With two debates done, have voters learned anything new?


October 8. 2020 — The vice presidential debate on Wednesday evening, Sept. 29, stirred a variety of reactions among the people who tuned in. Viewers had input to whether the new moderator acted effectively and if the discussions between the two candidates on stage were helpful to the still-undecided voters.

Along with a new set of topics that differed from the first presidential debate, was new moderator, Susan Page, known for her position as the Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today.

Historically, moderators for the vice presidential debate and the presidential debate have always been different. Page’s performance follows on the tails of the previous moderators in the first presidential debate, Fox News correspondent, Chris Wallace.

“Republicans don’t like Chris Wallace. He did a terrible job and really ended up getting overrun by both of them,” said Cynthia Cole, chair of the King County Republican Party, in reference to the presidential debate on Oct. 29.

Although Cole believed the new moderator did a great job overall, she found Page’s first question as more of a statement that dumped on the other side of the aisle. According to transcripts from the debate, the question read, “what would a Biden administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t do?”

Speaking of the other side of the aisle, Shasti Conrad, who serves as chair for the King County Democratic Party and also worked under the Obama administration as an executive assistant, believed the USA Today journalist did a great job.

“I think [Page] was more prepared from seeing the interruptions that happened in the previous debate,” Conrad said. “Although, we still saw that microphones were a problem in this debate too.”

It appears that most people who watched the debate on Wednesday agreed that the candidates’ discussion was a bit less chaotic than the conversations between President Donald Trump versus former Vice President Joe Biden on Sep. 29.

The chair of the King County Republican Party mentioned that she was impressed with Vice President Michael Pence’s performance on the stage.

“I’ve never seen him as part of a debate-style discussion and I was happy that he was able to set a few things straight for the record,” Cole said.

Sophie Macaluso, who received her Masters of Education from La Salle University this past year, agreed that interruption from candidates was something that still needed to be addressed by the Commission of Presidential Debates.

“The internal misogyny that came from Page was awful,” said Macaluso in a Facebook message on Thursday. “It was obvious how different she treated Harris versus Pence.”

The student’s critique didn’t come up unfounded, other publications such as Politico and even Page’s home of USA Today had critiques about her treatment of each candidate.

According to an article published Oct. 8 by Politico titled “Thank you, Mr. Vice President’: Another moderator struggles to control the conversation,” Page failed on many occasions to curb Pence from going over his allotted time, saying the phrase “Thank you, Mr. Vice President” roughly 22 times as well as mis-titling Senator Harris and addressing her by her first name.

The recent refusal by President Trump to participate in a virtual debate due to his COVID-19 diagnosis in combination with America’s response from the first debate left Conrad questioning whether the presidential debate format is truly serving its purpose.

“For the people who remain undecided, I think there’s a lot of other ways to learn about their candidates,” Conrad said. “It would be nice for them to more clearly speak about their policy plans. They kind of already did but no one remembers because that first debate was a mud-slide.”