Moderator Susan Page hopes Mike Pence-Kamala Harris vice presidential debate was helpful for voters: 'That was the point'

Written by on October 8, 2020


Susan Web page, Washington bureau chief for USA TODAY, is the primary print journalist to solo-moderate a presidential debate. This is how she ready. USA TODAY

Susan Web page believes debates are designed to assist voters. To her, they are not for the information media or the candidates. 

By that customary, final week’s presidential debate did not make for a very good viewing expertise. 

Web page, USA TODAY’s Washington Bureau chief, presided over Wednesday’s vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris in Salt Lake Metropolis. Main as much as the talk, Web page stated she sought methods to create a distinct form of dialog. 

That activity required a extra aggressive moderation than she’d deliberate to permit equal talking time for each candidates, and he or she needed to lower a deliberate phase on immigration.

Nonetheless, Web page was hopeful the talk was helpful for voters.

“I did not get solutions to all of the questions I had hoped to get,” she advised USA TODAY Editor-In-Chief Nicole Carroll after the talk. “I feel generally I acquired ready speeches as an alternative of spontaneous responses — that should not be a shock.”

‘I am talking’ vs. ‘If I’ll end:’ Pence, Harris spar over COVID-19 and other top moments from the VP debate

An analysis from CNN reported Harris and Pence got practically equivalent talking time, with the Democratic senator from California clocking in at 36 minutes and 24 seconds and the Republican vp talking for simply three seconds extra. 

Web page was watching the time: She had clocks on her desk to point out each candidates’ talking time. Her last tally: Harris had 30 extra seconds to talk than Pence. 

“Early on, it was clear it required extra aggressive moderation than I had deliberate to maintain it about equal,” she stated. 

By the hour mark, it was apparent the talk was working over its allotted 90 minutes, stated Web page, the primary print reporter chosen by the Fee on Presidential Debates as a solo moderator.

Whereas the vice presidential debate was extra civil than final week’s Donald Trump-Joe Biden presidential debate, interruptions from each side had been frequent, with Harris turning to Pence twice to inform the vp she was nonetheless talking as he tried to speak over her.

USA TODAY Editorial Board: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence clash, but in a civilized way

CBS Information reported Pence interrupted Harris 10 times, in comparison with 5 interruptions from Harris. 

Pence additionally continuously spoke over Web page as she tried to inform him his time was up. 

“I felt the one factor I might do was interject his time was up,” Web page stated.

And, no, she stated she did not need a technique to lower his microphone. 

She added, “We set these guidelines in order that the candidates can have an opportunity to talk. It is not my debate. It is their debate. It is the voters’ debate.”

Each candidates additionally dodged direct questions, at occasions. Web page’s job was to not ask follow-up questions or maintain the candidates ft to the fireplace, she stated. The talk is not an interview or a information convention, the place she usually would have adopted up, she stated. 

Neither candidate answered a query about presidential incapacity, for instance. 

“Every thing a couple of debate tells voters one thing,” she stated. “So, with each candidates, and particularly with Vice President Pence, they did not handle the query I requested. That’s irritating to me as a result of I spent lots of time writing these questions. However, that’s illuminating in its personal technique to voters, and that was the purpose.” 

Coronavirus was all the time going to be her first matter, she stated. The 2 campaigns met and determined Harris can be the primary particular person to reply, she stated. Web page drafted slim questions, ones she thought would resonate with voters, within the hopes of getting direct solutions. 

“This was maybe much less profitable than I would hoped,” she stated after the talk. 

‘I am talking’: Harris, Pence clash evident at vice presidential debate even with body language

A part of Web page’s preparation included a mock debate with “extraordinarily impolite” debaters, she stated. 

She carried out a key portion of the mock debate coaching when she needed to rein in each candidates who had been interrupting one another throughout a dialog concerning the navy. She aggressively reminded the candidates of the principles they’d comply with and allow them to understand it was time to get again on monitor. 

Web page did that after on Wednesday. In her mock debates, she did it “like 3 times.” 

“As we labored via the mock debate, I grew to become increasingly more aggressive in making an attempt to close it down as a result of nothing else was working,” Web page stated. 

Web page stated she was honored to be the moderator for Wednesday’s debate. 

“I hope that voters who watched it thought it helped them resolve who has the insurance policies they assist,” she stated. “Who has the management traits that they need to see. I hope it helped voters. That is what I hope. So, you inform me if it was profitable.”

Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Jeanine Santucci and Erin Jensen, USA TODAY


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