Kamala Harris - Mike Pence vice presidential debate how it happened and reactions: USA election 2020

David Nelson

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Kamala Harris - Mike Pence vice presidential debate how it happened and reactions: USA election 2020

Vice presidential debate: Pence vs Harris

Vice presidential debate: Pence vs Harris

You can watch how it happened here:

Reactions

Summary of how people saw the debate from all different viewpoints...

Most memorable moment

It's not how it should be, but this may well be the most memorable moment of the night.

As to who won, it depends how you measure winning. One thing Pence really needed to do tonight was convince women voters who have abandoned the Trump ticket in droves to come back - his performance, interrupting and attempting to patronise Harris, won't have helped whatsoever. Presumably the Republican campaign team knew what he had to do, but likely he just can't behave any other way. 

Speaking time as per CNN

Given Pence continually going over time and refusing to listen to Page it feels incredible that it's so close - though Harris did get a lengthy amount of time on her record as a prosecutor.

One question, did it count for Harris when she was telling Pence "I'm speaking" or when she asked the moderator for the same amount of time. 

Rick Klein, political director at ABC, has published 'unofficial times' with 35:22 for Pence and 38:48 for Harris. Be interesting to see if they stick with that. 

 

Biden's opinion

Trump's opinion

Biden campaign gets in on the fly moment

On the fly punning from Team Joe

 

Not scoring it for Pence

Some saw Pence's tactics as clever debating, others as incredibly infuriating.

Fly

Your eyes weren't deceiving you

There was a fly on Pence's head during the debate. Of course #fly is now trending on Twitter. 

Harris of course really went for Pence on the coronavirus, while Pence was, despite his cultured demeanour, fairly aggressive.

The old rule of debating that you answer the question you want to, not the one asked, was one Pence took to the limit - regularly just ignoring what he'd been asked. Some might say it was masterful, but at the same time it was glaringly obvious. 

Harris will feel slightly disappointed by tonight - she failed to really corner Pence, while the current VP did well to turn things around and attack Biden's record with Obama. 

That's it! The end of the first and only vice presidential debate.  

Harris talks about Biden - that after Charlottesville he was troubled by how partisan things had become. Says, Biden has a history of working across the aisle, and that he is good at lifting people up. 

Harris says she believes the future is bright, and that people fight for every individual. Her final plea is for everybody to vote. 

Final question from an eighth grader: When I watch the news all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans, she wants to know how people should behave if that's what they see from the politicians. 

Pence says America believes in a free exchange of debate and that the American people love an argument and a good debate but at the end of the day they come together. 

Pence says the Dems have spent three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election. 

Pence asked what he'd do if Trump refuses to accept the vote. Pence says he reckons they'll win the vote. 

The integrity of the election and Trump's refusal to say he'll respect the outcome. Harris talking about all the Republicans who are now supporting the Biden campaign, saying its because they believe Biden stands for the integrity of the process. 

She then asks people to vote, saying if people vote Trump won't be able to subvert democracy. 

"I'll repeat what Joe said, please vote."

Moderator Page is rather ineffective - both candidates have now realised that if they keep talking there's nothing she can do.  

Harris promises to decriminalise marijuana, a stark change from her time in the DA's office in San Francisco

She oversaw around 1,900 marijuana convictions according to records from the DA’s office. Her prosecutors appear to have convicted people on marijuana charges at a higher rate than under her predecessor, based on data about marijuana arrests in the city.

Harris says she's keen for reform on justice. 

It's true that as Senator for California, Kamala Harris has consistently been a champion for reform - up to supporting the First Step Act, which President Donald Trump personally signed into law. In Sept 2019 Harris released a plan "A plan to fundamentally transform our criminal justice system to shift away from mass incarceration and to invest in building safer and healthier communities" Which includes legalising marijuana, scaling back incarceration, ending the death penalty and solitary confinement, banning private prisons and getting rid of cash bail. Biden also backs a fairly aggressive criminal justice reform plan.

Harris fired up. She says she will not be lectured to by the Vice President. 

Pence says his heart breaks for the loss of any American life but that he trusts the American justice system. Ergo, justicce was done in the Breonna Taylor case. 

Pence moves quickly to his argument that there is no place for rioting and looting. 

Next topic: Breonna Taylor case. Harris says justice was not done in the case. Harris talking about the way America responded to the George Floyd killing by Minneapolis police officers. 

Harris is strong here - blend of facts and emotion. 

Pence asks Harris if they'll pack court. Harris responds by talking about how Honest Abe didn't take a Supreme Court pick in this situation. That's a good response. Pence responds by going back to will Biden pack the court? Harris talks about other the other judges Trump has appointed saying "that's packing the courts".

Affordable Care Act and pre-existing conditions. So Pence decides to go back again and talk about the sanctity of human life that he says he's proud that Trump supports. This tactic of not answering the question when he's asked it is an interesting tactic.

Harris says on abortion, that in her opinion a women has the right to choose over her own body. 

Harris says the majority of the American people are in agreement: that we are literally in an election, voting right now, and the American people should fill the seat in the White House and then the President can fill the seat on the Supreme Court. 

Supreme Court nomination up next, but Pence decides to talk about the last topic and the taking down of Soleimani. 

Pence says they are really enthusiastic about nomination Amy Coney Barrett and hopes she's not attacked for her Christian faith in the nomination hearings.

Moderator Page is struggling to put the time limits on Pence, who just keeps talking when he wants to. Harris has asked for equal time and clearly hasn't been given it. 

Pence says Trump does keep his word - he moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, something Obama and Biden had promised to do, but didn't. 

Pence talking up his administration's role on ISIS. They were already losing territory when Trump took office. 

Harris responds by attacking Trump's statements on the military being "losers" and wondering "what's in it for them". She also discusses the bounties on the heads of US soldiers that Trump has done nothing about.

Harris attacking Trump for his ties to Russia. Says Trump prefers to take the word of Putin over the American Intelligence Community. 

Harris says Trump "doesn't understand what it is to be honest"

Pence makes reference to a study that named Harris as the US's most liberal senator

In 2019, GovTrack, a non-partisan organization that tracks bills in Congress, ranked Harris as the "most liberal compared to All Senators." One measure the organization uses is comparing how many bipartisan bills each senator cosponsors to how many bills they co-sponsored in total. Harris had the lowest at 15% in 2019.

Staying with China, Pence asked to explain the fundamental relationship the US has with China. So he decides to get stuck into the NAFTA, which he says was responsible for huge losses of American jobs. 

Pence says China is to blame for the coronavirus. Says China and the WHO didn't play straight with the US. And that Trump is angry about it. That China didn't give the full facts on the virus. 

This is the Trump administration's line, but it's highly inflammatory. 

Harris says the US lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs because of the trade war with China. She might be right, but she's struggling to explain why that happened. A lot of people across the US were pretty happy Trump stood up to China. This is a very complex issue, which is tough to get across in a few seconds. 

Pence says Biden never stood up to "Communist China" and reckons Trump has done very well with his America First strategy. 

Bit more on this from Brookings:

In spite of a trade war that various studies estimate will cost a total of $316 billion by the end of this year and has shaved a collective $1.7 trillion off corporate America’s market cap, little evidence suggests that the trade war has prompted companies to manufacture in the U.S. instead of China. Rather, analysts at the Brookings Institution wrote in a recent report that the President’s trade war “severely damaged the U.S. economy.”

Trump gets involved. As we point out below, that's not Biden's plan.

Harris asked about the Green New Deal. Harris says Biden will NOT ban fracking. Pence has said several times Biden will. 

Here's what the Biden manifesto says on fracking, it "is not on the chopping block," but stop new on federal land. Climate activits would like to ban fracking but the GND doesn't outwardly state that aim.

Pence says the wildfires is down to forest management, and hurricanes are at the same level as a hundred years ago. This is not an administration that is listening to the science. 

Donald Trump has previously been challenged on his claim that bad forest management, rather than climate change, was to blame for the wildfires along the US West Coast. On his visit to California in the aftermath of the fires, the US President said "it'll start getting cooler - you just watch". A civil servant replied: "I wish science agreed with you.

Pence says Trump will keep listening to the science. And that Biden will take the US back into the Paris Climate Change Accords. It's pretty hard to square these statements. 

Climate change - Pence up first. He says he's proud of their record on the environment. 

Harris goes onto the affordable care act which Trump is "in court trying to get rid of". Pence says Obamacare was a "disaster" and refutes the idea that they will get rid of protection for pre-existing conditions. 

Pence attacking on taxes - says Biden will raise taxes for everyone on day one of his administration

Fact Check:

Biden wants to raise the top income tax rate back to 39.6% from 37% and the top corporate income tax rate to 28% from 21%. If elected, he will apply Social Security taxes to earnings above $400,000, tax capital gains and dividends at ordinary rates for those with annual incomes of more than $1 million and impose 15% minimum tax on book income of large companies. The tax rate on profits earned by foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms will be doubled to 21%.

According to the Tax Policy Center, Biden's tax proposals will increase revenue by $4 trillion between 2021 and 2030. It estimated that 93% of the tax increases would be borne by taxpayers in the top 20% of households by income. The top 1% of households would pay three-quarters of the tax hike.

In a joint interview with Harris, Biden told ABC News, "I will raise taxes for anybody making over $400,000," and anyone making less than that would face "no new taxes."

Pence asked about the expected recovery. Pence is talking about poor growth under Obama and Biden - the truth is they were left with an economy that was purring along nicely. True, they didn't wreck it until the coronavirus hit but attacking Obama for the economy he left them is not based in fact. 

Harris asked about their plan for "4 billion of taxes on wealthy people". Would that curb entrepreneurial spirit? 

She says the economy is based on the strength of the American people and attacks Trump on the tax cut for the 1% richest. She says Biden will repeal the tax cut and use the money for infrastructure, clean energy, innovation. Harris says there was a "time our country believed in science". 

Onto the economy, where the news of job layoffs and unemployed people unable to find work. 11 million jobs destroyed since the start of the year. 

Pence says Trump has paid millions of dollars in taxes - says the reports about the $750 of tax isn't true. Though of course he could release ONE page of his returns and kill the story off. But he hasn't. 

Talking about transparency of health for the voters about the candidates - Harris neatly, maybe too neatly, into the transparency on taxes. Talks about why Trump only paid $750 and asks if Trump owes so much money, who does he owe it to? Is he in hock to someone who is calling the shots in the background. Pence is doing a lot of head shaking here. 

No tweets from Trump... yet.

Pence says he's moved by the support shown to Trump since the president fell ill with coronavirus. 

Was Biden in charge of H1N1? No, not really

"Biden was the vice president, but he was not in charge of the Obama administration’s handling of the H1N1 pandemic. That responsibility mainly fell on the leaders of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." From Politifact.

Pence was asked about the age of Trump and the plans in place if the VP needs to step up - he decided to go back and talk about vaccines - he wasn't called up on that moderator Page. 

Harris responds to the question, discussing her family, her background and career and how she will cope the pressure of being VP. 

Pence attacking Biden on the swine flu outbreak which occurred under the Obama-Biden administration. 

Pence talking about vaccines, asks Harris to stop undermining confidence in the vaccine. She has said that she wouldn't take one if Trump said it was ok, but would if Faucci said it was ok. She is, as expected, going down the 'Support the scientists' line. 

Good to note, Trump and Pence's party lines on the virus clashed: Trump said: ‘Anybody that needs a test gets a test. We – they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful’ Pence said “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand”. Dr Fauci told a congressional hearing the US system was “not really geared to what we need right now” regarding the test kits. He added: “That is a failing. Let’s admit it." as reported in Guardian

Pence was, as expected, flailing on the question of why Trump and people at the White House have not worn masks to set an example to the people. 

The candidates not addressing each other at the moment, each comment going to the moderator. 

Good line from Harris, "if you have respect for the American people you tell them the truth." 

A little bit more on the administration's response to the pandemic: 

Pence front and center because he served as the head of the coronavirus task force since February. It's true that Trump and Pence dragged their heels on his response to the virus; The New York Times back in April investigated emails from the upper echelons of US government in which it was clear from the start that it would be deadly if action was not taken. "Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action." What's more, in March Trump was reported to say “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,”

As expected Pence is really struggling here to explain how his administration did well. He's now turned it into an argument that any criticism is criticising the American people, which is illogical - the argument is over what the administration did. 

Pence says he has thought about American families every day and they are in his hearts and prayers. Not sure that's much comfort to people who have lost loved ones. 

Pence boasting about testing and supplies to doctors. The problem Pence has is that there are over 200,000 Americans dead from this, so why didn't it work. Harris goes straight for this as she gets to reply. 

Pence asked why death toll is higher in US than other developed country. Pence says it's been challenging. Says Trump has put the health of Americans first. It's really hard, given what we know, to buy this argument. 

Harris says the Dems have a plan, but doesn't get into the details before she runs out of time. Probably more important to attack there, but more info would have been good. 

Harris says on January 28 Trump and Pence were told the truth of the virus - they knew what was happening, "and they didn't tell you". She says Trump and Pence covered it up, and that they still don't have a plan. 

Harris says it's the greatest failure of any presidential administration in our country. She runs through the facts of the pandemic, the dead, the cases, the businesses that have gone under...

We start with the coronavirus and the fact it's not under control. Kamala Harris first up with what a Biden administration would do in January...

Page says she wants a lively debate, but it has to be civil. Hmm, thinking of the first presidential debate?

Page sends thoughts and prayers to Trump and first lady Melania as they recover from Covid-19, along with all American suffering from the disease. 

The moderator says nobody has seen the topics or questions to be asked. 

Pence and Harris come out to applause. They both looked pretty relaxed and ready for this as they take their seats behind the plexiglass screens. 

 

Susan Page, the moderator is out and introducing the candidates. She's going through the rules.

Five minutes to go

We're not starting on the hour, so you've got time to make a cup of tea, if you sprint. But be back here in under five. 

Pence fan

Audience settled in

An audience member reading her debate program in the audience as she waits to watch Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence - not long to go!

The first presidential debate

You probably don't want to relive it - but if you do...

Harris focusing on debate topics

The Democratic candidate is focusing on what will likely be major talking points tonight during the debate. 

We will rebuild - Pence

Interesting last tweet from Pence, with a message of "We will rebuild". Surely that's normally the message of the challenger, not the incumbent.

Biden tweeting out support for Harris

Just over half-an-hour to go

debate

The debate stage

The Commission on Presidential Debates has put in place the following measures for tonight's one-on-one:

12 feet three inches - the distance from each candidate to each other and the distance from each candidate to the moderator, that's up from seven feet between the candidates at the first Trump - Biden debate. 

Plexiglass - in place between the candidates (but experts say it will do little if either candidate is infected)

Testing - both candidates will be tested before the debate (not clear what kind of test, antibody, PCR?)

Masks - none on stage, and nor will the moderator wear one

Physical contact - none, of course. No handshakes. 

Audience - limited to a maximum of 200 people and all are required to wear masks, with chairs physically distanced. 

Trump's tweets

Would be good to see what odds the bookies are offering on 50 tweets or more in the 90 minutes of the VP debate

Trump's administration's handling of the pandemic

Dr Eric Feigl-Ding is an epidemiologist and health economist. He's been railing about Trump's handling of the pandemic for a long time now. 

The New England Journal of Medicine is utterly damning of the way the Trump administration has handled the Covid-19 crisis. It's going to be fascinating to hear how Pence tries to defend it - though defend it he will. 

Some more on the plexiglass debate

Aerosols go floating round plexiglass screens.

Protesters out ahead of VP debate

There were a number of groups, mostly protesting Trump, around the Case Western Reserve University for the first presidential debate - there were no reported issues.

Will there be a presidential debate next week?

Unless Trump is entirely isolated, surely it can't go ahead.

Stimulus relief

Much of the country have been waiting anxiously for the White House and Congress to come up with another stimulus package to help the economy and individuals who have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic. All sides of the debate seemed to be certain that another round of $1,200 stimulus checks would be coming down the legislative pipeline sooner rather than later, despite wrangling over the precise package, and, more to the point, its cost. At tonight's debate therefore any conversation over the next stimulus relief package was expected to be mostly consensual, with any debate occurring over the finer points...

Yesterday however, President Trump blew everything up, when he tweeted that he was instructing his “representatives to stop negotiating until after the election” on a new stimulus package because, he said, Dems leader Nancy Pelosi was not negotiating in good faith.

This seemed like political madness, given that he’s behind in the polls and needs to persuade the American people that he’s there to help them through this - remember he delayed the first round of stimulus checks to ensure his signature was on them (something not required by law). And indeed he pretty soon walked it back, to a certain extent, tweeting that he would approve a Stand Alone bill to approve the stimulus checks. 

What happens next? Here’s some analysis: 

The audience

According to the instructions, the audience must wear masks - that was the rule in the first presidential debate too, although the Trump family decided to ignore it, over the protestations of staff. Given everything that has happened since the Trump-Biden debate one would expect the everyone in the audience to be masked. The audience is limited to 200 people. 

Plexiglass

Plexiglass screens

For the Trump - Biden debate the candidates were seated 7ft apart. It later turned out Trump may well in fact have been infectious during the debate and although moderator Chris Wallace and Dems candidate Joe Biden have both tested negative since, the Commission on Presidential Debates has decided to increase the distance between the candidates to 12 ft and install plexiglass screens on each candidates side of the stage to prevent any possible infection. 

Alas, virus experts have said the screens will be pretty useless at actually preventing an infection. Anyone who remembers Brownian motion from their high school chemistry classes will know why. It seems pretty clear that the virus is spread by aerosols - tiny droplets - that don’t fall to the ground under the effect of the gravity and instead will move around at random in the air. If either candidate is infected the aerosols they release will spread out into the atmosphere around them - ventilation and airflow will be the important factors - not a splatter screen between the candidates. 

Who is the moderator?

Tonight’s debate will be chaired by Susan Page, USA Today’s Washington bureau chief. Experienced doesn’t even begin to cover it - in her 47 years she’s reported on 10 presidential elections, six administrations and interviewed nine American presidents.

It’s the economy…

Since Clinton’s strategist James Carville came up with the phrase in ’92, no political campaigner has forgotten the direct importance of dollars in pockets when fighting an election. It’s seems Trump may just have done that.

Pence doesn't want glass

VP Pence is unhappy about the use of plexiglass screens during the debate. 

What’s on the agenda?

Moderator Susan Page has not released a list of topics to be discussed but you don’t need a crystal ball and magic powers to divine a good number of them…

Top of the agenda will be Covid-19 and Trump’s administration’s handling of it. With over seven-and-a-half million cases and more than 210,000 deaths there are clearly very, very serious questions to be levelled at Pence - and what’s more he is in charge of the presidential task force on the pandemic. Expect Harris to bring her full prosecutorial powers to bear on Pence here - Trump’s excuses for his administration, that they shut down flights from China early and did well on protective equipment, are unlikely to bear much fruit under a withering onslaught from Harris. 

The other subjects almost certain to come up are the nomination of Amy Cohen Barrett to the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg; the Black Lives Matter protests that have rocked the country over the summer, particularly since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police; the integrity of the election, with Trump and his supporters raising doubts over the poll and refusing to say they will necessarily accept the result; and the economy, and how to get the US going again once the pandemic is overcome. 

Trump

Trump’s tweets

Since Donald Trump left Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, where he was being treated for coronavirus, helicoptering back to the White House in a carefully choreographed trip designed for the cameras, he has been on an absolute Twitter rampage. His tweeting was so frenzied, including more than a dozen all-caps tweets on Monday morning, that sources close to the Trumps say his children Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, tried to get him to stop. 

It’s almost certain Trump will be connected to Twitter tonight and ready to send out a barrage of tweets in support of Pence. We won’t be fact checking most them, but if his performance at the presidential debate is anything to go by, take most things with a pinch of salt. Or a fistful. 

What’s at stake in the VP debate

 After the chaotic first presidential debate, where Donald Trump continually failed to follow the debate rules, interrupting and generally behaving atrociously, which led to the Dems candidate Joe Biden telling him he’s the worst president ever and a clown, things are expected to be a lot calmer for the VP debate. But while the demeanour is expected to be more decorous, there is a major gulf between the candidates on policy and approach to the situation America is currently in. 

Right now, the country is in the midst of a pandemic the authorities are unable to get on top of, the President is infected with the disease (though the White House claims he’s well on the way to recovery), the economy is in bad shape, racial tension is on a knife-edge after a summer of protests and there are a whole host of other issues facing the nation, any of which would normally be the only talking point, including the nomination of a new Supreme Court Judge so close to the presidential election. 

The two competing visions being put forward by the candidates will be very apart: Mike Pence is going to defend Trump’s record and promise more of the same; Kamala Harris will look to rip Trump’s legacy apart and promise a new start for the country. 

Will it change voters’ minds though? According to the polls, not much. Almost all voters say they have pretty much made up their minds, so in terms of voter numbers there may be few ticks on ballot papers at stake. But, remember the US presidential election is NOT based on a simple majority (otherwise Hillary Clinton would be in the White House), rather it depends on the electoral college, meaning the election is really about a handful of crucial swing states, where a small number of votes could have a big impact. Biden is well ahead in the polls overall, but Harris and the rest of his campaign won’t be at all complacent after 2016…

First and only VP debate

Hello, good evening and welcome to our live coverage of the vice presidential debate between current Republican VP Mike Pence and Democratic candidate Kamala Harris. 

The debate starts 9pm ET (6pm PT) and is being held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

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