Pence and Harris Meet in Only Vice Presidential Debate
A Class of Styles and Deep Differences in Political Philosophy
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Vice presidential debate
Date: Wed. Oct. 7, 2020 in Kingsbury Hall, Nancy Peery Marriott Auditorium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT.
Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern time without commercial breaks.

Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief, USA Today.

Format: "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." [Unlike for the presidential debate, the subject areas were not announced in advance].


Conventional wisdom and polling suggests President Trump is trailing in his re-election bid. Trump's recent stay at Walter Reed put the coronavirus pandemic front and center. 

There was pre-debate wrangling between the two side over the distance between the candidates and plexiglass dividers as well as whether they would be standing or sitting.   

These are two very different candidates by background and experience and by political philosophy, Sen. Harris being one of the most liberal members of the Senate and Vice President Pence long a darling of conservatives.  Harris is known for her sharp, prosecutorial questioning during hearings on Capitol HIll, and she is expected to bring that approach to the stage.  One can recall her sharp exchanges with Biden in one of the primary debates.  The question is how well Vice President Pence will be able to stand up to the expected onslaught.  Pence, charged with highlighting the administration's accomplishments and defending its record, has his own strengths including his experience as chair of the White House Coronavirus Task Force since Feb. 2020, as vice president, and as a former governor, congressman and radio talk show host.  He brings a measured demeanor which is the polar opposite of the hyped-up manner President Trump displayed in the Sept. 29 presidential debate.

Analysis: How About Answering the Question?

Moderator Susan Page posed well worded questions on COVID, the role of the vice president, the economy, climate change, the relationship with China, role of American leadership, the Supreme Court, racial justice, and the election itself.  The two candidates provided a master class in not answering the questions, instead trotting out their talking points. 

The Nielsen Company reported an estimated television audience of 57.9 million viewers compared to 37.2 million for the first debate in 2016 (+).

See also:
Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey.  "Pence, Harris teams at odds over plexiglass at debate."  Washington Post, Oct. 6, 2020.

Natasha Korecki and Alex Isenstadt.  " Debate commission accedes to Biden campaign’s ‘health and safety’ objections for VP debate."  Politico, Oct. 3, 2020.

Dan Merica and MJ Lee.  "There will be more space between Pence and Harris at next week's debate."  CNN, Oct. 2, 2020.


Postscript: The Fly
A fly that settled on Vice President Pence's hair for about two minutes during the debate inspired many, many memes.  A Politico headline summed it up: "Fly becomes breakout star of the debate."