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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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