Whereas Santa Barbara Republicans and Democrats were by and large united in disappointment with the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, they’ve gone back to being of divided opinion regarding Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.
Predictably, Democrats and Republicans who spoke to the News-Press about the event handed out plaudits and criticisms of the two vice presidential candidates along party lines.
Santa Barbara Democratic Party south vice chair David Atkins accused Mr. Pence of repeatedly dodging every question leveled at him and was unable to justify the Trump administration’s performance in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By contrast, he praised Sen. Harris for comporting herself well when the vice president talked over her.
“I thought that Sen. Harris showed incredible grace when faced with yet another man who would not let her speak and repeatedly talked over her,” he said.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, also took issue with the vice president interrupting Sen. Harris and refusing to cede his time when it was up. She added that Mr. Pence butting in when the senator was talking likely struck a chord with a lot of women who are used to men interrupting them.
“So many of us during the course of our lives have been talked over, interrupted, and mansplained, which the vice president did quite a bit,” she said.
She also objected to the vice president not saying whether there would be a peaceful transfer of power should Mr. Trump lose reelection, calling it the “most disturbing” part of the debate.
Both Mr. Atkins and Sen. Jackson praised Sen. Harris for her out-of-the-gate critique of the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing that it has resulted in the United States suffering a quarter of COVID-19 deaths despite having only 4% of the world’s population.
Santa Barbara County Republican Party chairwoman Bobbi McGinnis spoke in defense of the president’s handling of the pandemic, pointing out that pre-lockdown he cut off travel from China because of the virus only to be met with accusations of xenophobia from Democrats.
Ms. McGinnis was particularly distressed by Sen. Harris refusing to answer a question from Mr. Pence regarding whether the Biden administration would try to pack the United States Supreme Court with additional seats. She expressed fear that this possibility would disrupt the balance of power between the three branches of the federal government.
Quoting political commentator Bill O’Reilly, she stated, “This is the most important election of our lifetime. The Democrats want to stack the Supreme Court. This would forever change the very foundations of our republic.”
Coalition of Labor, Agriculture & Business executive director and Republican Andy Caldwell also took issue with the senator evading the court packing question and echoed concerns about this happening under the Biden administration.
Mr. Caldwell, who is running for Congress and is also a News-Press columnist, remarked that court packing would co-opt the judicial branch into an extension of the legislative branch and pose an “extreme danger to our constitutional republic.”
He also accused Sen. Harris of misrepresenting the “clear agenda of the Biden-Harris ticket” in regard to energy and fracking.
“They have unequivocally stated again and again that they want to end our reliance on fossil fuels and fracking,” he said.
He added, “I found it very distressing that she would outright lie about that.”
As far as how Sen. Harris conducted herself, Ms. McGinnis said she was obviously “trying to be more likeable.”
Mr. Caldwell said Sen. Harris came off as insincere.
“If people were watching her body language and her voice intonation, they should be able to tell that she was coached, she was scripted,” he said.