Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Asst. News Editor
On Wednesday, Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence faced off in the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election. Moderated by Susan Page from USA Today, the two stood behind plexiglass windows and answered a series of politically charged campaign
questions in relation to the 2020 election.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the Vice Presidential candidates exchanged their beliefs about Coronavirus in the US, the rising death toll, taxes, foreign policy, justice issues, and most importantly, the racial issues and division in our country.
This debate, which was held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, faced unique challenges, as President Trump, along with his wife, Melania, and seven members of his administration tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the last week.
Moderator Page wasted no time, immediately diving into an opening question about Coronavirus and the rising death toll in our country. Tensions were high, as Harris referred to the handling of the pandemic under Trump as “the greatest failure of any Presidential Administration in the history of our country.” Senator Harris asserted that the Biden administration would focus strongly on the pandemic, in addition to increasing transparency with the American people in regard to the continuing impact and spread of COVID-19 in the United States.
In contrast, Vice President Pence spoke broadly, claiming that reopening the country would assure American’s their “freedom.” Furthermore, Vice President Pence accused the Democratic party of only caring about “mandates and rules.”
Like the first Presidential Debate between President Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden two weeks ago, both Senator Harris and Vice President Pence made continual jabs at one
another, in an attempt to poke holes in the other’s arguments.
Several times throughout the debate, Vice President Pence confronted Harris about topics in which she and Biden are not on the same page, some of the most prominent being fracking and the Green New Deal. Vice President Pence referred to a campaign event in Western Pennsylvania in which Biden assured local voters that he would not ban fracking. During the primary election, Senator Harris platformed a progressive and transformative climate agenda as well as co-sponsoring the Green New Deal both of which her running mate opposes. Vice President Pence, a believer in fracking and the copious amounts of jobs it creates, asserted that this divide amongst the former Vice President and Senator Harrus was an example of the lack of unity in their campaign.
As the debate grew to a close a clear winner amongst the two was unclear. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez from New York tweeted, “Why is it that Mike Pence doesn’t seem to have to answer any of the questions asked of him in this debate?” and Britney Cooper, a professor of Women’s studies at Rutgers University claimed that “every woman knows what it's like to be interrupted by an incessant mansplainer.” In contrast, conservative strategist Ned Ryun said the Vice President “is shoving people left and right with a smile.”
Senator Harris faced similarly mixed reviews. Screenwriter Natasha Rothwell said, “How we’re perceived is based on a short list of ‘permissible’ behavior. She was strong, uncompromising and authentic without falling for bait meant to cast her as an angry black woman. I’m in awe.” While Republic pollster Frank Luntz claimed, “my undecided focus group doesn’t like how Kamala Harris interacts with her opponent. We saw this in the Dem debates — she is applauded for her knowledge, but they just don’t like her ‘condescending reactions.
According to a poll conducted by FiveThirtyEight, debate watchers concluded that Harris was far more prepared for the debate, as 69% said she was extremely prepared or had satisfactory performance, as for 60% said they were satisfied with Pence’s performance. Debate
watchers of both additionally say that the highlight of the debate was when a large black fly
settled itself in Pence’s hair for a total of two minutes, while Pence spoke on the controversial subject of law enforcement in our country.
The Vice Presidential debate was one of four debates that were scheduled for this election season. However, President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and refusal to participate in a virtual debate has left an unclear future for the remaining two debates.