Photo taken in Arlington, Virginia, the United States, on Oct. 7, 2020 shows C-SPAN live stream of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris participating in their debate in the 2020 race. Pence and Harris took the stage in their sole debate for the 2020 race in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Wednesday night. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris went toe to toe in their sole debate as part of the 2020 race in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday night, as both dodged questions key to the election.
The opponents, both of whom tested negative earlier in the day, were seated with a distance and two plexiglass barriers between them, debating vigorously on a broad range of issues, including COVID-19, vaccines, economy, health care, climate change, trade and foreign policies, Supreme Court, and racial justice, while defending their running mates.
Harris hammered U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 7.5 million individuals, including himself, and killed some 211,000 in the United States.
"The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country," the U.S. senator from California said. "They've had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of this administration."
As head of the White House coronavirus task force, Pence went on defense by alleging that the public have been given the information needed to deal with the public health crisis.
"The American people have demonstrated over the last eight months -- they've been given the facts, they're willing to put the health of their families and their neighbors and people they don't even know first," the vice president said. "President Trump and I have great confidence in the American people and their ability to take that information and put it into practice."
The 61-year-old former governor of Indiana and U.S. congressman told Harris to "stop playing politics with people's lives" when the Democrat called into question the administration's push for the approval of COVID-19 vaccines by the Nov. 3 election.
"If Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it. Absolutely," Harris said earlier, referring to Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's top infectious expert. "But if Donald Trump tells us to take it, I'm not taking it."
A DODGEBALL BATTLE
Throughout the debate, appearing much less rancorous than Trump's first matchup with 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden late last month, both Harris and Pence dodged multiple questions.
For her part, Harris, aged 55 and the first woman of color on a major party presidential ticket, evaded Pence's question about whether a Biden administration would seek to add seats to the nine-justice Supreme Court if Trump pushes through the nomination of conservative appellate judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon.
"This is a classic case of, if you can't win by the rules, you're going to change the rules," Pence said, asking Harris directly if she and Biden were "going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?"
Harris did not give a straight answer, instead arguing that the Senate, where Republicans have a majority, should not move forward with Barrett's confirmation, which would tilt the high court further to the right, before Election Day.
"So, Joe and I are very clear, the American people are voting right now. And it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime," she said, pointing to Supreme Court Justices' tenure.
Pence, in his turn, ducked a question asked by moderator and USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page on whether Trump, who's trailing Biden in national polls, would accept the results of the election if he loses.
"If we have a free and fair election, we know we're going to have confidence in it, and I believe in my heart that President Trump will be reelected for four more years," Pence responded.
Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the race and has repeatedly claimed that mail-in voting, which many states have expanded so as to allow people to vote safely during the pandemic, would lead to massive voter fraud, despite arguments from election pundits that there is no evidence supporting the allegation.
In addition to the episodes, neither of the vice presidential candidates answered when asked if they'd had discussions about safeguards and procedures if Trump, 74, or Biden, 77, were to become incapacitated in the White House.
Trump, who tweeted out several video clips of the Pence-Harris matchup, wrote that he thinks his deputy "WON BIG," while Biden, in his tweet, said that Harris had "made us all proud tonight." More Americans said the Democrat did a better job in the debate, according to a CNN Instant Poll of registered voters who watched.
The presidential candidates met for their first encounter in the 2020 race in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 29, two days before the incumbent tested positive for COVID-19. Biden has undergone at least four tests since Trump's diagnosis with all results returning negative.
Their next face-off was scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, Florida, Trump's home state and a key battleground in this election.
Biden said Tuesday the debate should not be held if Trump, who's recuperating from COVID-19 at the White House after a three-day hospitalization, still has the virus.
Trump, however, has made clear that he wants to have the next debate with Biden, despite that the White House is grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has also infected a growing number of individuals, including first lady Melania Trump, the president's aides, allies on Capitol Hill, and journalists covering the administration.
White House physician Sean Conley said Wednesday that Trump's "physical exam and vital signs, including oxygen saturation and respiratory rate, all remain stable and in normal range."
"He's now been fever-free for more than 4 days, symptom-free for over 24 hours, and has not needed nor received any supplemental oxygen since initial hospitalization," Conley disclosed, adding that Trump's lab results from Monday "demonstrated detectable levels" of COVID-19 antibodies. Enditem