|October 8, 2020: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday morning that the second presidential debate will take place virtually. Kamala Harris and Mike Pence debated in Salt Lake City.
“The sharpest and perhaps most important contrast from Wednesday evening: the two parties’ views on the economy and on taxes. On that, Vice President Pence had the upper hand, and it showed. If the race ultimately boils down to pocketbook issues—as it so often does—then Democrats should be careful preemptively popping the champagne corks.”
– David Polyansky, Republican strategist
“Democrats worried about whether Senator Kamala Harris would play prevent defense had their fears alleviated within the first 30 seconds of the debate. Harris showed exactly why Vice President Joe Biden selected her to be his running mate. When pressed on foreign policy, a topic that has tripped up many a nominee, Harris didn’t just appear in command of the issue, she articulated a clear and cogent doctrine that Americans all over the country could understand. She was presidential.
Harris chopped away at the Trump administration with the precision of a surgeon and the bite of a seasoned attorney—all while smiling. The women in my life felt seen on a stage in Salt Lake City. It meant something to them. The Democratic nominee for vice president came for Mike Pence and didn’t miss.
– Michael Starr Hopkins, Democratic strategist
Kamala Harris and Mike Pence debated in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday night. The candidates discussed the coronavirus pandemic, economy, climate change, China, foreign policy, abortion, healthcare, race, and the election.
Pence spoke for 36.5 minutes, while Harris spoke for 36.4 minutes. Here are highlights for each vice presidential candidate with a focus on policy. The following paraphrased statements were compiled from the transcript of the debate.
Harris discussed her career as a state attorney general and senator. She said voters had a right to know about the president’s health and tax records. She said Trump was $400 million in debt. Harris said Biden would repeal Trump’s tax bill and not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. She said Trump rode the coattails of the economic recovery Biden created. She said Biden did not want to end fracking. She said Trump was trying to end the Affordable Care Act and that this would eliminate protections for people with preexisting conditions.
Harris said the Trump administration does not believe in science. She said Biden would invest in renewable energy and reach net zero emissions by 2050. She said Trump lost the trade war with China and 300,000 manufacturing jobs. She said Biden saved the auto industry. Harris said Trump disbanded the office responsible for monitoring pandemics. She said Trump made America unsafe through a unilateral and isolationist foreign policy. She said Trump insulted and did not care about service members.
Harris said President Lincoln waited until after his re-election to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that occurred 27 days before the presidential election. She said Trump should also wait. She said Trump had not appointed a Black judge to a lifetime appointment on the courts of appeal. Harris said justice was not done in Breonna Taylor’s case and called for criminal justice reform. She said implicit bias existed in law enforcement. Harris said Trump has openly attempted to suppress the vote.
Pence said Harris was undermining public confidence in a vaccine. He said the Obama administration failed during the swine flu pandemic and were lucky that it was less lethal than COVID-19. Pence said Trump paid millions of dollars in property and payroll taxes. He said Trump had added back 11.6 million jobs since the pandemic began. Pence said Biden wanted to ban fracking. He said the United States reduced CO2 emissions through innovation rather than mandates.
Pence said the United States lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs when Biden was vice president. He said Harris put her environmental agenda ahead of American workers by opposing the United States–Mexico–Canada trade agreement. Pence said Trump strengthened alliances in the Asia Pacific and destroyed the ISIS caliphate. He said Biden failed to save ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller.
Pence questioned whether Harris would give Amy Coney Barrett a fair hearing because of Barrett’s Christian faith. He said he was pro-life. He said the Trump administration stood behind the separation of powers and a nine-seat Supreme Court. Pence said he trusted the justice system in Breonna Taylor’s case. He said there was no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed George Floyd’s death. He said Harris did nothing for criminal justice reform in California. He said Democrats had spent the past three years trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. Pence said universal mail-in voting created the opportunity for fraud.
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