VP Debate Post-Mortem: Pence Trounces "Gaffe Machine" Harris

55-year-old Kamala Harris (22 years the junior of Joe Biden) faced off across a 12-foot void of 'potentially-deadly-air' and 'plexiglass' against 61-year-old Mike Pence (13 years younger than President Trump) with USA Today's (and Nancy Pelosi biographer) Susan Page as the 'moderator' at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City... all without wearing masks!

Ahead of the debate, despite media's constant crowing about Biden's double-digit lead in national polls, Trump is slightly outperforming against Biden relative to Hillary in the battleground states...

Source: RCP

Following a similar pattern - but with a notably higher probability of winning in November - relative to his performance against Hillary...

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It was not pretty!

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Summary (of the nine discussion topics):

1. COVID Response - Pence won - a body-blow slamming Kamala on vaccines: "stop playing politics with people's lives."

2. Health Of Candidates - Tie - neither candidate answered but if we had to pick, Pence shaded it as Kamala discussed herself.

3. The Economy - Pence won - the vice-president crushed Harris on Biden taxes (briefly silencing her over Trump tax cut repeal).

4. Climate Change - Pence won - perhaps surprisingly but Harris was unable to recover from being cornered on her sponsorship of the Green New Deal

5. China - Pence won - Harris facts all over the place and Pence closed with Biden's "cheerleading" for China.

6. Foreign Relations - Tie - both candidates parried each other's running mate's performance

7. The Supreme Court - Pence won - Harris refused to answer the question of packing the court and Pence was frank about being "pro-life."

8. Racial Justice - Pence won - again rather stunningly, Pence crushed Harris on misleading quotes and soundbites

9. Transfer Of Power - Pence won - while Harris went "vote now", Pence reminded the audience that Harris party spent the last four years trying to overturn the previous election

Pence dominated Harris as finally, questions were asked and answered and facts were checked!

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Perhaps President Trump summed the first half best:

And WSJ's Kimberley Strassel, the second half...

Harris spoke more (38:48 to Pence's 35:22) but said less...

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Moderator Susan Page reminded the audience that attendees were all wearing masks and that she hoped for a better behaved debate.

An awkward moment as they both walked and didn't want to sit down first...

The first question was about the coronavirus "not being under control."

Harris began on the offense, noting that

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," and adding a line about "sacrificial workers."

Harris accused Trump of "covering it up," and "frankly this administration has forfeited their right to re-election because of this.”

Harris said the Biden-Harris plan is testing, contact-tracing, and free vaccines.

Pence's response was heartfelt and factful as he explained the timeline of airline shutdowns "which Biden called xenophobic."

And the vice-president mocked that Biden had "plagiarised" their plan - as it is exactly the same as they have been doing.

"It looks a little like plagiarism, which Joe Biden knows a little something about."

Pence slams Harris for claiming that the plan "hasn't worked" was a great misjustice, pinning the decisions on Fauci and Birx.

Pence framed the plan as the American people fighting and being brave, forcing any counter to appear as Kamala is attacking Americans.

Harris got frustrated and tilted back at Pence: "I'm speaking":

The moderator went on to discuss the Trump administration following health protocols and the vaccines, with Pence slamming Harris for "politicizing the vaccine" after she said she would not take it if Trump said it was safe:

"stop playing politics with people's lives"

Pence also pointed out the failure of the Obama-Biden plan to cope with the swine flu when 60 million people contracted it (and 2million Americans would have died).

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The second question was on the health and age of the presidential candidates

Page asked "Have you had a conversation or reached an agreement on issues of presidential disability considering Trump/Biden’s age?"

Neither of the candidates responded directly to any questions about the health of their running mates, but Harris  listed off her credentials, and Pence smoothly congratulated Harris on being the first black woman on the ticket.

Harris claims that Biden has been very transparent and that Trump has done nothing but cover things up. Pence says he respects Biden’s “47 years in public life,” a subtle dig at an opponent the Trump campaign has tried to portray as a Washington insider.

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Topic three was the economy

"There couldn't be a more fundamental difference" between Trump and Biden, according to Harris who said Biden measures the health of the economy based on the average American worker.

Pence says that Trump is a “job creator," but he added that "you just heard Harris say on day one Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.”

Pence totally shut Harris down on repealing Trump's tax cuts.

Harris' response was to try and paint the economic downturn from COVID lockdowns:

“They rode the coattails of Joe Biden’s success,” Harris says of the economy. “Of course now the economy is a complete disaster, but Donald Trump did that.”

Harris also tried to pivot to healthcare but Pence punched back that Harris said she would ban fracking and abolish fossil fuels.

"More taxes, more regulation, banning fracking, abolishing fossil fuel, crushing American energy and economic surrender to China is a prescription for economic decline."

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The fourth topic was on climate change.

Page asked: "Do you believe that man made climate change has made wildfires and hurricanes worse?"

Pence responded by questioning the cause but not the fact that climates are changing, adding that

"The US has reduced CO2 more than the countries that are in The Paris Accord."

The Paris accord and the Green New Deal “would crush” American energy, Pence says.

Page noted that Harris cosponsored "The Green New Deal" while Biden flatly rejected that during last week's debate.

Harris said "Joe Biden will not ban fracking."

Which is awkward...

“We’ve seen a pattern in this administration -- they don’t believe in science,” Harris says. “Joe believes in science.”

Pence cornered Harris once again on the Green New Deal cosponsorship and lack of consistency.

 

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The fifth discussion topic was on China

Harris tried to bring up the China trade war - “Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it" - and Pence destroyed her with fact bombs about Biden being "a cheerleader for communist China."

“You said Trump lost a trade war with China, Joe Biden never fought one”

Pence says China has been hurting the U.S. “for decades.”

"We’re going to hold China accountable for what they did to American with the coronavirus,” Pence says.

Harris claims that “The Trump administration’s perspective and approach to China has resulted in the loss of American lives, American jobs and America’s standing.”

Harris went on to claim that Xi was more respected (according to Pew) and China more respected - sadly that's a lie:

Well that's awkward!

Pence added that China and the World Health Organization were not straight with the American people.

Sadly, neither candidate answered the moderator’s question about how to define China: friend, competitor, enemy, or something else, but it's pretty clear from their track records.

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Foreign Relations dominated the sixth topic.

Harris went straight for the Russia, Russia, Russia topic:

“Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief of the United States of America prefers to take the word of Vladimir Putin than the word of the American intelligence community.”

Furthermore Harris attempted to bring up the story about Trump's disane for the military

Harris says Trump has "betrayed our friends and embraced dictators around the world."

She cites Russia, says Trump "prefers to take the word of Vladimir Putin" than the U.S. intelligence community -- and says that Trump's pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal has made the U.S. less safe.

Pence (as furiously as he gets) punched back:

“President Trump reveres those who serve in our armed forces."

Pence cites Trump's accomplishments, including defeating ISIS.

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The seventh topic was The Supreme Court

“President Trump and I could not be more enthusiastic about seeing Judge Amy Coney Barrett become Justice Amy Coney Barret,” Pence says.

“We hope she gets a fair hearing.”

Harris pivoted to Obamacare:

“The contrast couldn’t be more clear: they’re trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Joe Biden is trying to expand it.”

Pence pivoted back to abortion and said "I am pro-life and make no apologies for it."

Then Pence cornered Harris with the "pack the court" question?

Once again she refused to answer and Pence came out swinging.

Then this happened...

Pence: “Will you and Biden pack the Supreme Court?”

Harris: “Trump packed the district courts with white people!”

Moderator: “Thank you, let’s move on.”

Pence:

"If you haven't figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election."

Trump Jr summed it perfectly:

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Racial Justice was the controversial eighth topic

“There’s no excuse for what happened to George Floyd and justice will be served,” Pence says.

“Our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent American life,” Pence says of Taylor. “But I trust our justice system.”

“I will not sit here and be lectured by the vice president on what it means to enforce the laws of this country,” Harris says.

Pence hit back with comments on Harris' track record...

Harris tried to bring up the Charlottesville comments by Trump again, adding that:

the idea that America is systemically racist is “a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”

Pence says that Trump “has Jewish grandchildren” and “respects and cherishes all of the people.”

Harris:

“Joe Biden and I recognize that implicit bias does exist, Mr. Vice President contrary to what you believe. ... I will not be lectured by the vice president on our record in what we have done in terms of law enforcement.”

The moderator did a great job of controlling Harris as she kept repeating debunked media bites...

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Finally, the topic of the Transfer of Power was discussed.

But Harris decided to shift to an infomercial:

“here’s what I’d like to say to everybody: vote. Please vote. Vote early.”

Pence came out swinging by bringing up the facts that the previous campaign spied on his campaign and has spent the last few years trying to overturn the last election:

“Your party has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election,” Pence says, bringing up the Mueller investigation and impeachment.

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And finally - bravo to Susan Page! A moderator who asked tough questions on both sides, politely stopped the candidates when their time was up and forced them to respond.

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Oh, and there was a flay that 'trended' on Twitter briefly...