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Harris, Pence defend their tickets with an eye on their political futures

Harris, Pence defend their tickets with an eye on their political futures

Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and moderator Susan Page participate in the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City. <span class="copyright">(Justin Sullivan / Pool Photo)</span>
Vice President Mike Pence, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris and moderator Susan Page participate in the vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City. (Justin Sullivan / Pool Photo)

Kamala Harris stepped into the highest-profile moment of her political career Wednesday night, deploying what she has long touted as her superpower: her ability to “prosecute a case” against the Trump administration.

In her debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Harris used her skills as a former prosecutor to attack President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus crisis and the economy with a clarity that eluded her running mate, Joe Biden, in his chaotic debate with the president last week.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” she said, decrying the administration’s “ineptitude.”

The debate — far tamer and more coherent than the Trump-Biden slugfest — may not make much difference in the outcome of this fall’s election, but it could count as Harris’ first audition for the next one.

As running mate to the 77-year-old former vice president, Harris is in the pole position for a future presidential bid, but she will not be uncontested in what will likely be a fierce internecine fight between progressives and more centrist Democrats.

Harris’ debate performance was “very helpful to the ticket going into November. It’s also helpful to her brand when you look to November and beyond,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster.

Pence headed into the debate in a similar position: As vice president, he should be Trump’s political heir, but other ambitious Republicans, including some who share the president’s last name, are already eyeing the post-Trump White House.

The debate tested Pence’s unshakable loyalty to Trump, which is his strongest claim to the future support

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Who Won the Vice Presidential Debate Between Pence and Harris? Analysis and Highlights

Who Won the Vice Presidential Debate Between Pence and Harris? Analysis and Highlights

In his Wednesday night debate with Senator Kamala Harris, Vice President Mike Pence defended Donald Trump as ably as anyone could, given that the resurgent COVID-19 crisis, which Pence is in charge of handling, meant that the debate had to be conducted with plexiglass dividers.



Mike Pence, Kamala Harris are posing for a picture: This combination of pictures created on Wednesday shows Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.


© ERIC BARADAT,ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty
This combination of pictures created on Wednesday shows Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah.

But it’s likely that nothing Pence said threatened former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead. And nothing he did dislodged a determined fly from his head where it landed—and stayed—for nearly two minutes as he championed the Trump administration’s support for law enforcement.

The fly was the elephant in the room, as it were: a reminder that no matter how strongly Pence portrayed the administration through its accomplishments, it’s impossible to ignore the missteps.

Harris and Pence’s 90-minute debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City was the calm after the storm that was the debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Both wanted more time to address voters during their one and only debate, but they kept the interruptions to a minimum, although they argued over what constituted a “fact.”

Watch Moment Kamala Harris Becomes First Woman Of Color To Take Vice Presidential Debate Stage

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Harris scored in finding an opportunity to share her personal story as the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother. She also avoided moments that would make it easy to dismiss her as an “angry Black woman” or “unlikeable”—unfair but unavoidable standards that a woman, and especially a woman of color, probably had to meet.

Throughout the night, Pence consistently

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