Live Updates Vice Presidential Debate: Pence, Harris Dodge Questions on Election Results, Packing the Court

Live Updates
Harris pence
Mike Pence and Kamala Harris will face off for the first and only vice presidential debate. Left: Eric Baradat/AFP. Right: Drew Angerer/Getty Getty

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris will face off Wednesday evening in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2020 election.

USA Today Washington Bureau Chief and veteran reporter Susan Page will be moderating. The debate is expected to last 90 minutes, and will include a plexiglass barrier between the candidates as a precaution.

Here at Newsweek, we're watching with several Newsweek columnists and guests: Gordon Chang (@GordonGChang), Frank Donatelli (@FrankDonatelli), Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage), Caroline Glick (@CarolineGlick), Doug Gordon (@dgordon52), Tom Rogers, Ben Weingarten (@bhweingarten), and Christine Todd Whitman (@GovCTW). They will comment in real time as the debate unfolds. The views expressed in this article are their own.

Final thoughts

Some final thoughts from our contributors:

Frank Donatelli: This debate was far more civil. Both candidates performed well. Harris probably benefited from being the "new kid" on the national scene. She was warm while VP was more businesslike. Best thing for Pence was that COVID questioning didn't last very long. Pence did as good a job as possible defending POTUS. He was especially strong in the area of taxes and how economic growth and jobs depend on smaller government. Harris scored on Trump's vulnerabilities including Trump's taxes, Trump's comments on soldiers, racial justice, Charlottesville and transfer of power. She also seemed intent on not being seen as too aggressive in her remarks. Pence did far better than his boss, but there was no new narrative from tonight. Biden remains far ahead but perhaps Pence's performance might induce Americans to hear from Trump yet again.

Ben Weingarten: This debate did two things: Exposed the Biden-Harris ticket's clear willingness to pack the courts, and exposed Sen. Harris' sanctimoniousness. While Vice President Pence made a number of other critical counter-arguments with respect to the Charlottesville canard, foreign policy, the peaceful transfer of power narrative and the like, these were two areas where he needed to land blows, and did so effectively. Sen. Harris' achievement was in obfuscating the few critical areas in which she was challenged by the moderator, and in contradicting the record on politically damaging issues like fracking.

Doug Gordon: Two debates, two clear wins for Team Biden. Going into the debate it was Team Trump, trailing badly in state and national polls, that needed to shake-up this race. Mike Pence failed to accomplish that goal. Harris has now accomplished, with perfection, the vice presidential nominee trifecta—the roll out, the convention speech and the debate. She came prepared and prosecuted the case very effectively. She showed clearly why Joe Biden selected her. Joe Biden was leading going into the debate. He'll be leading coming out of the debate. And here is the real truth: Most won't remember this debate by the weekend. Donald Trump will do something outlandish and dangerous tomorrow that will blow this debate out of the news cycle—and prove why he is losing this election at the moment.

Nigel Farage: Great night for Pence, who was a class act. In extremis he would be a good President. Harris is not up to it.

Christine Todd Whitman: Pence seemed rehearsed and got in some points but had a hard time defending the administration's record. They each dodged some questions, but Pence dodged more critical ones, such as where is the health plan, what is your stance on Roe v Wade, and how do you defend the loss of lives that are so much worse here than any other developed country? It's disgraceful that Pence took advantage of the rules and ran roughshod over the women with whom he was sharing the stage. I'm disappointed in Susan Page's refusal to actually stop Pence from droning on and answering prior questions, but he defeated himself with his refusal to speak like a normal human being. Harris seemed much less scripted, more passionate, and she spoke from the heart. While she might not have jumped in every time she could have, I think she, as a black woman, had a fine line to walk. Mike Pence might have won a high school debate tournament, but Kamala Harris won handedly with the only judges that matter—the American people.

Tom Rogers: For anyone who showed up undecided, doubtful this debate swayed anyone. Both held their own. Harris held her ground, missed a lot of opportunities to hit back. Came with no winner lines. Pence was incredibly untruthful but did it with calm and sincerity, which made him sound reasonable, and he got away with much more than he should have because Harris did not fact-check him as much as she could have. The Pence performance will remind people how out of line and crazed the Trump performance was by contrast. Harris showed she could have a commanding presence under pressure and certainly capable of grappling with tough public policy issues without stumbling. Overall, two somewhat average performances when it comes to the swaying the small slice of undecided voters, but again I don't think this will have any impact on the race.

On packing the court:

Pence: Joe Biden gave an non-answer. You know people deserve a straight answer. 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, man or woman. I gotta tell you people across this country if you cherish our supreme court. If you cherish the separation of powers, you need to reject the Biden Harris ticket come November the third, reelect President Donald Trump and we'll stand by that separation of powers and a nine seat Supreme Court

Harris: Let's talk about packing the court then. Let's talk about. Yeah, I'm about to. So, the Trump/Pence administration has been — because I sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee Susan, as you mentioned, and I've witnessed the appointments for lifetime appointments to the federal courts district courts Courts of Appeal people who are purely ideological people who have been reviewed by by legal professional organizations and found to have been not competent are substandard. And do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black. This is what they've been doing you want to talk about packing a court let's have that discussion.

Tom Rogers: Mike Pence's "come together as Americans" message is so at odds with Trump's personna. Smart end.

Frank Donatelli: On the last question, Biden has a HUGE advantage on which candidate can bridge differences and bring Americans together.

Page's final question is from an 8th grader. If our leaders can't get along, how are we supposed to get along? Page asks Harris and Pence to respond.

Pence: What I would tell you is, don't assume that what you're seeing on your local news networks is synonymous with American people. Look at the relationship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the late Justice Antonin Scalia. They were polar opposites. But what's been learned since their passing, is that the two of them were the closest of friends. They were on polar opposites, on the Supreme Court of the United States one very liberal one very conservative. But what's been learned since her passing was the two of them and their families were the very closest friends. Here in America, we can disagree we can debate vigorously as senator Harris and I have on this stage tonight. But when the debate is over, we come together as Americans, that's what people do in big cities and small towns all across this country so I just want to encourage you, I want to tell you that. We're going to work every day to have government as good as our people. The American people, each and every day, love a good debate. We love a good argument, but we always come together and are always there for one another. Thank you times of need and we've especially learned that. from the difficulties of this year.

Harris: One of the reasons that Joe decided to run for president is after Charlottesville, which we talked about earlier. It's so troubled him and upset him like it did all of us, that there was that kind of hate and division, what propelled Joe to run for president was to see that over the course of the last four years, what you described has been happening. Joe has a long standing reputation of working across the aisle and working in a bipartisan way. And that's what he's going to do is President Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity. You mean you have to know Joe's story to know that Joe has known pain, his own suffering. And he has known love. And so, when you think about the future. I do believe the future is bright. And it will be because of your leadership, and it will be, because we fight for each person's voice through their vote. And we get engaged in this election because you have the ability through your work, and through eventually your vote.

Page asks Pence what his role would be if Trump refuses to accept the election when Biden wins?

Pence: Senator, your party has spent the last three and a half years trying to overturn the results of the last election. It's amazing. When Joe Biden was vice president of the United States, the FBI actually spied on our campaign. I think we're gonna win this election. President Trump and I are fighting every day in courthouses to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating this universal mail in voting that'll create a massive opportunity for voter fraud. We have a free and fair election, we know we're going to have confidence in it. And I believe in all my heart that President Donald Trump's going to be re elected for four more years.

Page asks Harris what steps would she and Biden take if they win and Trump refuses to respect the results.

Harris: Over 500 generals retired generals and former national security experts and advisors are supporting our campaign. And I believe they are doing that because they know that Joe Biden has a deep, deep seated commitment to fight for our democracy, and to fight for the integrity of our democracy and to bring integrity back to the White House. And so, we believe in the American people. We believe in our democracy. And here's what I'd like to say to everybody, vote. Please vote, vote early, come up with a plan to vote.

Caroline Glick: Here, Page is not fair. She didn't ask if they will accept a Trump victory, which given the riots by BLM and Antifa—which they support—is the key question. In fact, Page's very question presupposes that Trump will lose. It's terribly unfair. Harris's answer is almost besides the point.

Doug Gordon: This entire debate has been about Donald Trump. Pence talks about Trump. Harris talks about Trump. Winner of a debate all about Donald Trump: Joe Biden.

Pence accuses both Harris and Page of "selectively editing" Trump's comments, says its the reason why the public distrusts the media so much.

Christine Todd Whitman: Mike Pence continues to show he has zero respect for women—neither the moderator nor Senator Harris.

Harris: I will not sit here and be lectured to by the vice president on what it means to prosecute the laws of the United States.

Frank Donatelli: The classic difference here is between "law and order" and "law and justice." The public believes both things, but have given Biden the edge on the issue because they think a broader response than a public crackdown is needed.

On Breonna Taylor. Was justice done?

Pence: Our heart breaks for the loss of innocent. Any innocent American life, and the family of Breonna Taylor has our sympathies. But I trust our justice system. And with regard to George Floyd, there's no excuse for what happened to George Floyd. Justice will be served. But there's also no excuse for the rioting and looting, that followed.

Caroline Glick: The anti-police campaign is deeply unpopular. This is a bad pitch for Democrats but it will rally the radical base.

Ben Weingarten: Sen. Harris has opened herself up to a huge potential hit on her support of the 1619 Riots, including supporting bail funds that effectively rewarded criminality.

Doug Gordon: This debate would benefit from more follow-up questions from Susan Page.

On Breonna Taylor. Was justice done?

Harris: I don't believe so. And I've talked with Brianna's mother Tameka Palmer, and her family and her family deserves [not sure]. She was a beautiful young woman. She had as her life goal to become a nurse and she wanted to become an EMT to first learn what's going on out on the street, so she could then become a nurse and save lives, and her life was taken. And justifiably and tragically and violently.

Pence says he wants the record to show that Harris did not answer Page's question on court packing.

Ben Weingarten: It's readily apparent the American people must assume Biden-Harris will pack the Supreme Court. It's amazing Sen. Harris didn't have a better answer prepared.

Caroline Glick: Ben Weingarten is right. The non-answer on the Supreme Court packing scheme is a very clear answer. And here, Pence said it also. It's an insult to the public's intelligence that they are giving these cutesy non-answers to very critical questions.

Pence: I couldn't be more proud to serve as vice president to a president who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life.I'm pro life, I don't apologize for it. And this is another one of those cases where there's such a dramatic contrast. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris support taxpayer funding of abortion, all the way up to the moment of birth, late term abortion, they want to increase funding to Planned Parenthood of America. We'll continue to stand strong for the right to life.

Christine Todd Whitman: Pence never answered that last question about abortion because he knows his views are out of step with the majority of Americans who believe that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.

Ben Weingarten: Sen. Harris' self-righteousness and smugness has been on full display this evening.

Frank Donatelli: The right thought Supreme Court fight would energize Republicans. Instead it has energized Democrats, put vulnerable Republican senators in difficulty and has been overtaken by COVID and other issues.

Doug Gordon: The rude interruptions by Trump last week were a disaster for his campaign. Pence repeating that strategy is an amazing act of political malpractice.

Ben Weingarten: If this is to at all resemble a real debate, the moderator needs to ask Sen. Harris about her shameful behavior during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, religious tests she's applied to federal judiciary nominees in the past.

Christine Todd Whitman: Harris speaks with real passion and Pence is rehearsed. Pence seems to feel that the rules of the debate are not for him.

On the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, abortion and Roe v. Wade:

Pence: Trump and I could not be more enthusiastic about Amy Coney Barrett. She's a brilliant woman. And she'll bring a lifetime of experience. We hope she gets a fair hearing. We hope we don't see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before.

Harris: Joe Biden and I are both people of faith, and its insulting to suggest that we would knock anyone for their faith. Let the American people fill that seat in the White House, and then we'll fill that seat on the Supreme Court. I will always fight for a woman's right to make a decision about her body.

Christine Todd Whitman: Sen. Harris is absolutely telling the truth about the early moves by the administration to disband the scientific relations with China. Sen. Harris is right on with this answer—we have walked away from our allies. We are less safe today.

Frank Donatelli: Harris hitting another Trump vulnerability regarding the sorry state of our alliances. One reason we can't deal effectively with China and oppose Iran is that we can't count on our traditional allies to follow our lead.

Caroline Glick: Her use of the Pew poll was a good push.

Tom Rogers: Trump praised Xi 12 times between March and April on COVID. Taking on China is great, but if he had done it with full force of allies instead of the absurd negotiation that he pursued bilaterally, he would have had a much stronger hand.

Christine Todd Whitman: Senator Harris should remind the American people of all the times Donald Trump has praised Xi Jinping.

Ben Weingarten: This narrative about obliterating the Obama-Biden agenda as if out of spite, versus actually having a contrary agenda, is really weak.

Caroline Glick: Kamala is defending China against Trump. Not a great look.

Page asks Pence and Harris how they'd describe our relationship with China.

Pence: China is to blame for the coronavirus. We're going to continue to stand strong. We want to improve the relationship, but we're going to hold them accountable for what they did to America.

Harris: There is a weird obsession that President Trump has had with getting rid of whatever accomplishment was achieved by President Obama and Vice President. For example, they created within the White House an office that basically was responsible for monitoring pandemics. They got rid of it.

Christine Todd Whitman: Senator Harris is good at relating everything to the American people in their homes.

Ben Weingarten: Joe Biden spent his entire career cheering on Communist China's rise, enabling his family to profit to the tune of millions of dollars from Communist China while he was Vice President. That's a fact.

Frank Donatelli: Could Biden-Harris be more free trade oriented than the Republicans? Things are really changing.

Harris: The Vice President earlier referred to as part of what he thinks is an accomplishment. But the President's trade war with China. We lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China. America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Farmers have experienced bankruptcy, because of it. We are in a manufacturing recession, because of it.

Pence: Lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it. Joe Biden's been a cheerleader for communist China for the last several decades. You're entitled to your opinion, you're not entitled to your own facts.

Nigel Farage: Does Kamala support the Green New Deal? I am none the wiser. Pence well ahead at half time.

Doug Gordon: Mike Pence talking over both the female moderator and the female candidate on stage is probably not helping him (or his boss) with women voters. I bet there are lots of women out there that recognize guys like Mike Pence from countless meetings they have had to sit through.

Pence again calls out Harris for the discrepancy on the Green New Deal.

"It makes no sense, it will cost jobs."

Charlie Kirk: This entire conversation about energy is about Pennsylvania. The constant mentions of the Green New Deal and fracking show just how important the Keystone State is to the election.

Page calls out the discrepancy on Biden's stance toward the Green New Deal, asks for clarification.

Harris: Joe understands that the West Coast of our country is burning, including my home state of California. Joe sees what is happening in the Gulf states, which are being battered by storms, Joe has seen and talked with the farmers in Iowa, whose entire crops have been destroyed because of floods. And so Joe believes again in science.

Christine Todd Whitman: Pence should be ashamed of this answer on the environment. They have been undermining science and our environmental protections since they took office.

Caroline Glick: Linking the free market to environmentalism is a profoundly important move. It undermines the ideological argument for socialism.

Pence: I'm very proud of our record on the environment and conservation. Trump has made a commitment to conservation and the environment. The climate is changing. The issue is, whats the cause, and what do we do about it? Trump has made it clear we're going to listen to the science. Biden and Harris would rejoin the Paris Accords, and impose the Green New Deal, which would crush the economy. The U.S. has reduced CO2 more than the countries that are still in the Paris Accords, but we've done it through innovation.

Harris: If you have a pre-existing condition, they're coming for you.

"If you have a preexisting condition -- heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer -- they're coming for you" -- Kamala Harris pic.twitter.com/zNwd6IrKhA

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020

Harris: "If you don't mind letting me finish, we can have a conversation."

One of the best moments of the debate by far pic.twitter.com/WjAVRvfDYK

— James (@jcbridgeforth) October 8, 2020

Christine Todd Whitman: Sen. Harris' answer on the economy is strong, emphasizing the strength of the American people in a very specific way.

Doug Gordon: 30 minutes. Totally different debate than the Trump-Biden debate last week. Substantive and policy based. Sadly, it might be the first, last and only time we get a debate on policy between the campaigns for the whole cycle.

Caroline Glick: She's walking straight into an attack on the Green New Deal and outlawing fracking, coal mining. She's also laying out a plan for a command economy.

Page asks Pence whether Americans should brace for a very long economic recovery process:

Pence: On day one, Joe Biden's gonna raise your taxes. We've spared no expense to help the American worker. Biden and Harris want to bury our economy under a multi trillion dollar green new deal. Joe Biden wants to go back to the economic surrender to China.

Page asks Harris if their plan to raise taxes would put the recovery at risk:

Harris: Donald Trump measures the economy based on how rich people are doing. Joe Biden will invest in infrastructure, clean energy and renewable energy. Joe is going to invest that money in what we need to do about innovation. There was a time when our country believed in science, and invested in research and development.

Tom Rogers: Pence saying health reporting on president was transparent is a joke.

Nigel Farage: Mike Pence is totally charming. Killing Kamala with kindness.

Caroline Glick: Biden has been transparent about his health? He has refused to share any information about his medical condition. And his own behavior makes it obvious that there is a great deal of information that is relevant for voters.

Charlie Kirk: Mike Pence is winning decisively. Kamala Harris comes across as condescending, bitter and angry.

Frank Donatelli: VP far more gracious than his boss, a low bar to be sure, but welcome nonetheless.

Harris hits out at Trump's taxes in her response about whether Americans deserve more transparency on his health.

Harris: American people have a right to know what is influencing the president's decisions. Transparency has to be across the board.

Page asks both candidates whether voters deserve information about Trump's health:

Pence: The American people have a right to know about the health and well being of their president, and we'll continue to do that.

Harris: Absolutely. Joe Biden has been so transparent, and the president has not.

Doug Gordon: Donald Trump just spent 30 hours in the hospital. He is currently infected with a highly deadly virus. He still hasn't disclosed why he was rushed to the hospital in November. And Mike Pence refused to answer a question about the transfer of power.

Tom Rogers: Easy retort by Harris—not playing politics with a vaccine. Making clear that Donald Trump lies, and Pence supports those lies. You don't know the difference between truth and lies, so Donald Trump saying we will have a vaccine no one should believe until a credible third-party source says so.

Ben Weingarten: Sen. Harris is like a football team that scores easily during its first scripted drive, then falters thereafter.

Charlie Kirk: Vice President Pence is on offense, and it's the exact right posture.

Frank Donatelli: I think I would have moved on if I were Pence. This is a terrible topic for him. Now Harris gets another response.

Christine Todd Whitman: Mike Pence should be ashamed of himself—something he obviously has no capacity to feel—for criticizing Sen. Harris after she just said she would take the vaccine if the doctors approved it.

Harris: "Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking"

"Mr Vice President, I'm speaking" pic.twitter.com/F9vB7W45n5

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 8, 2020

Pence accuses Harris of undermining trust in the vaccine.

Pence: "Stop playing politics with people's lives."

Christine Todd Whitman: Great answer from Harris on the vaccine—to the point and effective.

Doug Gordon: Kamala Harris has brought her A game to the early part of this debate. The country is seeing why she was an effective prosecutor and senator.

Caroline Glick: Page's question goes to the heart of the Democrats' conspiracy theories. What if President Trump and doctors say the vaccine works?

Page asks Harris about Americans skepticism of a vaccine. Should Americans take a Trump admin approved vaccine before the election?

harris: If doctors tell us to take it, I'll be the first in line to take it. But if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I'm not taking it.

Harris disputes Pence's remarks about "respecting the American people," says the administration sat on information. Harris says there are families forced to "stand in a food line" due to the "ineptitude" of the White House.

Ben Weingarten: Will the moderator ask a question that challenges the Biden campaign this evening?

Charlie Kirk: Vice President Pence has set a great tone tonight compared to Kamala Harris: Calm, statesmanlike, confident and reassuring.

Frank Donatelli: COVID record for POTUS very difficult to defend. The more time on this issue, the better for Democrats. This debate looks to be more civil than the last.

Tom Rogers: Pence talking about suspending travel from China—Harris should have debunked before Pence stated that sorry excuse.

Caroline Glick: I think the real point is the distinction between the president's optimism about the American people and Biden/Harris's paternalism.

Christine Todd Whitman: Good for Senator Harris reminding the American people that Pence is not just complicit, he's head of the COVID task force.

Page asks about the White House COVID outbreak, and how Trump's administration expects people to follow safety protocols that the White House has not.

Pence: President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people.

Harris hits out at the Trump administration over their handling of coronavirus, while Pence takes issue with her categorization of "hasn't worked."

Doug Gordon: The COVID response Mike Pence talks about does not match the lived experience of nearly anyone living in this county.

Pence: There's not a day that goes by that I haven't thought of American families losing their loved ones.

Christine Todd Whitman: Pence is talking about the only minimally positive thing he can. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the facts with him.

Charlie Kirk: Kamala Harris' blatant, disrespectful eye roll is reminiscent of Al Gore in 2000—his sighing lost him the debate with George W. Bush. Bad optics from the Biden campaign.

Ben Weingarten: Joe Biden helped aid, abet and enable at every turn the rise of Communist China, which is most culpable for the spread of the coronavirus. VP Pence should hit that point tonight.

Tom Rogers: Kamala Harris needs to not only make the case for failure but debunk the Trump rationalization on how they did a good job. She did not answer what the Biden presidency would do.

Charlie Kirk: Donald Trump saved lives by suspending travel to China–Dr. Fauci agreed. Joe Biden called the move "xenophobic." How will Kamala Harris respond? Will she contradict Fauci for political points?

Caroline Glick: Kamala Harris' opening was a chance for Pence to point out that the Biden-Harris plan is essentially the Trump-Pence plan but without freedom of choice.

Page asks Pence why the U.S. death toll is so much higher than other countries.

Pence: Our nation has gone through a very challenging time. From the very first day, Trump has put the health of America first. Trump suspended all travel from China, the largest economy in the world. Biden opposed that decision.

Pence says Biden's plan looks just like Trump's: "It looks a little bit like plagiarism."

Christine Todd Whitman: Wow, what a strong answer from Senator Harris to start the debate. Speaking to the American people calmly, thoughtfully and factually.

Charlie Kirk: Worth noting that CNN & the AP have ruled that Kamala Harris' line about Trump labeling the virus "a hoax" is false.

Ben Weingarten: So the premise of the first question about coronavirus case numbers rising misses context of numbers relative to earlier in the year, who is getting the virus, what the hospitalization rates are, what states the numbers are rising in. Thus starts the night of Democrat-friendly narratives. //

Page begins with the pandemic, asking Harris what a Biden administration would do that a Trump administration would not, to combat COVID.

Harris: The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country. Front line workers have been treated like sacrificial workers. The [Trump administration] knew what was happening and they didn't tell you. They knew and they covered it up.

Harris says Biden's plan would involve making the vaccine free for all.