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V.P. Mike Pence And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) Face Off In Vice Presidential Debate; A 'Civil' Debate Night. Aired 10:30-11p ET

Aired October 7, 2020 - 22:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, there you have it. Two candidates largely refraining from the fireworks, certainly a contrast to President Trump's performance last week in that first presidential debate.

Tonight, it was much more civil. Both candidates clearly did their best to dodge important, serious, tough questions from Susan Page, questions that they didn't want to answer.

She asked very good questions, Susan Page. I must point out. And Mike Pence in the process also learned that it's nearly impossible to put a positive spin on the administration's record when it comes to coronavirus with more than 210,000 Americans dead.

She scored some points when she said these words, the greatest failure of a presidential administration in the history of our country. The candidates, their spouses, they're on the stage right there.

We'll continue to watch. In the meantime, let's check in with Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks, Wolf. I have to say, I think it was first of all a normal debate, a regular debate. Not an emotionally abusive session with somebody who is a little unhinged. Both candidates got in some punches.

I thought Senator Harris was effective when going after the administration's record when t came to COVID. Obviously, I thought Vice President Pence going after Biden's record, and attacking Harris' on the fringes of her party, which as we expected.

I think there will be a lot that Republicans will be happy to talk about when it comes to his performance. It was more standard.

You know, there is, I think a disparity in terms of some of the unanswered questions. Both of them did a lot of dodging. Harris wouldn't answer the question about the court packing. And that's significant. And Biden and Harris should answer it.


But on the other hand, Pence wouldn't answer the question about why the U.S. death rate from COVID is so much worse than any other wealthy country, and he wouldn't commit to a peaceful transfer of power. So, while they both dodged questions, I can't help but think, these ones that Pence dodged are somewhat more significant.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I can add another one to that, that is very significant. He wouldn't answer how a second term of the Trump administration would preserve pre-existing condition promises that is under Obamacare, which they're trying to, you know, do away with in the court.

I agree with you, our hearts are racing a little bit less right now than they were last week. This was much more civilized. But it was really stunning to see the way Mike Pence pivoted, almost at every question. Not answering the question and not going back to actually follow up on the question.

Kamala Harris was more respectful of the questions and tried to answer the questions. I'm not sure if that got her anywhere. I do think at the end of the day Mike Pence did what he needed to do, maybe, and then some and the same with Senator Harris.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think if we, as we've all covered Mike Pence, we know that this is his superpower as an interviewee, he often just completely disregards the question, and answers the way that he thinks is best.

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: But in the context of this debate, it really did create this imbalance between the two of them. And I do think that Harris missed some opportunities here to push back at opportunities when Pence -- Pence took them. Even when it wasn't his turn, and then he was given time to go over by 30 seconds here, 45 seconds there. I mean, these are technicalities, but in the moment, what it means is that you got, you felt like you got more talking time from Pence.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: yes.

BASH: And as interviewers, all three of us was definitely frustrating to hear the question and then not hear a follow-up, when both of them, but much more Mike Pence, didn't answer the question at all. It went in a completely different question.

TAPPER: And so, something also that I think we can't ignore is the concept of gender. We're so used to seeing white men, but definitely men, on the stage when it comes to being on a ticket. Senator Harris is only the third woman to be on a ticket. The first one was in 1984 with Geraldine Ferraro.

And we had to wait till -- I'm she's the fourth, and then 2008, Sarah Palin, 2016 Hillary Clinton, and I wonder if a woman candidate feels like she can't push as much or steamroll as much as say Mike Pence can for fear of seeming and offending some segment of the electorate. I'm not saying it should be that way, but I'm wondering if it is that way.

BASH: Well, I'll tell you this, and Abby, I want to get your thoughts on this. I was texting with a friend who is an African-American man, saying do you think that she's kind of letting some things go in a way that maybe she shouldn't? And the answer was, are you kidding me?

You know that she's a black woman. She has to kind of pull her punches on that. And I'm not sure if that's true. I mean she was tough, and she certainly had her moments. But there were times when maybe there could have been more follow-up. And I don't know if that's something that was going through her head or not. I hope it wasn't.

PHILLIP: You know, this is something that I'm sure, you know, for every woman in politics and particularly black women, there is this line that you have to thread.

You know, I was also texting with people close to her, you know, who look at this and kind of felt like Pence was taking advantage of the rules, of the fact that he was able to just flout them. And perhaps she should have pushed back in certain ways. I think that's where debate prep comes in. There are ways to do it in ways that don't, sort of, present in a certain way. But this is a line that only women really have to thread.

BASH: And in fairness to her, she didn't get a lot of help from the moderator.

PHILLIP: She did not.

BASH: You know, Susan Page, you know, she was just, she was very by the book.


PHILLIP: There was this --

BASH: She followed the rules, followed the time.

PHILLIP: There was a moment where Pence literally said, I've got to finish this point, and then he was allowed to finish his point well beyond his time. I think people saw that back home, and I think there was clearly an imbalance there.

TAPPER: She was very effective, I thought, at the beginning of the debate when she was just addressing the facts of the coronavirus response, and the inadequacy of the administration's response.

The very fact that they have to be in a theater with people in the audience wearing masks, separated Plexiglas there. These are just the facts. And she really went after the Pence administration's response. She didn't invoke the fact that the White House is currently a hot zone.

PHILLIP: I thought that was one of the most interesting things about the COVID section. The sort of the hypocrisy of the Trump administration was right there for Kamala Harris to take advantage of, and she didn't.


But she chose to do something else. Pivoting it back to everyday Americans --


PHILLIP: -- and their personal experiences with the virus. But when Mike Pence ignored the question about why Americans should follow the CDC rules when the Trump administration flouted them in the Rose Garden, it felt like there was not any adequate response to sort of illustrate what was going on there.

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: And so, I see what she was trying to do. Talking directly to the American people, you know what you've been going through. But at the same time, we are living through a White House coronavirus hot spot.

BASH: Right. Right.

PHILLIP: And it really didn't get brought up.

BASH: Absolutely. She was preparing, and we all spoke to sources around her, to do exactly what she did. Which does makes sense, to make a connection. Every single person in this country has a connection in some shape or form to coronavirus.

But you gave one example, another example was when Susan Page asked the vice president about whether or not it is our right as American citizens to know about the health of the president, and he completely ignored, and he didn't even come close to answering the question, and nobody held him accountable, nobody held his feet to the fire. Those are really important questions that we don't really get a chance to ask the vice president, much less the person who wants his job.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, there were times during the debate that I thought that the most effective being on that stage to go after Vice President Pence was that fly that landed on his head.

PHILLIP: Arguably one of the most interesting things that happened in the debate.


TAPPER: And sat there for 10 minutes. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much. The fly certainly got a lot of attention online. Let's just quickly go around. David Axelrod, your thoughts?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, my feelings is that they both -- they both probably got some of the points they wanted to get in, they both avoided questions, though Pence was a serial evader but probably left feeling good about the points that he made.

She, I thought clocked him on the biggest issue of the moment which is the coronavirus which is how the debate started. But on the bottom line, I don't think these changes anything. This ticket, Biden and Harris, were 10 points ahead going in. I'd be very surprised to see much movement in the polls here. And in that sense, it's a good night for Biden. She held her own. The race is where it was. The race is going in his direction right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know I think that Pence made a lot of the points that the administration would want him to make. And he made them very well, because the President of the United States really did not make them well or made no points at all last week.

I think Kamala Harris took him on, on COVID, and did that really well. She did not answer the question on court packing, which we know --


BORGER: -- which we know that Joe Biden doesn't want to answer because as he says, it's a distraction from the question about the Supreme Court.

But I'll tell you something else that was interesting to me. We know how Pence feels about Roe versus Wade, speaking of the Supreme Court. He said he is proudly pro-life. But he didn't the answer the question --


BORGER: -- directly on Roe. Did not. Now the question was asked, what would you do in the State of Indiana? You know, would you -- would you then say, OK, you shouldn't have abortions in the State of Indiana, went right by it. Because he knows where American public opinion is, and American public opinion overwhelmingly saying don't get rid of Roe v. Wade.

So, he knew how to evade when he had to evade, and he knew how to shifts when he needed to shift. And then I thought one moment that was sort of stunning to me was when he kept using the Pat Moynihan phrase, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Are you kidding me?


BORGER: Coming from the Trump administration? What?


JONES: Look, this may not matter for the election but it's going to matter for history. A black woman went out there nine minutes. Nobody -- you may not like her answer, you know, I like to say, nobody is saying she could not be president of the United States. She cleared that bar. It is off the table. And that's important.

Because this is a moment in history in which that is an issue. Also, she started strong, she beat the crap out of him on COVID, it was embarrassing, and she ended strong on justice. In the middle, she had to walk that tightrope that you've seen women of color and all women have to walk of being strong but not too strong, being firm. And she got run over by Pence over and over again, the moderator did nothing about it but she kept her poise, she kept her composure and she did great tonight.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I would make the comment that I don't think that was what's going on. No offense to your comment about being a woman of color. I think this was a much simpler calculation. Play it safe. You got a big lead. You do not want to do anything that could create a moment.


And pushing back and being overly -- she was not overly assertive throughout this entire debate. And in many --


JONES: Pence was. Pence was a mansplainer in chief.

SANTORUM: I get that.

JONES: He is Mr. Mike mansplainer all night.

SANTORUM: I understand that. But either Kamala would end there with the, I think. And this is the advice I think they probably gave her. Don't create a moment where, you know, you're going to -- you're going to all, you know, incite great friction, right?

You want to be calm. You want to show that you're presidential. And so, I think she just let it pass. I don't think it has anything to do with the color of her skin. I think it's you're 10 points up -- you want to get through this thing and not -- and not have --


JONES: I'm saying, it's painful to watch.

AXELROD: I'll tell you -- I'll tell you one moment. If I'm doing the review of it, and I'm sitting at the Biden headquarters, the one thing that I think was really a lost opportunity was when he completely evaded the question on what their plan is for people with pre-existing conditions.


BORGER: Pre-existing condition.

AXELROD: That is the issue that took Republicans down in 2018.


AXELROD: And that was a missed opportunity.

SANTORUM: Because there is a good answer. And for some reason, this administration, which has, in my opinion, a very good record on healthcare, of all the things that they've done to improve Obamacare, candidly.


SANTORUM: And to reduce price. They have. My goodness. They've done tons of things by executive order to actually make Obamacare the exchanges work better and to expand plans. They've done tons of things.

COOPER: Aren't they suing the Supreme Court?

SANTORUM: And so -- and so - so, why he didn't talk about that, I have no idea. Here's my overall take, because I was responding to you here.


SANTORUM: My overall take is that I think Pence made the best case - which I hope he had done - the best-case possible for COVID. You guys don't think it was a compelling one. I think for a lot of people, it was a good -- it was a good case. He made a strong -- and he compared it rightfully to Obama's record on H1N1 which would have been disastrous had it been anywhere close to as virulent as this.

So, I think, again, I don't think he won it. But I think he made a plausible case for them. I think issue by issue, my opinion is, he did everything that every -- that conservatives wanted him to do.

JONES: I think that's true.

SANTORUM: And made people feel really comfortable, and even moderates, I think people who are looking for, quote, "substance," Mike provided a lot of substance.

Kamala by the -- in my opinion, was sort of weak on substance. Most of her scoring points were going after Trump personally. It was him that where she really scored her points, not on substance.

And one final thing I would say about that, she never once, to my -- I could be wrong, she never once called Donald Trump President Trump. She referred to him always throughout the debate as Donald Trump. He's the President of the United States and not once did she refer to him as President Trump.


JONES: And you're offended by that?

SANTORUM: You can roll that off --

JONES: That's your big issue?

SANTORUM: But that's a big deal. I mean, to me --


JONES: She was disrespected all night. She was run over all night. Listen, I don't think she -- (CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: She wasn't disrespected. He had a lot of points to make.

JONES: I don't think you guys on a very strong ground talking about respect as your main issue. But what I will say is this, I do agree with you that Pence was masterful in normalizing conservative ideas. He kind of made conservatives seem normal again. And I think that was to his great credit.

But I think what Kamala Harris had to go out there and do was to hang on to her base, which she did. To your point, she didn't have to go and score a knockout because they're up a gazillion points. But I don't -- I don't want to take it off the table. A lot of people felt very uncomfortable with the moderation, they were uncomfortable with him taking so much ground.


JONES: And they felt that she was in a trip bag if she pushed back too hard, maybe create some moment, but also, we create the angry woman thing. And so, I think she master -- she masterly dealt with I think a terrible situation and I think he took advantage of the situation.

COOPER: And the angry woman label --


COOPER: -- I mean, that is a real danger. And for a black woman, that is double.

BORGER: Yes. So, did you notice the smile that was on her face all the time --


BORGER: -- when she -- and that's hard when you're getting interrupted constantly. And then she would say and maybe she did create a meme. Mr. Vice President, I'm speaking, right? And she kept saying that to him as if to say, I'm not finished. And then he would sort of plow ahead. And I think that women watching that, I mean, they have a huge gender gap, women watching that are going to say, wait a minute. He was --


SANTORUM: Look, I mean, the -- don't make the claim that he --


BORGER: Mr. Santorum, I'm speaking.

SANTORUM: -- interrupted her repeatedly because he didn't interrupt her repeatedly.

COOPER: Well. SANTORUM: I mean, he did --


BORGER: He did.

COOPER: He interrupted the moderator and her.

SANTORUM: He interrupted. He continued answering questions beyond her time. But he didn't --


AXELROD: But not answering.

SANTORUM: No, I'm --


AXELROD: I need another minute to answer that question.

BORGER: He interrupted her. He interrupted her and he interrupted her --

COOPER: He actually did interrupt her.

BORGER: -- and he went long. he went on really long.

SANTORUM: I mean, but not more than you would see in any other debate.

BORGER: I want to -- I want to go. There was another point at which Mike Pence said to her, and this also struck me. And Rick, I bet you would disagree, but it was he said to Kamala Harris, stop playing politics with people's lives.


And you listen to that, and you look at what's going on in the country and you look at Bob Woodward's book about what the president new in late January or early February and you look at the president now and the way he's handling COVID and that coming from Mike Pence just struck such a note with me, like an are you kidding kind of thing. Who's playing politics with people's lives here?

JONES: One thing that I thought was really good, there was a question that was asked about health, about the physical health of the candidates.


JONES: Kamala turned to the financial health and went after Trump on the taxes. And she said something in a way that I thought really resonated. She goes, you owe money to somebody that I think that -- that she's like hold on a second, you owe money to somebody. She did that a couple of times where she would take an issue that has been in the news and made it very, very relatable. And so, I think that -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: She did the same thing with foreign policy. I don't know if it was effective or not but with foreign policy about it being about relationship.

JONES: Yes. About relationship. She also talked about when they put a bounty on somebody's head, that means they're going to kill you and get money for it. So, she was doing things. She has a base of people.

Understand you've got a bunch of young voters, a bunch of new voters who are out there. She was speaking to them. She was educating them. There's a lot of things that she's doing that may have gone over people's heads. But I think she did a brilliant job with her base tonight.

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, look, to say your foreign policy is about relationships, I mean, you want to talk about no substance. That's no substance. Zero substance on the issue of foreign policy.

JONES: Well except when your opponent has been blowing up relationships all around the world --


SANTORUM: And Pence did a great job, yes.

JONES: -- that we've spent blood and treasure to make those relationships around the world.

SANTORUM: But Pence did a great job of talking about NATO, how NATO has increased, he's talked about our relationship with Israel. I mean, peace treaty --


JONEs: Are you proud of our relationships right now around the world, sir?

SANTORUM: I think our relationship around the world are better now than they were under Barack Obama. Absolutely, no question in my mind. Again, you guys may disagree with that, but I can tell you conservatives feel that our relationships are better now.


JONES: Well, do you the Kurds feel that way? Do the Kurds feel that way? So, the Kurds that President Trump abandoned --

SANTORUM: Wait a minute.

JONES: -- and allowed to be murdered? Do the Kurds feel that way?

SANTORUM: Whoa, whoa, whoa, don't even talk about the Kurds. Because you want to talk about the Kurds --


SANTORUM: -- let's talk about abandoning Iraq and having ISIS come up and kill million -- and kill thousands of Kurds. So, no, actually we defeated ISIS which was in the Kurdish area and we have autonomous region up there that is actually doing well.


JONES: We can have this argument you want but I'm going to tell you a couple of things. First of all, I think it's very, very clear that tonight Kamala Harris took you guys to the woodshed on the stuff that we care about the most in this country when it comes to the economy, justice, and COVID.

She was toe to toe with your best person. You said yourself Mike Pence is the best guy you've got. He gave his best and it was toe to toe on everything that counts. They didn't get enough into the foreign policy. But I don't see how you can sit here and say you're proud of what Donald Trump has done to our relationships to our reputations around the world. It's absurd.

And we are a laughing stock on planet earth because of Donald Trump. He cannot be trusted. The way that he pulled out on the Kurds was completely erratic. And he's just as erratic right now in the White House. He's probably tweeting right now some stuff that makes no sense to step on Pence right now.

SANTORUM: I can go down a laundry list of countries, Van, if you want to about how our relationships are far superior now than they were under Barack. But let's take Ukraine for one.


JONES: Putin, you got a relationship --

SANTORUM: No, no, no. I mean, actually Ukraine, we actually are arming Ukraine into as opposed to allowing them to the Russians to invade and take Crimea.

BORGER: But she raises the --


SANTORUM: So, there are real issues here and you're blowing -- the contrast you're missing. I mean, I think the fact that he pointed out that Biden was not for taking out Osama Bin Laden criticized us taking out --


COOPER: Have we actually endangered the credibility of the new Ukrainian regime far more than any enemy could ever of Ukraine? I mean, the president has made the president of Ukraine look like a laughing stock.

SANTORUM: Well, that was because of an investigation that took place to someone over --


COOPER: No, because he tried to co-op -- anyway, it's now it's ancient history. But in terms of the debate, did -- I mean, did this move the needle? I mean, David said it did.


BORGER: No, I don't think it did. I don't think it moved the needle at all. And I think it was probably pretty frustrating for people to watch because they got asked questions and they didn't answer them and particularly Mike Pence. You know, when you get asked one question and then you want to pivot and turn to another question.

Neither one of them talked about the age of their candidate, for example.


BORGER: And talked about the conversations they had or had not. Let me make a bet here, just saying, that Mike Pence has never had that conversation with Donald Trump.

SANTORUM: Nor has Kamala had it with Joe Biden?

BORGER: Well, I don't know. I don't, you know, I don't know the answer to that.

COOPER: I did see them tonight I watched like five minutes of the debate without any sound --


COOPER: -- which is something I sometimes do in debates. And it's actually --

AXELROD: You should have done that last week.

COOPER: Well, I actually did. And it's very interesting what you actually --

JONES: What did you learn?

COOPER: -- pick up on. Every shot, Kamala Harris, when she's looking at him would smile, she had a smile on her face far more than Pence ever had a face on his face. He had a bloody eye and a fly on his head. And he does, you know, the sincerity thing the look well. But I thought it was interesting how she was very loose.

BORGER: Right.


COOPER: Thoughtful in, yes, in how she looked at him --


COOPER: -- and how she looked at the moderator and her -- you know, we've seen this before from her when she gave her first speech after being named as vice president nominee. You know, she gave a lot of it with a smile on her face. And I think that's clearly intentional.


AXELROD: She did. It's also true if you look back at the debate four years ago. This was a different guy. Pence was a different guy. He looked like he was on -- tonight he looked to me -- he often times, particularly on subjects like COVID looked like a guy who had been taken to the principal's office. He did not look like he wanted to be there. He was not the warm sunny presence that we're accustomed to.

I felt that he was playing defense much of the night. I also thought by the way, it was odd that at the end having made the case that Kamala Harris' radical left, he then assailed her for being too tough as a prosecutor.

COOPER: Which I thought I was surprise she didn't actually make that point, which is wait a minute, five minutes ago I was radical left.

SANTORUM: Well, that was clearly oriented to an African-American males which is where --


AXELROD: Well guess what, Rick. Everybody else was watching too.

SANTORUM: What's that?

AXELROD: I said everybody else was watching too.

SANTORUM: I understand. Look, I think to comment on Pence, Pence felt the weight of the world. After the last debate's performance, I mean, the campaign was riding on this. I mean, you now, I know, David, you think the race is over to begin with. But a lot of the folks in the Trump-Pence feel like they need to have at least a step where you stop the bleeding or you can come back.

BORGER: Did he get it?

SANTORUM: And it was on Pence's shoulders.

BORGER: Did he get it?

SANTORUM: And I think he delivered.

BORGER: You do?

SANTORUM: No, I think he delivered. I think you're right. He was not the happy warrior as much as Mike has been in the past, but you know, it's also a different time. It's a somber time. So, I think he did, as I said before, everything that he needed to do to stop the bleeding, whether he turned the campaign around, I doubt it. But he did -- he did what he needed to do.

BORGER: Can I just --


AXELROD: He had one good riff, Gloria. I thought his riff that he came to give on taxes on some of Biden's programs --


AXELROD: -- he misrepresented Biden's program. But he -- you knew he was going to attack them for being tax raisers and so on.


AXELROD: He seem very -- he was very much on the attack there, most of the night he was on defense.

BORGER: Can I just say something more about Kamala Harris' demeanor since we're talking about it? I think she knew exactly what she had to do. She knew she was going to be interrupted. She knew this was going to be an issue.

She is a seasoned prosecutor, and she's got a jury out there. And she's making her case. And she doesn't want to -- they don't know her. They've known Mike Pence. But they don't really know who she is. And she introduced herself. She sort of, took the opportunity to give her bio out there because most Americans don't know who she is. And I think she was smartly very careful to smile at Mike Pence, to her, you know, her demeanor was calm --


SANTORUM: Playing it safe.

BORGER: -- and reasoned. What?

SANTORUM: Playing it safe. That's what she did.

BORGER: Playing it safe.

SANTORUM: It's all about tone.

BORGER: Playing it safe. And I think for a woman in particular, you know, when she sort of, attacked Joe Biden during that debate, that may not have worked so well for her. And I think she's had that experience in the past. And now --


COOPER: I've just got to say it's insane that in this day and age --

BORGER: It's insane.

COOPER: -- we still have the standard that women have to edit themselves in a different -- (CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I couldn't agree more.

JONES: Twenty-twenty.


COOPER: Let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Anderson, thanks very much. I want to do some fact-checking right now. I want to get to what we heard. Daniel Dale, our CNN fact-checker, CNN reporter is standing by.

Vice President Pence, Daniel, he echoed President Trump's claims about suspending travel from China early on to try to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. First of all, listen to this.


MICHAEL PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Before there were more than five cases in the United States, all people who had returned from China. President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done, and that was he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world.


BLITZER: All right, Daniel, is that accurate?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: This is false, Wolf. I don't know how many times I have to say this on TV with you. President Trump did not suspend all travel from China. What Trump did, Wolf, was impose a partial travel restriction in early February. It exempted citizens, it exempted permanent residents, it exempted many of their family members.

Flights from China were never fully banned and tens of thousands of people kept flying over from China to the U.S. after the thing that Trump and Pence call a ban was put into effect.

Now Wolf, it's also worth noting that there is good research suggesting these restrictions on China were not actually super effective. Researchers found that the early U.S. outbreak in and around the New York City area was brought in largely by travelers coming from Europe, not China.

So, while Trump was restricting travel from China, say the front door in early February, he did not impose restrictions on Europe, say the back door, until March 13. By which time the virus was already here and already spreading.

So, again, bottom line, Pence claims Trump suspended all travel from China. That is just false.