Pence and Harris clash over virus at U.S. vice presidential debate

Exchanges were largely collegial compared to first Presidential debate

Stefan Beckett, Kathryn Watson, Melisa Quinn – CBS News

Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Senator Kamala Harris met for the first and only vice presidential debate of the 2020 campaign in Salt Lake City, Utah, with sharp exchanges over the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, the Supreme Court and more.

The debate was pointed and featured several interruptions from Pence, earning him admonishments from Harris. Both candidates also repeatedly avoided answering questions posed to them, instead choosing to pivot to topics they preferred.

But the exchanges were largely collegial, especially compared to the chaotic nature of the first presidential debate, just eight days ago.

Most notably, Harris and Pence traded accusations over the federal response to the pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 210,000 Americans, with Harris harshly criticizing the administration’s record. President Trump tested positive for the coronavirus just six days ago.

“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said, with Pence sitting 12 feet away from her, separated by two panes of plexiglass as protection against the virus.

Pence, who again tested negative for the coronavirus earlier in the day, defended the administration’s response and said the president’s moves in the early days of the pandemic saved lives.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked, that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made,” the vice president said. “The reality is, Dr. Fauci said everything that he told the president in the Oval Office the president told the American people.”

The candidates moved on to discussions about a potential vaccine, the economy, climate change, the Supreme Court and more, with Pence advocating for the president’s nominee to the high court and emphasizing his record on trade.

The second presidential debate is still scheduled for next Thursday, October 15, in Miami, despite Mr. Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. If it goes forward as planned, it would fall exactly two weeks after he tested positive for the virus.