Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the 2020 vice presidential debate. NPI staff will be watching and sharing impressions of the debate between Democratic nominee Kamala Harris and Republican nominee Mike Pence as it progresses. The debate, sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, is being broadcast on all major networks as well as online platforms.
The University of Utah in Salt Lake City is hosting the debate, which will be moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page. The format is as follows:
The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each. The moderator will ask an opening question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. The moderator will use the balance of the time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.
“Page, sixty-nine, became a White House correspondent for USA Today in 1995 and has interviewed nine presidents, six of them while they were in office. She is the first print reporter selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates as a solo moderator,” USA Today explained earlier this week.
Page has not announced which topics she will be asking about tonight.
New COVID-19 precautions have been implemented for tonight. The candidates will be seated twelve feet apart and separated by plexiglass barriers. Additionally, masks are required to be worn by all audience members.
The debate will begin at 6 PM Pacific and run for about ninety minutes. The candidates will be seated at separate desks, while Page will be seated in front of them at the moderator’s table. In keeping with tradition for general election presidential debates, there will be no commercial breaks or interruptions.
Our live coverage will begin below at the time the debate starts.
6:10 – It’s only natural that the debate starts with the COVID-19 pandemic. Kamala Harris took a great opportunity to contrast a Trump’s response to what Biden would do. “They knew what was happening, but they didn’t tell you…they still don’t have a plan. Well, Joe Biden does.”
6:10 – The fact that Pence supposedly heads the White House’s COVID tadk force is a truly black mark on his personal record. His claim that “Donald Trump has put the health of America first.” He immediately launches into lies about Trump’s China response (Trump did not ban all travel from China).
6:13 – Kamala Harris demolishes Pence’s argument that the Trump Administration’s response was to keep people calm. Pence’s efforts to turn the Trump Administration’s response into “the American people’s response” is laughable. A huge majority of the American people think Trump has bungled the COVID response.
6:16 – Pence has confidence in the American people’s ability to follow COVID guidelines, but doesn’t want to talk about his boss’ ability to follow the rules.
6:17 – Kamala’s comeback to Pence’s line about respecting the American people – “You respect the American people by telling them the truth” – is followed by a powerful laying out of the state of many suffering Americans.
6:20 – Instead of talking about Trump’s age and ability (a subject that could get him in hot water with his boss), Pence waffles about a 2009 Swine Flu outbreak that nobody remembers.
6:24 – It is wild that the year is 2020, Kamala Harris is still only the second black woman to sit in the U.S. Senate.
6:28 – Pence says that “I know the feeling” that Kamala Harris feels about her nomination. How could he possibly know the weight of history that rests on Harris’ shoulders as the first woman of color to occupy the vice presidential nominee?
6:30 – Mike Pence’s smug grin when the issue of “raising taxes” came up shows how out of touch he is on the issue of the economic disaster crashing through the lives of most Americans. Harris takes the opportunity to tie the Biden team’s investment plans directly to repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the rich.
6:34 – Harris pretty much demolishes four years of Trump’s economic policy in a few sentences and promises investment measures that are incredibly popular across the board. By contrast, Pence’s Republican talking points on taxes and trade haven’t changed in a decade.
6:35 – Kamala Harris is happy to sit back and let Mike Pence mansplain to her – she’s probably imagining millions of female voters turning away from Pence in disgust.
6:38 – Harris makes a dire warning: “If you have a pre-existing condition…they’re coming for you!” Pence’s talking points by contrast sound incredibly canned.
6:40 – Pence says “we’re going to continue to listen to the science,” without saying what the science actually says about climate change’s causes. He does throw in a line about “climate alarmists,” though, in case you though he was taking climate science seriously.
6:42 – The moderator presses Pence on his refusal to treat climate change as a threat. Instead, he pivots to talking about taxes!
6:47 – Harris slams the Trump-China trade war: “You lost that trade war, you lost it!” Harris obviously has her pre-made attack lines, but they sound much more natural than Pence’s “taxes, taxes, Green New taxes,” droning.
6:48 – Pence seems very determined to keep bringing up climate change, even though most Americans support a stronger response to climate change than Trump and Pence are offering.
6:54 – Harris seems to have worked out where the camera is, and is leaning heavily into Joe Biden’s technique of staring directly at the viewers. Pence doesn’t seem to want to look the American people in the eye…
7:00 – The moderator seems completely unable to stop Pence’s droning away, blatantly politicizing the death of Kayla Mueller. Harris lets him go on before bringing some genuine emotion to the stage, calling out to the parents of Mueller to express her grief. She then goes on the warpath against Trump’s disdain for American troops and veterans.
7:01 – Nobody in their right mind believes that “Donald Trump REVERES” military members, but Pence goes and says it anyway.
7:05 – Pence, deputy to the elite-bashing President Trump, seems to think that his best shot is standing up for the not at all elite-sounding “Knights of Columbus.”
7:07 – Harris brings up arguably the most important issue hanging over the Supreme Court battle – the Trump Administration’s legal campaign against the ACA.
7:08 – Surprised to hear that Mike Pence doesn’t know how Amy Coney Barrett would rule on abortion.
7:10 – Pence talking about changing the rules for the Supreme Court is truly, truly rich.
7:16 – Harris pulls no punches describing the death of George Floyd: “An American man was tortured and killed…” Harris effectively links the movement for black lives with her own prosecutorial experience to launch into the Biden campaign’s racial platform.
7:17 – Pence is giving dagger eyes to Kamala Harris as he talks about “rioters and looters,” as if Harris was somehow personally responsible. It makes you wonder what he really sees when he looks at Harris, a woman of color.
7:20 – Kamala Harris is not taking Pence’s attempts to come off as the tough on crime, touting her prosecutorial record. She slips smoothly into Donald Trump’s coddling of Nazis and white supremacists: “America, you deserve better!”
7:23 – Harris not only defends her record as California AG, but calls it a model for the rest of the country!
7:25 – It’s an interesting approach to ask Kamala Harris, “what if you win, but Trump does something insane?” As if it’s somehow the Biden campaign’s responsibility to stop Trump doing some kind of coup!
7:32 – When faced with an eighth grader’s question, Pence slipped from an incredibly patronizing tone into a series of canned talking points. By contrast, Harris speaks with respect for the eighth-grader and her question, looking directly into the camera. She goes on to promise Breklyn a bright future, addressing her as a future leader.
7:34 – At the end of the debate, Kamala Harris’ husband wears a mask. Mike Pence’s wife, unsurprisingly, does not.