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Hits and misses from the vice presidential debate

Hits and misses from the vice presidential debate



Kamala Harris smiling for the camera: Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the vice presidential campaign debate with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder


© Brian Snyder/Reuters
Democratic vice presidential nominee Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the vice presidential campaign debate with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S., October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The first — and only — vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris is over.

It was a far more civil affair than last week’s debacle between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

I watched, tweeted and took notes. Below, my thoughts on the best and the worst from the night that was.

HITS

* Kamala Harris: The California senator’s best 15 minutes of the debate were the first 15 minutes of the debate. Helped by the focus on Covid-19 — and the Trump administration’s botched handling of the pandemic, Harris crushed Pence with the record of the administration he is a part of. “They knew and they covered it up,” she said of Trump’s admission that he purposely downplayed the severity of the virus. Harris was less strong in defending Biden’s record — in particular Pence’s repeated attacks on Biden’s supposed assertion that he would repeal all of the Trump tax cuts and end fracking. (Harris said Biden would ensure taxes would not go up on anyone making less than $400,000 and insisted, repeatedly, that Biden would not ban fracking.) And her dodge of a question on whether a Biden administration would add seats to the Supreme Court was a miss. Overall, however, I think Harris did what a good VP should do — she slammed Trump, particularly on Covid-19, and kept the focus largely on the current administration. She did so with a calm, cool and collected demeanor; when Pence interrupted, she used silence and a stare —

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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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Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Karen Pence flouts debate rules, takes off mask on stage

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that briefly landed on Mike Pence’s head may have been the most memorable moment of the only 2020 vice presidential debate.

The debate between the vice president and his Democratic counterpart was a return to more normal style of politics and a glimpse at what the 2020 election might look like without the singular personality of Donald Trump — or perhaps a preview of a future election between these same two candidates.

Harris and Pence proved to both be polished and prepared debaters who stuck to talking points and mostly respected the moderator and delivered more substance. And instead of the blatant insults and outright deceptions of last week’s debates, they deployed the more typical tricks of slick politicians: dodging, obfuscation and exaggeration.

Here are four takeaways.

Who won the Pence-Harris debate? Experts give their verdict

Two of the three members of an NBC News panel of debate experts gave the nod to Sen. Kamala Harris in Wednesday night’s debate with Vice President Mike Pence and the third called it a draw.

The highly anticipated face off enabled both candidates to lay out their ticket’s policy positions more clearly than last week’s chaotic first presidential debate, but fewer interruptions from Harris helped give her the edge.

Here are their report cards.

Pence vs. Harris: Four takeaways from the only VP debate

The gloves stayed on. The train never left the rails. The sparks never flew. And a fly that

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Vice Presidential Debate: Live Updates and Analysis

Vice Presidential Debate: Live Updates and Analysis

The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah Oct. 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City.
The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah Oct. 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City.

The stage is set ahead of the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall of the University of Utah Oct. 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City. Credit – Eric Baradat—AFP/Getty Images

On one level, Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris have a relatively easy task ahead of them in Tuesday’s presidential debate: make it more cordial than their bosses inaugural debate last week. But even if they accomplish that — and given the low bar, there’s little reason to think they won’t — both candidates have individual challenges they face on stage tonight in Salt Lake City.

Pence will almost certainly find himself on the defense, answering for the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which polling shows most Americans deem lackluster at best. He will also have to defend his decision to ignore public health guidelines and continue in-person campaign events this week, even as his boss is now sidelined with the virus.

While Harris won’t have to answer these questions — she’s not currently Vice President and the Biden campaign has taken significantly more safety precautions in its own campaign – it won’t be a breeze for her either. While she has earned a reputation as a formidable debater, women on the stage have historically had to walk a fine line not to appear aggressive towards their male counterparts; just ust look at Hillary Clinton four years ago, forced to remain calm while Trump deemed her a “nasty woman.”

The debate before the debate: plexiglass

Pence and Harris may not wear masks during the debate, but viewers won’t be able to escape the imagery of the coronavirus thanks to two

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