Despite the whirlwind of change that’s occurred since Joe Biden and the COVID-exposed president stepped on the stage in Cleveland last week, the 2020 debate schedule soldiers on. Tonight, Vice-President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris appeared at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where they were separated from each other and from moderator Susan Page by a thin-to-the-point-of-symbolic frame of plexiglass.
You can watch the whole 90 debate below, scan an automated transcript — or scroll down for our roundup of highlights in reverse chronological order as they occurred.
Though it often seemed otherwise, each candidate got equal time
An on-the-fly fundraising attempt
Also, never forget:
Yes, that was against the official rules of the debate.
Pence doesn’t answer question on the peaceful transition of power — attacks moderator instead
And this was not a strong defense, either:
After the fly, a strange recurring sound from the audience
Former top cop Harris stakes high ground on law and order
Lots of buzz about the surprise addition to tonight’s debate
And then it was over:
On Roe v. Wade
The vice-president is monopolizing the mic and dodging questions right and left
There’s also been a lot of evasion:
Pence blames Biden for the death of ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller
It was part of the VP’s strategy, as he invited her parents to the debate.
The truth is more complicated, as Axios pointed out beforehand. Harris responded by offering her condolences to the Muellers. She also attacked Trump for putting American troops in danger and downplaying their injuries afterward.
The sick president responds
(Mike Lee has COVID-19)
The senator weighed in on Twitter
Pence, asked about China, pivots back to the pandemic (and xenophobia)
Probably not a good idea.
A debate on climate change, thankfully
Still a novelty in these debates, but a welcome one.
And of course fracking came up again:
You either follow the science or you don’t:
Pence also claimed that the intensifying hurricane seasons are normal:
This was undoubtedly another preplanned attack, on health care
Pence said that he and Trump have a health-care plan — and they really, hilariously, still don’t.
On to Trump’s taxes
Harris brought up Trump only paying $750 in federal income tax. Pence simply said that the president denied that:
Harris says she won’t take vaccine on Trump’s recommendation
Pence later accused her of scaring Americans about vaccine safety.
An ongoing expression of disbelief
Confusing yes, but compared to last week — it’s cognitive bliss
Pence tries to compare COVID-19 to the Obama administration’s swine-flu response
The possible Barrett superspreader event comes up
Pence was asked how he can expect Americans to follow the administration’s safety guidelines for COVID-19 when it has not:
Pence’s tall task
Harris underlines the lack of empathy in the early pandemic failures
No surprise this happened
The first time Pence began talking over Harris:
Pence once again pushes ineffective China travel ban
Harris goes first — and drops the hammer on the the Trump administration’s pandemic response
What on earth could she be referring to?
And we’re off
The debate’s paltry pandemic preperations
Despite a White House outbreak reported to be as high as 34 people — and Pence’s exposure to his COVID-positive allies — the Commission on Presidential Debates has set up an insufficient plexiglass barrier between the two candidates, after Pence’s camp pushed back on the measure:
And as the New York Times’ Apoorva Mandavilli reported earlier:
A box fan, an air filter — and duct tape to attach them.
With four such cobbled together devices, at perhaps a total of $150, the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night could be made much safer, according to experts in airborne viruses …
The barriers might make more sense if Mr. Pence and Ms. Harris were seated more closely together on the podium, scientists said. But the risk in this setting is airborne transmission of the coronavirus, and the barriers will do nothing to protect Ms. Harris and the moderator, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today, if Mr. Pence were infected …
Linsey Marr, an expert on airborne viruses at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., laughed outright when she saw a picture of the debate setup. “It’s absurd,” she said.
The Trump campaign tries lightening things up
Pence’s reported strategy for the evening: Hit Biden on terrorism
In addition to inviting Tupac Shakur to the debate, Axios, reports that the Trump campaign has also invited the parents of Kayla Mueller, a humanitarian aid worker held hostage and killed by ISIS in 2015. Mueller’s father, Carl, blamed the Obama administration for her death in a speech at the Republican National Convention in August.
Harris will most likely keep matters focused on the past few weeks, considering the White House’s failure to prevent or control its COVID outbreak and decision to not pursue a stimulus bill until after the election.
The students of the University of Utah appear to have a preferred candidate
Probably, because historically they’ve mattered so little.