leaving many to wonder whether she would be judged harshly for being animated or emotional, and to praise her for navigating those difficult waters.

“The needle Kamala threaded tonight as a Black woman needs to be acknowledged,” said Natasha Rothwell, a screenwriter. “How we’re perceived is based on a short list of ‘permissible’ behavior. She was strong, uncompromising and authentic without falling for bait meant to cast her as an ‘angry black woman.’ I’m in awe.”