Those who showed up to watch Harris, the former prosecutor, skewer Pence were probably not wholly satisfied either. She got in some zingers, especially in the first 10 minutes or so of the debate, and she opened with a sharp takedown of the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. When Pence attempted to interrupt her a few times, she blocked him with “I’m still speaking,” a phrase that resonated with women on social media.


And yet, for the remainder of the debate, she was more congenial, smiling often, and taking on a professorial tone when she spoke directly to the camera, just as Biden had done in the presidential event.

Both Harris and Pence accomplished what they needed to do. Pence managed to stay steady and focused, like a grown-up. He didn’t manterrupt 51 times. Harris found the line between being powerful and likable, a sad, gendered demand of women in politics.

In the end, the two missions dovetailed into something bland, a debate that didn’t take viewers to wildly interesting places. That left an opening for a common housefly that hung out on Pence’s white hair for two long minutes to steal the spotlight and all the memes.

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