Oct 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The Pence-Harris debate was a big hit on the right

A split photo of Mike Pence on the left and Kamala Harris on the right looking at each other
Photos: Justin Sullivan/Pool/AFP

Mike Pence's performance at the vice presidential debate set conservative media on fire, generating high interaction numbers on favorable coverage of him and critical coverage of Kamala Harris, according to data from NewsWhip provided to Axios.

The big picture: The debate was more notable for its return to civility than for generating strong emotions — but the NewsWhip data shows that the breakout moments saw more traction on the right.

By the numbers: The 11 debate stories that generated the most interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media all took off in the conservative online ecosystem.

  • The top piece — "Mike Pence on Supreme Court nomination and Roe v. Wade: ‘I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it’" (1.18 million interactions) — was published by CNBC, but generated most of its traction when it was shared from Franklin Graham's page.
  • Other top pieces included fact checks of Harris' argument about why Abraham Lincoln held a Supreme Court seat vacant in 1864.

The other side: Top stories from liberal and mainstream media were about the fly that landed on Pence's head as well as Harris' demeanor during the debate — her facial expressions and her "I'm speaking" assertions to Pence.

  • Stories about the fly accounted for nine of the top 100 stories.

Yes, but: Polling among debate-watchers indicates that Harris got the upper hand with her performance.

The bottom line: Even for Pence's moment in the sun, it was difficult to divert attention from President Trump.

  • The biggest story overall on social media on debate day was "Trump kills stimulus talks, tweets no deal until 'after I win' election" from NBC News, with more than twice as many interactions as the top Pence piece.
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