Expert reveals what Mike Pence’s body language at the VP debate really means

Expert reveals what Mike Pence’s body language at the VP debate really means

10/08/2020

Heading into the vice presidential debate against fierce former California state prosecutor, and now U.S. senator, Kamala Harris, who, after all, is fighting to take over his job, Vice President Mike Pence had every reason to fumble last night. Stacking the deck even more against him were two unusual TV phenomena: the VP was staring down at Harris with red, tearing eyes, provoking Twitter speculation that Pence has pink eye, a COVID symptom (per WebMD); and a fly, which landed on Pence’s head and stayed there for a good two minutes.

However, according to body language Dr. Reneé Carr, a corporate and political advisor, Pence maintained a level demeanor throughout the entire 90-minute event. “Vice President Mike Pence was calm and ready for the debate,” Carr told The List. “His body was still and his voice was steady. In a gesture of respect and to make it visible that he agreed with the debate being civil, Pence gave an extended look toward Senator Harris as he tried to make eye contact with her when the moderator commented on the debate being ‘civil.'” Ultimately, Carr concluded, Pence accomplished what he set out to last night. “Pence made sure to assert himself and, at time, was relentlessly assertive — falling just short of being aggressive,” she explained. “His goal was likely to exhibit the same strength as Trump, but milder.” 

Carr pointed out how Pence’s body language gave away how he really felt about the questions he was answering.

Mike Pence was fighting to remain emotionally restrained during the debate

President Donald Trump was widely criticized for being emotional and going off the rails during last week’s debate. It was Pence’s job to make the same points Trump made, while retaining composure, Carr said. And, you could see Pence striving to be polite and professional the whole night. “Throughout the first session, Pence was deliberately restrained in an attempt to provide balance to President Trump’s charged debate performance last week,” Carr noted. “When he disagreed with Harris’ statement, he would smirk slightly or shake his head, but he was not vocal.”

Pence didn’t hold on to his control the entire evening, though, Carr said. “As the debate continued, however, Pence became looser in his body movements and began to use his hands to emphasize his words,” she said. “He also was less tolerant of Harris’ statements to which he disagreed and would assertively interrupt Harris or refuse to stop talking when the moderator would remind him that his time was up.” Towards the end of the debate, when questioned about Supreme Court of the United States nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Pence’s true feelings came out. “Pence appeared to be irritated with not being able to finish his last statement from the fifth session,” Carr explained. “He did not like being prevented from defending himself or the actions of President Trump as evidenced by his left nostril becoming flared and his breathing becoming slightly increased.”

Mike Pence's body language reveals he feels strongly about the issues his platform supports

Throughout the night, Pence’s body language made it clear that he believes in the issues his president represents. If anyone doubted that Pence was a foe of abortion rights or Obamacare, his demeanor and facial expressions made it clear that he genuinely abhors both. “Pence showed disdain for the Affordable Healthcare Act by giving a subtle snarl when the Act was mentioned,” Carr said. “Pence does not normally engage in aggressive facial displays.” 

Similarly, Pence’s pro-life stance was backed up by his unflinching body language, when he said, “I’m pro-life and don’t apologize for it,” according to Carr. “Pence looked at the viewers to make direct and extended eye contact and make it clear that he does not and will not apologize — unlike his prior responses during the debate when he either looked directly at the moderator or at Harris.” And while Biden and Harris have criticized the Trump administration’s actions regarding climate change, Pence clearly feels like his team has done a great job on the environment. “Pence appears to be truly pleased with the success of the Trump administration’s response to climate change,” Carr explained. “He exhibited a smile with pinched corners of his mouth — an expression that tells he was attempting to contain a much bigger smile than the one we saw.”

Mike Pence may not really believe that he and Trump will be re-elected

One controversy that’s been dominating election news coverage is whether the president will accept the results of the election if he loses; the president has repeatedly suggested that there is rampant voter fraud and did not have a clear answer last week when asked if he would peacefully concede if he does not get the 270 electoral votes required to be re-elected (per The Washington Post). When questioned about this topic, Pence’s body language suggested that he does not think his ticket will win.

“Pence laughed at the question of Trump not transferring power and stated his full confidence in President Trump being re-elected. He affirmed, “‘I believe in all my heart that President Trump will win.’ However, his body language of gulping and wetting his lips — twice — reveal that his inner dialogue may not be as confident,” Carr said. “When humans become nervous, our saliva production slows and our mouths and lips become dry. This is what leads to the sudden lip-licking during a debate (or interrogation) and why speakers might need water while debating.”

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