Last night America witnessed the first – and last – debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Joe Biden's running-mate Senator Kamala Harris. The debate was more disciplined and orderly than the chaos witnessed last week when President Trump and Joe Biden took to the stage. Even so, sparks still flew between Pence and Harris despite the calmer tone.
The debate was held in Utah in front of a socially-distanced audience. The coronavirus pandemic was a primary focus of the debate before it opened up to encompass more issues, including trade, climate change, and the past and future relationship with China.
President Trump and Joe Biden may not have been on stage, but they remained the debate's most prominent targets, with both participants taking a shot at each other's' respective partners whenever they could.
Harris came out swinging by referring to the presidential administration as "the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country" when talking about the coronavirus pandemic.
When the debate moved to economic issues, which Trump is currently leading the polls, Pence offered a harsh critique of Joe Biden's record with the economy. When confronted with the president's trade war with China, Pence retorted that Biden "never fought it."
Coronavirus Is a Major Topic
As expected, the first question was about the coronavirus pandemic currently affecting the world. So far, coronavirus has killed over 210,000 Americans. The moderator asked what would the Biden administration do to combat coronavirus and handle the pandemic.
Before going into detail, Harris highlighted the significant number of American deaths and condemned the White House for failing the American people during the early dies of the virus.
"They knew what was happening, and they didn't tell you," Harris said as she looked at the camera, "They knew, and they covered it up."
Pence defended how the Trump administration handled the crisis and argued that Biden would have likely fared no better with the virus if put in the same situation.
"Our nation's gone through a very challenging time this year, but I want the American people to know that from the very first day, President Trump has put the health of the American people first," he said.
Both Pence and Harris Dodge Questions About The Age of Their Running Mate
Moderator Susan Page asked both candidates about concerns over the ages of their respective running mates. President Trump is 74, and Joe Biden is 77. Whoever wins will become the oldest president in American history.
Neither candidate was able to come up with a direct response to the question.
Trump has made Biden's age one of the main targets of their campaign in the election. As for Trump, he was discharged from the hospital only two days before the debate and continues to receive coronavirus treatment at the White House.
Some Echoes of Trump vs. Biden
The debate covered some similar topics of the previous debate, including the U.S military. When Harris attacked Trump over his actions and attitudes towards the military, Pence refused to move on without offering a rebuttal.
Harris brought up the issue of Russia placing bounties on American soldiers, saying, "Joe Biden would hold Russia to account."
Pence resisted attempts to move on until he was given a chance to respond to the claims. The page allowed him 15 seconds to respond, and Pence said he would need more.
"The slanders against President Donald Trump regarding men and women of our armed forces are absurd." Page tried to move on, but Pence continued talking in one of the moments of the debate reminiscent of the Trump/Biden face-off.
"You've had more time than she's had so far," Page told Pence. "I did not create the rules tonight."
Viewers and members of the media criticized Pence for continuing to talk over Page and Harris. Some suggested that Page should have done more to prevent Pence from talking and others said Harris should have been given more time to compensate for her lost time.
An Eighth-Grader Asks, "If you can't get along, how can we?"
Page wrote all of the questions herself except for one – the last one. The final question in the debate came from an eighth-grader from Springville, Utah.
"When I watch the news, all I see are two candidates from opposing parties, trying to tear each other down. If our leaders can't get along, how are the citizen supposed to get along?" Page read. "Your examples could make all the difference to bring us together."
Mike Pence responded by offering the young student some advice; "Don't assume that what you're seeing on your local news networks is synonymous with the American people." He then talked about how the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg was friends with Antonin Scalia, even though they had vastly different political views.
Harris responded by talking up Joe Biden and his character one last time; "Joe has a longstanding reputation of working across the aisle," she said. "Joe Biden has a history of lifting people up and fighting for their dignity."
A Fly Stole The Show
With so few, if any, jaw-dropping moments in the debate, it became a matter of optics to break the stalemate. Unfortunately for Mike Pence, eagle-eyed viewers spotted that a fly landed on his head during the debate.
Pence was busy talking about law enforcement, pushing back against the idea that police officers were implicitly racist, calling it a "great insult" to the police when the incident occurred. Social media was, pardon the pun, abuzz with jokes and memes about the fly in minutes – with some suggesting that Pence came in third place during the debate behind Harris and the fly.
The next debate is a townhall-style debate between Biden and Trump. It is scheduled for next week, assuming that Trump backs down on his refusal to participate.