Who won the vice presidential debate

 

The vice presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris has wrapped up, and the experts have delivered their verdict.

The Republican Vice President and Democratic nominee sparred over Mr Pence's handling of the coronavirus pandemic as the head of President Donald Trump's COVID-19 task force.

Seated three-and-a-half metres apart at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, with giant plexiglass barriers between them, the pair traded barbs but engaged in a far more civil discussion than the first presidential debate in Ohio.

Given the advanced age of both Mr Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden - 74 and 77 respectively - and the President's recent COVID-19 health scare, the vice presidential debate has taken on additional importance this year.

So who won - Mike Pence or Kamala Harris?

 

Fox News hosts Brett Baier and Martha McCallum gave the debate to Mr Pence.

"I think most people would say Mike Pence had a very good night tonight," Baier said.

"It started out a bit tentative, but built in a strong way for the VP. His job was to fix some of what wasn't laid down in the terms of the Trump presidency (in the first debate). I think the folks in the Trump camp are going to feel really good tonight."

McCallum said Ms Harris "did her best", noting the Senator was "forceful" and "made a lot of faces" as her opponent made his arguments, but questioned how her "smirks, nods and eyerolls" would play with viewers at home.

Republican consultant Karl Rove agreed. "I don't think she did a good job making herself likeable and the scowls and funny faces were not helpful," he said.

Chris Wallace, who moderated the first presidential debate, said he thought it was a "pretty even night".

"I think they both ducked a lot of questions," he said.

"I thought her worst refusal to answer was on the packing of the Supreme Court but I thought Pence added an equally egregious refusal to answer when he was asked what would you do about protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and he absolutely refused to even discuss the issue."

Wallace said "both of them had a pretty good night".

 

 

"I thought her best point was when she was going after Pence and Trump on healthcare and their efforts to overturn Obamacare, she said if you have pre-existing conditions 'they're coming after you'," he said.

Mr Pence was "most effective when he came at Harris on the question of a left-wing agenda, that they would raise taxes and push their 'radical environmental agenda at the expense of American workers'," Wallace said.

He added, "It is the first debate I've ever seen where there was a bug crawling around on one candidate's head."

But Former Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile, now a Fox News commentator, said Ms Harris "rocked it".

"She was graceful, she showed strength when she had to, she did not interrupt but reminded him when she had the clock, she made sure the American people understand the Trump-Pence administration has no plan for people with pre-existing conditions," she said.

"This was not about fireworks, this was about substance, and she was able to bring home the substance."

Pollster Frank Luntz said a panel of undecided voters had decidedly handed the night to Mr Pence.

Voters said Ms Harris was "abrasive and condescending" while Mr Pence was "too tired".

"This was Mike Pence's night," Mr Luntz told Fox News. "It's not that Pence did so well, they felt both candidates were not answering (as well as they would have liked)."

Mr Luntz said his panel of voters didn't like Ms Harris' "smiling, smirking, scowling".

"They were angrier at that than they were at Pence going over his time," he said.

"They were more agitated with Kamala's presentation than they were with Mike Pence not sticking to time."

But Brazile said the likeability question was "a trap". "When a woman announces she's running for office we continually talk about her style, her grace, whether or not she's moving her hands or rolling her eyes," she said.

"When a man runs he's seen as assertive and tough. Folks, women just want to be judged on their records."

Political commentator Brit Hume said the question was whether Mr Trump "will realise looking at this that his own VP did a better job defending his record than he (did), and whether he will adopt some of that" at the next debate.

"The big question is what does Trump take away from this?" Hume said.

Former Trump White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the debate showed why "Kamala Harris is simply not ready for prime time" and did not cut it in the Democratic presidential primary.

"I thought it was an incredibly strong night for the VP, he showed Kamala Harris how it was supposed to be done," she told Fox News host Sean Hannity.

ABC host George Stephanopoulos conceded Mr Pence "does have a very calm demeanour but I think a lot of people were noticing some mansplaining going on tonight".

CNN host Wolf Blitzer noted that in the network's panel of undecided voters, "both men and women agreed with Senator Harris' criticism of the Trump administration's response" to the coronavirus.

On their impressions of each candidate, one woman in the group said Mr Pence "kept stealing her time, being inconsiderate", while some of the men variously called Mr Pence "evasive", "polished", "calculated" and "confident".

Asked by the CNN anchor whether they agreed with Ms Harris' attack on Mr Pence that the administration had covered up the severity of the virus early on, the panel was split.

"I think it was valid to bring up, however I don't necessarily agree that the President was jeopardising Americans," one woman said.

"I think Americans do their own research and were well aware what was going on with the virus. President Trump, as soon as they were aware, they put together a task force."

Only two out of the 10 raised their hands when asked whether they thought there was a clear winner.

Four of the group said they thought Mr Pence won, while four said Ms Harris won.

 

frank.chung@news.com.au

 

 

 

Originally published as Who won the vice presidential debate


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