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Six key moments in the vice-presidential debate

It could be a coincidence, but Gillard’s speech was widely reported internationally and replayed on US television.

Mike Pence pushed hard on the issue of court packing

In the first presidential debate, Biden wouldn’t directly answer a question about whether he would support increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court.

It was not clear in this debate if the Biden/Harris team would abolish the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation.

“I think the American people really deserve an answer, Senator Harris,” Pence said.

She did not provide one.

Pence won’t say if he backs the peaceful transfer of power

Moderator Susan Page from USA Today asked both candidates what they would do should Donald Trump refuse to acknowledge the result of a legitimate election and accept a peaceful transfer of power.

Harris used the question to call for people to get out and vote.

Pence simply responded that he believes Trump will be re-elected on the back of a movement of “everyday Americans” and asserted that the Democratic Party has refused to accept the result of the last election.

He did not state that the Trump campaign will accept a loss and ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

Harris’ opening attack on the coronavirus pandemic

Harris went hard on the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic that has so far cost more than 210,000 lives in the US.

“The American people have witnessed the greatest failure of any presidential administration in our history,” she said.

She looked directly into the camera to call it a cover-up:

“They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you. Can you imagine if you knew on January 28, as opposed to March 13, what they knew what your mind had done to prepare. They knew and they covered it up.”

She also advocated the Biden plan to tackle COVID, which involves implementing a nationwide mask mandate; ensuring access to regular, reliable, and free testing; accelerating the development of treatments and vaccines.

Pence defended the administration’s response but emphasised that he and Trump respected the “freedom” of Americans.


“You respect the American people when you tell them the truth,” Harris replied.

Racial injustice takes centre stage

Both candidates came well briefed and well rehearsed to tackle the ugly issues of race and criminal justice reform.

Harris outlined some of Biden’s promises: a national register of police officers who break the law; reforming private prisons and cash bail; decriminalising marijuana.

Pence then rebuked Harris for knocking back Republican Senator Tim Scott’s police reform bill, which would have gone some way to addressing the issues she’s now raising.

“We don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and public safety,” he says.

Pence is upstaged by a fly

As the debate was conducted in sober, inside voices with no pyrotechnics, viewers looking for light relief were obsessed with a small back fly that landed on Mike Pence’s snow-white hair for two minutes and nine seconds, inspiring hundreds of parody Twitter accounts, memes and jokes.

Vice-President Mike Pence and the fly that pulled focus.

Vice-President Mike Pence and the fly that pulled focus. Credit:AP

The Democrat campaign swopped on the opportunity, tweeting a picture of Joe Biden with a fly swatter, setting up a website and selling swatters on their campaign site.

Trump Biden 2020

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