ANDERSON – I didn’t even notice the fly.
 
In the middle of a debate between Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a fly took up residence on the vice president’s head, and social media exploded.

I don’t know why, but while almost everyone else seemed focused on that fly, I was thinking about who won the debate.
 
As soon as moderator Susan Page closed the discussion, I flipped over to Fox News to learn that nearly all of the panelists thought Pence had dominated the evening.

You have to admit the vice president was focused. Regardless of any shots his opponent might take, he stayed relentlessly on message. Nothing could shake him.
 
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said. But Pence was unmoved. He suggested that by criticizing the administration’s handling of the pandemic, Harris was actually minimizing the sacrifices of average citizens.

“President Trump and I trust the American people to make choices in the best interest of their health,” he said. “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates.”
 
When Harris said she’d take a coronavirus vaccine only if experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended it, Pence accused her of trying to undermine public confidence. “Stop playing politics with people’s lives,” he said.
 
It didn’t matter that Harris was simply saying what the vast majority of Americans actually think. When Harris pointed out that the administration had no plan for replacing the Affordable Care Act and protecting Americans with preexisting conditions, Pence split from reality. “Senator Harris,” he said, “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.” And he said it with an earnestness that would be hard to match.
 
Page allowed both candidates to dodge questions they didn’t want to answer. Harris slid around a question about whether she and Biden would try to stack the U.S. Supreme Court if Republicans were successful in seating Judge Amy Coney Barrett and handing conservatives a six-to-three majority. Neither candidate wanted to address the president’s refusal to guarantee a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election.
 
Page also struggled to enforce the time limit. When a candidate ran out of time, she’d say, “Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” or “Thank you, Senator,” and when the candidate kept talking, she’d say it again. And again. And again. Critics suggested she should have just cut off the offending candidate. She should have said, “Your time is up,” and turned to the other candidate. It’s hard to say whether that would have worked.
 
A moderator’s job isn’t easy. His or her goal should be to let the candidates discuss the issues without getting in the way. To a great extent, Page accomplished that. The two candidates talked for almost the same amount of time. CNN clocked Pence at 36 minutes and 27 seconds. It said Harris spoke for 3 seconds less, 36 minutes and 24 seconds.
 
In the end, though, the real star seemed to be that fly. The Biden campaign went so far as to set up a website “flywillvote.com,” which sent people to a page where they could make sure they were registered to vote and learn what they needed to do to vote by mail or in person.
 
Even the next day, Biden was still talking about that pesky insect. “Watching the debate, it was hard to take my eye off the fly,” he said. And then there was this comment from Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press. “The fly is the October surprise,” he cracked.
 
I don’t know how I missed it.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at kelly.hawes@indianamediagroup.com.