October 7 marked the one and only vice presidential debate — the first time Vice President Mike Pence faced off against Senator Kamala Harris. It was an intense debate, with much hanging in the balance after President Donald Trump‘s coronavirus diagnosis. Who do you think won the debate? Vote in the poll below.
Today was a particularly important debate, as Harris and Pence both made their cases for why they could run the country if the president was not able to do so. It’s an important debate considering the candidates’ ages. Former Vice President Joe Biden turns 78 shortly after the election and Trump is 74.
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The Debate Began by Addressing the Pandemic
The first section of the debate addressed coronavirus and the pandemic, with the initial question going to Harris.
Harris said this was the “greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” She said the administration knew it was airborne on January 28 and the American people should have been told so they could prepare. “Despite all of that, today they still don’t have a plan,” she said. “Joe Biden does.” She said she and Biden would ensure a vaccine was free for all and implement contract tracing, among other measures. She later cited Trump’s desire to keep the people calm and asked how calm Americans were when worrying about getting toilet paper, for example.
Pence was asked about the 210,000 Americans who had died and the country’s death rate compared to other countries. “Our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year,” he said, adding that Trump has put the health of Americans first from the very first day. He cited Trump’s closing travel from China and said they were able to prepare billions of supplies for doctors, along with moving forward on therapeutics. He said Biden’s plan was similar to what they were already doing and insisted that what Trump did really was, indeed, working, and they had not lost more than a million Americans as originally predicted.
Harris said she would take a vaccine advocated by Dr. Anthony Fauci but not by Trump. Pence insisted they would have a vaccine within less than a year.
There were moments during the debate when both candidates interrupted each other, but the debate included far fewer interruptions than the presidential debate just one week prior.
Climate Change & Justice Were Also Discussed
Another topic of the night was climate change. Pence was asked if man-made climate change had made wildfires bigger and hurricanes more damaging. Pence said that Trump had made a commitment to conservation and the environment. He said they will continue to listen to the science but added that the Green New Deal would “crush American jobs.”
“Trump and I believe that the progress we have in a cleaner environment has been happening precisely because we have a strong free-market economy,” Pence said. He added that natural gas and fracking were helping make the environment cleaner.
Harris was asked about Biden saying he didn’t support the Green New Deal, while his website mentions the framework. She said Biden would not ban fracking: “That is a fact.” She also said Biden has been clear “that he thinks about growing jobs, which is why he will not increase taxes for anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year.” She said Biden’s platform will focus on renewable energy and clean energy.
“Joe believes, again, in science,” Harris said. She said they will deal with environmental issues while also creating jobs.
Page asked Harris what she would want California to do if Roe v. Wade was overturned. She said she and Biden are both people of faith. “We are 27 days before the decision about who will be the next President of the United States,” she said. “We’re literally in an election. Over 4 million people have voted. … Let the American people fill that seat in the White House and then we’ll fill that seat on the United States Supreme Court.”
She added that she would always fight for a woman’s right to choose.
Pence said he couldn’t be more proud to stand with a president who believes “in the sanctity of human life.” He said Harris wants to increase funding for Planned Parenthood.
The question segued into asking Pence about pre-existing conditions and if they’d be protected. Pence didn’t respond to that question but asked Harris if she and Biden would pack the court.
Harris then said that when Lincoln was up for re-election 27 days before the election and a seat opened on the Supreme Court, Lincoln said it wasn’t the right thing to do. “The American people are voting right now and it should be their decision,” she said.
She then said that she had witnessed lifetime appointments to courts. “Do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is black? … Do you want to talk about packing the court, let’s have that discussion.”
Pence and Harris were then asked about Breonna Taylor. Harris said that justice wasn’t done, in her opinion. She then talked about people marching to achieve the ideal of equal justice under law. “I was a part of those peaceful protests,” she said. She added that they will never condone violence, but they must “fight for the values we hold dear.” She said that as a prosecutor, she knows reform is needed.
Pence responded, “Our heart breaks for the loss of any innocent lives … but I trust our justice system.” He said that he trusted the impaneled grand jury. He also said that there was no excuse for what happened to George Floyd, but there was also no excuse for rioting and looting. Pence indicated that he did not believe there was systemic racism in the justice system.
Harris said that as a former prosecutor, she wouldn’t be lectured on what it means to enforce the laws of the country. “We are talking about an election in 27 days where last week, the President of the United States … refused to condemn white supremacists. It wasn’t like he didn’t have a chance. … Then he said when pressed, ‘Stand back, stand by.’ This is a part of a pattern of Trump’s.”
Pence said that Trump had condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The final topic was the election itself and Trump not committing to a peaceful transfer of power, and what steps Harris would take if that happened.
Harris said that Biden is dedicated to fighting for democracy. “We have it within our power … to make the decision about what will be the course of our country for the next four years,” she said. “And we will not let anyone subvert our democracy.” She didn’t provide a specific answer for what they would do if a peaceful transfer of power wasn’t given.
Pence, when asked, responded that he believes they will win the election. He added that Democrats had tried to overturn the last election, including allegations of Obama spying, along with impeachment proceedings. “I think we’re gonna win this election,” Pence said, not directly answering the question either.
The last question asked how Americans can get along if the leaders don’t. Pence said they believe in a free and open exchange of debate in America. “Don’t assume that what you’re seeing on your local news networks is synonymous with the American people,” he said, citing the relationship between Ginsburg and Scalia as an example of how people on opposite sides can get along.
Harris said that Biden decided to run, in part, because he was so troubled by the hate and division among Americans. “Joe has a longstanding reputation of working across the aisle in a bipartisan way,” she said. “Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity. … 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 vote.”
And with that, the debate concluded.
The Results of Previous Debate Polls
Last week, Heavy ran a poll for Trump and Biden’s debate. In that poll, Biden received 60.54% of the votes and Trump received 39.46%.
Heavy also ran a poll when Biden last debated Bernie Sanders back in March. For that poll, Sanders received 78.13% of the vote and Biden received 20.32%. Only 1.54% voted that the debate was a tie.
What’s Next After Tonight?
After tonight, the second presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, October 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The moderator for this debate will be Steve Scully of C-SPAN. This debate will be in a town hall format. Although Trump tested positive for COVID-19, he has said that he still plans to attend the debate. Biden has said there shouldn’t be a second debate if Trump still tests positive, The Hill reported. He said the debate should follow all health protocols and he’ll ultimately follow the guidelines issued by the Cleveland Clinic, which is overseeing the debates.
Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami said that Trump shouldn’t come for the debate if he is still testing positive, Politico reported. Dr. Mary Jo Trepka of Florida International University told Politico that she would advise the campaigns to do a virtual debate; otherwise, they should be separated in enclosed Plexiglass rooms with HEPA filtered air.
So far Biden has tested negative for coronavirus, but experts say the incubation period can sometimes take as long as two weeks.
The third presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, October 22, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The moderator for this debate will be Kristen Welker of NBC.
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