Tuesday, October 6, 2020


Divided between plexiglass barriers, Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will meet Wednesday for their first and only debate. Unlike past “junior-varsity” matches, what’s in store will reveal the aptitude of each of the candidates and two very different portraits of the future. Many voters think Ms. Harris will likely end up running things in the White House should the Democrats win. But the ability to carry out the duties of the presidency, if necessary, is something that both will be judged on.

The personality clash between the candidates also offers viewers a chance to weigh what their differences reveal. When Mr. Pence, composure-personified, meets Ms. Harris, a former district attorney given to implying opponents are racist White men, a battle royale will undoubtedly ensue. Does the country want someone who mouths progressive canards or someone who supports sturdier values?

We are likely to hear more policy talk during the debate than what we heard during the unhinged cage fight between President Trump and former Vice President Biden. Ms. Harris is over-eager to a fault, and she chomps at the bit to show that she’s smart and in charge. Mr. Pence, steadier and focused, has West Wing experience on his side.

But if the GOP learned anything from the first debate, Mr. Pence will push Ms. Harris on the issues. If he succeeds, and if we don’t see favoritism on the part of the moderator (never hold your breath on this), Ms. Harris should be made to go on record regarding what Democrats have planned for reopening schools and economy, the future structure of the U.S. Supreme Court and “the forever riots.”

What Mr. Pence can control, however, is how he distinguishes the Republican platform from that of his opponent. He must sound the note, again and again, that what differentiates the Trump-Pence ticket from the Harris-Biden ticket is pragmatism. Trump-Pence will open up the country, get kids back to school and get parents back to work. Mr. Pence should, and likely will, stress that we live in a country that should be revered and made strong, not belittled as Democrats too often do.

Mr. Pence may not be Mr. Personality, but at the moment, that’s just fine. After years of obfuscation from Democrats (and Mitt Romney Republicans), voters are eager for things to be delivered clearly, calmly and honestly. We want to hear America called great, riots called evil and the future described as bright. Most importantly, when Ms. Harris attacks the values that made America the envy of the world and the treasure of freedom-loving peoples, Mr. Pence must issue a strong rebuke.

In the final analysis, we want to see through the paranoia of the plexiglass present a model of the sure, strong hand that could aid Mr. Trump for four more years. Mr. Pence can do this.

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