Vice Presidential Debate, Play by Play

The Vice Presidential debate was a little easier to watch multiple times for two reasons. First, Susan Page kept up the debate structure and was a more professional moderator than Chris Wallace. Second, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence did less interrupting and less talking over each other than former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump. Still, a careful analysis of this debate, there were issues.

Below, I have laid out the details of the debate without the content. The content can sometimes distract from other issues going on. How often was the moderator interrupting each candidate, and did she give them equal time? When a candidate appeared to be speaking over-time, were they really, or were they being cut off early? How much solo camera time did each candidate get? All of those details are analyzed, segment-by-segment below, and summed up at the end.

A Note About Initials vs Names

I do not mean any disrespect by calling Vice President Mike Pence “MP” or Senator Kamala Harris “KH.” I respect their titles and their lives of public service, I only hoped to save a little space and make this post less cluttered.

Segment One: COVID-19

What would a Biden administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t do? Would you impose new lockdowns for businesses and schools and hotspots, a federal mandate to wear masks?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 2:03
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
KH: Spoke 5 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 3 seconds
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 20 seconds

Why is the US death toll, as a percentage of our population, higher than that of almost every other wealthy country?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:04
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
MP: Spoke 8 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 3 seconds, 4 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 42 seconds

KH Responded: 44 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
KH: Spoke 27 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 6 seconds, 14 seconds
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 7 seconds

MP Responded: 59 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 4x
MP: Spoke 23 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 6 seconds, 2 seconds, 11 seconds
KH Interruptions: 2
Camera on MP’s Face: 14 seconds

How can you expect Americans to follow the administration’s safety guidelines to protect themselves from COVID when you at the White House have not been doing so?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 54 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 5x
MP: Spoke 43 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 11 seconds, 3 seconds, 22 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 34 seconds

KH Interrupted/Responded: 49 seconds
SP: (Time’s Up) 2x
KH: Spoke 6 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 6 seconds
MP Interruptions: 2
Camera on KH’s Face: 0

If the Trump administration approves a vaccine before or after the election, should Americans take it, and would you take it?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 12 seconds
SP: (Time’s Up) 0x
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 18 seconds

MP time to respond?

SEGMENT ONE TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 2
MP: 2
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 4
MP: 3
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 2
MP: 2
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 3:48
MP: 3:57
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: 6.2 seconds
MP: 7.11 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 32 seconds
MP: 41 seconds
Camera on Face
KH: 45 seconds
MP: 1:30
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 4:26
MP: 5:11

Segment Two: Vice Presidency


Vice President Pence, have you had a conversation or reached an agreement with President Trump about safeguards or procedures when it comes to the issue of presidential disability? And if not, do you think you should?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:01
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 4x
MP: Spoke 10 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 3 seconds
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on KH’s Face: 2 seconds
Camera on MP’s Face: 22 seconds

SP: Same question
KH Answered: 2:05
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 18 seconds

And my question to each of you in turn is, is this information voters deserve to know?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 1:20
SP: Never Interrupted
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

SP: Same question
KH Answered: 1:22
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 1
Camera on KH’s Face: 13 seconds

MP Interrupted/Responded: 45 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
MP: Spoke 13 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 5 seconds, 5 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 2 seconds
Camera on MP’s Face: 3 seconds

SEGMENT TWO TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 2
MP: 2
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 2
MP: 3
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 1
MP: 1
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 3:27
MP: 4:06
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: N/A
MP: 3.6 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 0
MP: 23 seconds
Camera on Face
KH: 35 seconds
MP: 25 seconds
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 3:27
MP: 4:29

Segment Three: Economy

Would raising taxes put the recovery at risk?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 1:56
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 34 seconds

Should Americans be braced for an economic comeback that is going to take not months, but a year or more?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:05
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
MP: Spoke 6 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 4 seconds, 2 seconds
KH Interruptions: 2
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

KH Responded: 1:58
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 5x
KH: Spoke 50 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 9 seconds, 2 seconds, 15 seconds, 7 seconds
MP Interruptions: 4
Camera on KH’s Face: 0

MP Responded: 1:00
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 2x
MP: Spoke 9 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 9 seconds
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

SEGMENT THREE TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 2
MP: 2
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 2
MP: 2
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 3
MP: 4
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 3:54
MP: 3:05
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: 8.25 seconds
MP: 5 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 50 seconds
MP: 15 seconds
Camera on Face
KH: 34 seconds
MP: 0 seconds
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 4:44
MP: 3:20

Segment Four: Climate Change

Do you believe as the scientific community has concluded, that man-made climate change has made wildfires bigger, hotter, and more deadly and have made hurricanes wetter, slower and more damaging?

SP: Asked question
MP: Answered: 2:05
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 6x
MP: Spoke 17 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 4 seconds, 1 second, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 4 seconds
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on MP’s Face: 47 seconds

What exactly would be the stance of a Biden-Harris administration toward the Green New Deal?


SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 2:15
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 1
Camera on KH’s Face: 27 seconds

Vice President Pence, do you believe that climate change poses an existential threat?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 1:21
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 5x
MP: Spoke 15 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 6 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

KH Interrupted/Responded: 1:29
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 2
Camera on KH’s Face: 7 seconds

MP Responded: 30 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 5x
MP: Spoke 19 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 5 seconds, 6 seconds, 2 seconds, 5 seconds
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

KH Interrupted/Responded: 15 seconds
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 0

SEGMENT FOUR TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 1
MP: 2
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 3
MP: 3
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 2
MP: 3
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 3:59
MP: 3:56
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: N/A
MP: 3.5 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: N/A
MP: 51 seconds
Camera on Face
KH: 34 seconds
MP: 47 seconds
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 3:59
MP: 4:47

Segment Five: China

Vice President Pence, how would you describe our fundamental relationship with China? Competitors? Adversaries? Enemies?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:04
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) x4
MP: Spoke 13 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on MP’s Face: 16 seconds

SP: Asked same question
KH Answered: 2:04
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 1
Camera on KH’s Face: 41 seconds

What is your definition of the role of American leadership in 2020?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 2:06
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 58 seconds

MP Responded: 1:59
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 7x
MP: Spoke 35 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 12 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds, 4 seconds, 3 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

KH Responded: 2:02
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 1x
KH: Spoke 16 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 16 seconds (only interrupted once)
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 0

MP interrupted and tried to respond, SP said:

“I’m sorry sir, you’ve had more time than she has.”

Total scores so far, in this segment, MP had been given 4 minutes and 3 seconds plus spoke over time for 48 seconds, for a total of 4 minutes 51 seconds to speak about China/Foreign Relations. The camera was on his face for a total of 16 seconds. KH had been allowed to speak for 6 minutes and 12 seconds and spoke over for 16 seconds, giving her a total of 6 minutes and 28 seconds, with the camera on her face for 1 minute 49 seconds!

TOTAL times in the debate at this point had added up to:

KH Speaking Time 23:04
MP Speaking Time 22:38

MP had not had more time either in the segment or in the entire debate.

MP Interruption/Responded: 47 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 7x
SP Interruption Spacing: 9 seconds, 18 seconds, 3 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 3 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 23 seconds

SEGMENT FIVE TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 2
MP: 1
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 3
MP: 3 (MP had to force his 3rd speaking opportunity)
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 1
MP: 1
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 6:12
MP: 4:03
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: 16 seconds
MP: 5.2 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 16 seconds
MP: 1:35
Camera on Face
KH: 1:49
MP: 29 seconds
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 6:28
MP: 5:38

Segment 6: Supreme Court

If Roe V Wade is overturned, what would you want Indiana to do? Would you want your home state to ban all abortions?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:02
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 4x
MP: Spoke 10 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 28 seconds

If Roe V Wade is overturned, what would you want California to do? Would you want your home state to enact no restrictions on access to abortion?

SP: Asked question
KH: Answered: 2:12
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 4x
KH: Spoke 12 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds
MP Interruptions: 1
Camera on KH’s Face: 23 seconds

So, tell us specifically, how would your administration protect Americans with preexisting conditions to have access to affordable insurance if the Affordable Care Act is struck down?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 1:36
SP: Never Interrupted
KH Interruptions: 1
Camera on MP’s Face: 45 seconds

Then, it went back and forth for a bit and SP did not interrupt much. It went like this: Harris 7 seconds, Harris 1 minute, Pence 7 seconds, Harris 2 seconds, Pence 2 seconds, Harris 2 seconds, Pence 22 seconds, Harris 52 seconds, Pence 7 seconds, with SP interrupting to end it 3 times during MP’s final 7 seconds. Both candidates interrupted each other during all but one speaking moment. The totals for this section are:
KH 2:53
MP 38 seconds

Interruptions
KH 3
MP 4

SEGMENT SIX TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 1
MP: 2
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 5
MP: 6
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 4
MP: 5
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 5:05
MP: 4:09
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: 3.33
MP: 3.33
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 12 seconds
MP: 17 seconds
Camera on Face
KH: 23 seconds
MP: 1:13
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 5:27
MP: 4:26

Segment 7: Racial Justice

Senator Harris, in the case of Breonna Taylor was justice done?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 2:05
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 6x
KH: Spoke 14 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 2:20

Please note the camera time here–longer than any camera time ever used on Pence, in the whole debate. this seems intentional.

SP: Same question
MP: 2:08
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 6x
MP: Spoke 18 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds, 5 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 29

KH Interrupted/Responded: 43 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
KH: Spoke 8 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 7 seconds, 4 seconds
MP Interruptions: 3
Camera on KH’s Face: 0

MP Responded: 51 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 7x
MP: Spoke 45 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 7 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 0

KH Interrupted/Responded: 27 seconds
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 3x
KH: Spoke 56 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 4 seconds, 52 seconds
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 21 seconds

SEGMENT SEVEN TOTALS

Questions Asked
KH: 1
MP: 1
Speaking Opportunities
KH: 3
MP: 2
Interrupted Opponent
KH: 0
MP: 3
Time Allowed to Speak before SP Interrupted
KH: 3:15
MP: 2:59
Average Space Between SP’s Interruptions
KH: 8.8 seconds
MP: 3.9 seconds
Extra Speaking Time After SP Interrupted
KH: 1:18
MP: 1:03
Camera on Face
KH: 2:41
MP: 29 seconds
Total Speaking Time in Segment
KH: 4:33
MP: 4:02

Segment 8: The Election

If your ticket wins and president Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, what steps would you and vice president Biden then take? What would happen next?

SP: Asked question
KH Answered: 2:01
SP: Never Interrupted
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 2:07

If vice president Biden is declared the winner and president Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, what would be your role and responsibility as vice president? What would you personally do?

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 2:12
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 2
MP: Spoke 3 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 2 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 1:13

Segment 9: Brecklynn

SP: Asked question
MP Answered: 1:33
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 2x
MP: Spoke 6 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 4 seconds
KH Interruptions: 0
Camera on MP’s Face: 1:35

SP: Same question
KH Answered: 1:35
SP: “Thank you” (Time’s Up) 1x
KH: Spoke 4 more seconds
SP Interruption Spacing: 4 seconds
MP Interruptions: 0
Camera on KH’s Face: 1:39

Totals, Summed Up

Questions Asked
KH: 13
MP: 14

Speaking Opportunities
24 each

Note that when one candidate has less questions asked of them and the same amount of speaking opportunities, this means that they get extra time to speak freely without an agenda. It is an advantage to be asked fewer questions but still be given opportunity to “respond.”

Interrupted Opponent
KH 13
MP 19

Time Allowed to Speak Before Being Interrupted

It appeared as though the Vice President was speaking over-time quite a bit. I wondered if that perception was accurate. This is what I found:

Main Questions

In the question about the Vice Presidency, MP was interrupted by SP when he had spoken 4 minutes less than KH, and KH was not interrupted at all. KH spoke 2 minutes and 5 seconds with no interruptions, MP spoke 2 minutes 1 second and was interrupted.

On Climate Change, KH was allowed to speak for 2 minutes 15 seconds without SP interrupting her once.

In fact, if MP ever spoke 1 second over the 2 minute mark, he was always interrupted. KH was allowed to pass the 2 minute mark 5 times out of 8 questions without being interrupted by SP at all!!

In the end, both candidates got about equal time to answer the main questions, though KH got 2 seconds more.

Discussion Time

When responding to something KH had said, the longest time MP spoke without being interrupted by SP was 22 seconds. If his response was any longer, he was always interrupted. In contrast, KH was able to respond without interruption for 1 minute 1 second, 1 minute 29 seconds, 1 minute 7 seconds, and 52 seconds.

In the end, KH got 16 minutes of discussion time, and MP got 13 minutes 36 seconds.

If Vice President Mike Pence Didn’t Speak Over Time

If MP did not speak overtime, he would have had a total of 31 minutes, 50 seconds of speaking time in the entire debate, and KH would have had 34 minutes and 16 seconds. This may not seem like a lot, but when we are talking about 45 second to 2 minute time chunks of speaking in a debate, an over 3 minute deficit actually adds up to a lot of missed opportunity.

Even with MP’s speaking over time (which we’ve established was not always over-time, it was just called sooner than KH’s time), his total speaking time was less:

Final Speaking Time Totals


KH 36 minutes 45 seconds
MP 35 minutes 45 seconds

Do you see that MP had to speak over time in order to have equal time? And even then, he had 1 minute less time than KH.

The Spacing Between Interruptions

SP would interrupt a candidate with a “Thank you,” quite politely (even if it wasn’t fair, she was a much more polite and competent moderator than Chris Wallace). Then she would wait a little while and interrupt again. I wanted to find out if she gave one candidate more space between interruptions. The averages are as follows:

KH was allowed to speak 8.9 seconds before being interrupted again
MP was allowed to speak 4.6 seconds before being interrupted again

This makes a big difference in the audience’s perception of the candidates, if they hear “Thank you” more times after one candidate speaks than they do of the other.

Camera Time

We are visual people! What we see matters! Young men saw the USS Arizona being bombed on TV and then voluntarily signed up to potentially sacrifice their own lives in World War II. What we see impacts us a lot!

I think it is really important to note that KH got 12 minutes of camera time when it was only her on the screen, and MP only got 8 minutes. This is a big deal!

Overall

I do feel that Susan Page was a much better moderator than Chris Wallace, but this debate was not entirely fair. When one candidate gets interrupted much more often, and more quickly than another, it deceives the audience and makes them believe that the candidate is less respectful of the time and rules. Also, when one candidate is shown on camera FOUR minutes more than the other, that’s a big deal! I’m sad to see so much trickery going on, and I hope the American people can see through it. The big question is, do they really feel like they have to cheat to win?