VP Debate: Grade Harris vs. Pence (And How Did Moderator Susan Page Do?)

Vice Presidential Debate Kamala Harris Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence went up against Democratic VP candidate Kamala Harris in the 2020 vice presidential debate on Wednesday — and they had a lot of ground to cover.

Pence and Harris squared off at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night in a 90-minute debate that aired commercial-free on the four major broadcast networks and PBS. Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief at USA Today, served as moderator and quizzed Pence and Harris on a broad range of topics, including the economy, the Supreme Court, climate change, the Trump administration’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic and President Trump himself contracting the virus last week. (Though Pence has tested negative for COVID, the Commission on Presidential Debates took precautions by installing two Plexiglas dividers between the candidates and placing the candidates’ seats more than 12 feet apart.)

Wednesday’s debate was a markedly more civil and sedate affair than the first Trump-Pence debate, with little yelling or interruption; Pence even thanked Harris for offering her warm wishes for President Trump’s speedy recovery. But Harris took plenty of jabs at Pence’s boss, beginning her remarks by calling Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.” Plus, Page did a better job than Chris Wallace did in reining in the candidates and keeping them within their allotted time — she stopped Pence cold at one point — although both Pence and Harris tended to ignore her questions and talk about whatever they wanted to.

After Harris and Pence’s showdown, two more presidential debates are scheduled — on Thursday, Oct. 15 and Thursday, Oct. 22 — though there is currently some doubt about whether the Oct. 15 matchup will go on as planned, following Trump’s COVID diagnosis.

So how did Page do as moderator? And who won the debate, Pence or Harris? Vote in our polls below, and then hit the comments to share your thoughts.