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Worlds collide: VP candidates clash during debate, leaving questions unanswered

The two vice presidential candidates faced off in their first and only debate Wednesday night at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah. Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) clashed on a number of issues, creating a stark contrast between the two campaigns.

However, they also left several important questions unanswered.

The debate was less chaotic than the first presidential debate Sept. 29, as moderator Susan Page laid out the ground rules before beginning: Each candidate had two minutes to speak, uninterrupted. There were moments, however, where Page had trouble keeping the candidates within their time constraints — briefly scolding Pence for not adhering to the rules his campaign agreed to beforehand.

“I did not create the rules for tonight’s debate,” Page said. “Your campaigns agreed to the rules for tonight’s debate with the Commission on Presidential Debates. I’m here to enforce them.”

vice presidential debate
Hundreds of Utahns gathered on 100 South outside of Kingsbury Hall where the sole vice presidential debate was held Oct. 7. (Cami Mondeaux)

Sen. Harris began the night with attacks on the Trump administration for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic — calling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”

The vice president attempted to reconstruct the narrative of the pandemic under President Donald Trump’s leadership, arguing the country would’ve lost thousands of more lives without the president’s action.

Harris also attacked Trump on several of his policies, including those on health care, the economy, climate change and tax regulations.

Pence defended the president, arguing he and President Trump have created a health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act — which Trump seeks to repeal — that would still protect those with pre-existing conditions. However, details on this plan have never been released.

The vice president sought to point out inconsistencies between Sen. Harris and her running mate, Joe Biden — arguing they held different stances on issues such as the Green New Deal. Harris attempted to distance herself from views she promoted during the Democratic presidential primary — where she was previously a candidate — to paint the Biden-Harris ticket as a moderate campaign.

Throughout the night, the two candidates also dodged questions that left important answers in the dark.

As President Trump recovers from COVID-19, Pence declined to answer whether he has discussed procedures in the case of presidential disability — a system set under the 25th Amendment. Harris also avoided this question.

On the other hand, Harris didn’t answer whether she and Biden would support packing the Supreme Court given that Amy Coney Barrett (President Trump’s nominee) is confirmed before the election.

Both candidates were vague on actions they would take if President Trump refused a peaceful transition of power if he lost the election. Instead, Pence said he was confident his ticket would win — eliminating the need for a concession.

“We have a fair and free election we know we’re going to have confidence in,” he said. “I believe in all my heart that president Donald Trump is going to be reelected for four more years.”

The sole vice presidential debate came just days before Utah voters will receive their mail-in ballots. It was also held just over a week before the second presidential debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Thursday morning the second debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden would be held virtually, in an effort to protect the health of both candidates. However, President Trump denounced this change quickly after, saying he would not participate.


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Cami Mondeaux is a senior communication major with a minor in sociology. She’s worked in journalism for three years completing several internships in radio as well as a print internship stationed in Washington, D.C. Now, Cami works as a reporter and digital content producer for KSL NewsRadio covering breaking news and local government. When she doesn’t have her nose stuck in the headlines, Cami enjoys listening to podcasts, drinking iced coffee and continuing her quest to find the tastiest burrito in Salt Lake City.

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