Who won the VP debate?

Who was the winner out of Kamala Harris and Mike Pence?

Independent Staff
Thursday 08 October 2020 11:04
Harris calls out president as Pence avoids directly denying report: 'Who does Trump owe money to?'

Vice president Mike Pence and his Democratic challenger, Kamala Harris, clashed in their one and only televised debate ahead of the election on 3 November. Here’s what The Independent’s team made of the event:

John T Bennett, Washington Bureau Chief

When does the debate start? I did not really detect a debate tonight, just a joint appearance featuring Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris. They spouted talking points everyone has heard before. Mr Pence defended Donald Trump and Ms Harris attacked him. Both bent the truth about their ticket's own records and proposals.

My scorecard shows a frantic attempt to land a knockout punch in the early rounds, then a lot of dull body shots. Both delivered some memorable lines. She reminded voters she was a prosecutor. He reminded conservatives he's one of them, and will keep an eye on the Manhattan president, as he had for four years. This was a time-limit draw. We've heard from all four candidates. Let's go vote.

Holly Baxter, US Voices Editor

Kamala Harris clearly won the debate in terms of providing policy and detail and actually answering the questions, but she missed opportunities as well. In particular, she should have pushed harder on Trump's attacks on democracy during the election and she should have come better prepared for the inevitable grandstanding from Pence about foreign policy and the twisting the knife about Isis hostage Kayla Mueller, whose parents attended the event as his guests.

For anyone who watched the last debate and briefly mistook it for two bald men fighting over a comb among a nuclear-waste dumpster fire, tonight's face-off between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was a big improvement. There was policy discussion; there were respectful asides where the opponents thanked each other for appearing; there were some stand-out quotable lines and a lot of soporific beltway talk; there was casual sexism and a man talking way over his time while a woman kept to the rules and silently fumed about it. In other words, it looked like the kind of politics we're all used to. In its own way, it was reassuring. Pence walked away relatively unscathed, able to deliver almost every point he must have wanted to get across. Will minds be changed across the nation after tonight? Well, it's more likely than last week. But most people were probably left wondering why the most presidential-seeming candidates were on this stage instead of at the top of the ballot.

Harris came away with the powerful soundbites: "If you have a pre-existing condition -- heart disease, diabetes, heart disease -- they're coming for you. If you're under 26 and on your parents' plan, they're coming for you," she said, of Pence and Trump's plans for healthcare. "You lost that trade war with China. You lost it," she said, when Pence tried to boast about bringing China to heel, adding, "We are in a manufacturing recession because of it." In response to a repeated Pence accusation that Biden would end jobs in fracking, she simply looked at the camera -- a debating move she and Biden share -- and said, "Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact. That is a fact."

"You're entitled to your opinion but you're not entitled to your own facts," Pence said in another interesting moment, at which point Harris laughed and said, "Nice line." Politics nerds might have noticed that the line was taken from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a life-long Democrat who has been described as "the anti-Trump of politics". It does seem a little rich for someone within the administration of "alternative facts" to say that people aren't entitled to such things, but what do I know?

Read more: Polls show Trump in free fall with one of the worst debate swings in history 

Griffin Connolly, Washington Correspondent

The first presidential debate last week set the bar so low for political discourse that we nearly forgot simply letting the opposing candidate speak isn't something deserving of active applause.

Despite the best efforts of debate moderator Susan Page to keep Vice President Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris on topic, both candidates repeatedly avoided her direct questions.

Ms Harris, like Joe Biden, the man with whom she shares the Democratic ticket, did not say whether they would try to add more Supreme Court justices to dilute a conservative majority. Just minutes before, Mr Pence ducked a question about whether Mr Trump chose Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because Ms Barrett has signaled she would vote to overturn the court's landmark abortion rights ruling in Roe v Wade.

Neither Mr Pence nor Ms Harris were willing to dish on Mr Trump or Mr Biden's age, even though either man would be the oldest ever elected to the office.

Both vice presidential candidates were coherent, articulate, and (mostly) respectful of each other's time for answers. They were "presidential", if you will, in that regard. But that's a mere baseline for any robust debate, not a cause for celebration.

Lucy Gray, Audience Editor

Tonight's debate was a world away from the disaster we saw between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The relatively sedate, calm showdown between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence allowed the candidates to get into more policy detail than the presidential debate – but that doesn't mean we got many more answers.

Pence danced around points, responding to questions with answers on totally different subjects. He stuck to the Trump campaign transcript, but without the (albeit utterly chaotic) passion of the president.

Kamala Harris proved herself to be the sharper, stronger debater, hitting home on key Democratic talk points while maintaining her personal message. Her effective pushback on Pence's frequent interruptions showed her strength. There is no question as to who won the VP debate.

Richard Hall, Senior US Reporter

If you're an undecided voter, it will probably be hard to pick a clear winner from this debate. Both sides will be able to cut clips from this to make their vice presidential candidate look good to their respective bases.

On the issues, though, Kamala Harris had the edge. She made Mike Pence squirm on the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus, climate change and racial justice. Mr Pence frequently interrupted his opponent, and told a number of falsehoods about Joe Biden's policies on fracking and his tax plans.

Tonight won't cause a shift in the polls, but it was a welcome contrast to the mess of the first debate.

Alex Woodward, Reporter

Mike Pence was tapped to lead the nation's response to the public health crisis that has killed more than 210,000 people and infected millions of others, but faced with his failures, he could not speak to the scale of death, the massive economic toll and administration's inability to provide meaningful relief to out-of-work Americans.

His insistence that the White House has been busy with drug and vaccine development that is not only unproven but months away from reaching patients, while telling his opponent to "stop playing politics with people's lives" while the president is infected with Covid-19 as he speaks, exposes the chasm between 2020's grim reality and the administration's.

Kamala Harris looked into the camera and told people what they've seen.

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