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As it happened: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence face off weeks before US election

Missed the VP debate? Watch Kamala Harris and Mike Pence go head-to-head in the first and only vice-presidential debate.

That’s it for our blog of the US vice presidential debate – thanks for joining us.

The next debate was scheduled to take place between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on October 15 in Florida (US time) but that was before the President contracted coronavirus.

Trump has insisted he still wants the event to go ahead, but Biden has said it shouldn’t if the President is still infected.

I guess we’ll all know soon enough. Meanwhile, if you’re following the race to the White House, (and let’s be honest who isn’t), you’ll want to sign up for our weekly newsletter Trump Biden 2020 from US correspondent Matthew Knott.

Sign up for the The Sydney Morning Herald‘s newsletter here, The Age‘shere, Brisbane Timeshere and WAtoday‘s here.

You can also check out Knott’s wrap up of today’s debate here.

Until next time, take care everyone.

The reactions to the debate continue. It seems some folks weren’t particularly impressed by Kamala Harris’ facial expressions, with strategists claiming this would not boost her “likeability” among voters.

Karl Rove, who used to be George W Bush’s chief of staff, suggested on Fox News that “the scowls and the funny faces were not helpful” for Harris, prompting a quick response from Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, who told Rove: “she’s not marrying you!”

CNN, meanwhile, has done a quick focus group of undecided voters in the battleground state of Arizona. Voters in a room were asked, one by one, to describe Mike Pence’s performance in a word. They answered as follows:

  • “Shifty”
  • “Confident”
  • “Not sincere”
  • “Stubborn”
  • “Overtime” (stealing Harris’ time)
  • “Evasive”
  • “Polished”
  • “Calculated”
  • “Consistent”

The fly already has already inspired a Twitter account.

Many Twitter accounts…

Given the relative seriousness of the debate compared to the previous one, some viewers have welcomed the fun.

Recall that during the Democratic debate, Kamala Harris surprised Biden by criticising his past comments on race.

The emotional pyrotechnics caught the attention of the public and possibly set expectations for more in today’s debate.

Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic vice presidential nominee, speaks.

Senator Kamala Harris, Democratic vice presidential nominee, speaks.Credit:Bloomberg

But with Biden-Harris leading the polls, Harris would have had little to gain by taking chances in the debate. Still she made her presence felt with Pence.

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden were pretty pleased with the efforts of their running mates.

Trump, who is at the White House recovering from coronavirus, was also fairly confident about who dominated the 90-minute showdown.

Pollster Frank Luntz has done a post-debate focus group of 15 undecided voters from key swing states.

“The complaint about Kamala Harris was that she was abrasive and condescending. The complaint about Mike Pence was that he was too tired, but was vice presidential,” he told Fox News.

“If this is a battle over style and substance, which is often the case with undecided voters – because they simply do not choose on policy; they also choose on persona – this was Mike Pence’s night.”

“They thought that that Kamala made a greater effort to take down Donald Trump and the Trump/Pence administration, whereas Mike Pence did a better job in explaining what the Trump/Pence administration had done.”

Harris sought to remind voters that the cause of civil strife that has torn through American cities all year was brutal police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.

A mural depicting George Floyd in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

A mural depicting George Floyd in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles.Credit:AP

Pence was of the view that Democrats may lose votes in the suburbs of people who fear ongoing violence and who trust Republicans more on law and order issues.

But Pence’s answer also revealed the culture war lines on these issues, as he said time and again that the justice system has not failed along racist lines and that he and Donald Trump stood by law enforcement officers.

Oddly, Harris herself is mistrusted by elements of the left for her history as a tough prosecutor. This could be why she reminded people of Trump’s failures to condemn white supremacists.

Lots of commentary on the fly that menaced Pence during the debate.

A politicised fly…

And the Biden campaign looks to convert it into a fundraising opportunity.

We’ve just discussed the all important issue of election integrity.

Trump has been railing against mail-in voting for months, and both sides have used the opportunity to call on Americans to vote like their lives depend on it.

The final question however, isn’t one from moderator Susan Page, it’s from an eighth grader at Springville junior high in Utah.

She wrote: “When I watch the news, all I see is arguing between Democrats and Republicans; when I watch the news, all I see is citizen fight against citizen; 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 citizens supposed to get along?”

It’s a very fine question.

Pence answers by saying that despite his disagreements with Harris, “when the debate is over, we come together as Americans. That’s what people do in big cities and small towns across this country so I just want to encourage you, and I want to tell you that we’re going to work every day to have government as good as our people.”

Harris responds to the student by saying: “I do believe the future is bright and it will be because of your leadership, and it will be because we fight for each person’s voice – through their vote.”

With that, the debate ends and the two candidates leave the stage.

Vice-President Pence rebutted Senator Harris’ attacks by undermining the credibility of her statements. While not as fancifully ‘post-truth’ as Donald Trump in his approach, Pence has already made claims that don’t exactly match with reality.

Vice President Mike Pence looks through the plexiglass barrier while he answers a question during the vice-presidential debate.

Vice President Mike Pence looks through the plexiglass barrier while he answers a question during the vice-presidential debate.Credit:AP

After Harris was asked if she would trust a Trump administration-era vaccine, she said she would if the doctors expressed confidence. Pence later charged her with undermining public faith in a vaccine.

The overall tone of the debate remains much more dignified then the previous Trump-Biden debate.

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