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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

The First And Only 2020 Vice Presidential Debate Kicks Off; Fact-Checking The Vice Presidential Debate; CNN Reporter And Anchors React To The Vice Presidential Debate; Pence And Harris Clash Over In A Plexiglass; Undecided Arizona Voters On Tonight's Debate; CNN Instant Poll. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 7, 2020 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[23:00:00]

DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: That is just false.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We also heard, Daniel, the Vice President Mike Pence try to cast some of the blame for the U.S. coronavirus response on the Obama administration citing its response to the H1N1 flu pandemic. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2009 when Joe Biden was vice president, we would have lost 2 million American lives. His own chief of staff, Ron Klain would say last year that it was pure luck that they did, quote, everything possible wrong. And we learned from that. They left the strategic national stock pile empty. They left an empty and hollow plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Daniel, where's this strategic national stock pile of medical supplies depleted or empty?

DALE: Wolf, the claim is misleading. I'll explain why. It is not true that the national stock pile was entirely empty as Pence said or strongly suggested when Trump took office.

A spokesperson for the National Stockpile for trump's own administration has told me personally that they inherited more than 16,000 ventilators in good working order from the Obama administration.

It also contained, for example, enough smallpox vaccine for every American. Now journalists were allowed to tour the stock pile in late 2016, they personally saw piles of stuff on the shelves.

So, no, not empty. However, it is true that some supplies had run low, for example the supply of N95 masks, that's important in the pandemic of course, was low. It got depleted during the h1n1 pandemic.

The Health Department said, it need to be replenish, it didn't happened. Now, that's in part because of congressional spending priorities and negotiations, etcetera. Not just Obama, but there is some truth, that Pence has claim. So, bottom line, misleading. It's wrong to say empty. It certainly wasn't entirely bereft of stuff, but it was indeed low on some sort of supplies, Wolf.

BLITZER: We did our -- our producers did some math. They found nearly identical speaking times for these two candidates. Take a look at this. 36 minutes 24 seconds for Kamala Harris. Mike Pence 36 minutes 27 seconds, very, very equal amounts of time. Jake, Dana, Abby, back to you guys.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. We were talking before about whether or not Senator Kamala Harris left some opportunities on the table purposely because perhaps she went into the debate knowing of some gender and racial roles and dynamics that make women, make people of color have to hold back, not that they should, but that they feel like they have to in this country.

And a source close to the campaign after we had this conversation texted me and said that Senator Harris went into the debate aware of the various dynamics that we talk about Rachel on gender dynamics and knowing she had to thread the needle and balancing being assertive and letting it go at points.

Women are judged differently. It's a needle we have to thread all the time, and of course she has been the only woman and the only black woman in many spaces. So, just what we were talking about.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and of course, I mean, you know, she's had to thread -- she has had to thread that line several times in the past. One of the interesting differences between tonight compared to what we've come to see from Kamala Harris in the primary debates was that she became known for creating moments, whether it was with Joe Biden or at other debates, even known for creating moments in the judiciary committee hearings.

TAPPER: Sure, with Attorney General Barr.

PHILLIP: With, exactly. We didn't see that Kamala Harris tonight. We saw a different Kamala Harris tonight, in part, I'm told, because the objective here was very different. She came in here believing that it was about holding her own steady, stable, executing on the plan, not creating, you know, social media moments that people have come to expect from her.

And that might be a disappointment, frankly, to some of her fans on Twitter. But from the perspective of the campaign, I think you'll hear a lot of people saying, in terms of what they prepared for, she executed on that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Although I'm still speaking, was a line that is very memorable. People who are near her are, you know, happy that that was something that she got out. She obviously prepared that for when the vice president was going to interrupt her. And I can see that resonating a lot with women.

You know, that here was a guy on the stage with her trying to kind of talk over her and she stopped him and she looked at him and she said, I'm still speaking. I can already see the Biden campaign making a t- shirt out of that.

TAPPER: Yes. A couple of things, I think I agree with Senator Santorum, who I can't help but notice is a lot more excited about talking about Vice President Pence than he has been about talking about Pence's running mate. But I think I agree with him in the sense that she played it safe but that's what you would expect if you believe the polls, the Biden-Harris campaign is winning and the Trump- Pence campaign is losing.

And if you look at who was more aggressive and really did more (inaudible) dumping in terms of just bringing up votes from and her record as an Attorney General or as a district attorney, that's the campaign that's behind and that's Pence.

[23:05:09]

BASH: And these are people who are not at the top of the ticket.

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: I mean, this is the vice presidential debate. Yes, it is different for all the reasons we have discussed, not the least of which is that the men at the top of the ticket are in their 70s and, you know, this is incredibly important because they could be the future of their respective parties. But it is the vice presidential debate. So, it is -- if you're Kamala Harris, do no harm right now.

TAPPER: Yes. I really want to know what you think about Senator Harris' response when it came to the vaccine, if there is a coronavirus vaccine. And she said that if -- because people have criticized her for undermining whether or not the concept of whether or not she should take the vaccine. She said she would be first in line if the medical professionals, the health professionals advocated it. But if it's just Donald Trump, nope, she's not going to take it.

PHILLIP: This was a do over for her and she executed it line-for-line, word-for-word exactly what I'm sure they prepared her to say. If the scientists say it's safe, I will be the first in line to take it, if Donald Trump says, so, I will not. That's the message.

And Pence ignored what she said and continued to accuse her of undermining the science even though the president just this morning tweeted that he wants a vaccine before the election because it's before the election.

TAPPER: And President Trump also opposes vaccines in general.

PHILLIP: Exactly. So, I do thing that she took the opportunity to redo that line, and I think it worked well for her tonight. You know, Pence to our earlier conversation had a lot more work to do tonight because the last debate with President Trump, you couldn't hear what was being said so much to understand what the Trump argument against Biden was.

And I thought tonight because of the calm nature of this debate. On both sides they were a lot more toned down. You could hear the arguments. And that was effective for Pence because he actually needed to deliver these lines on China. He needed to deliver these lines on the green new deal. He needed to deliver these lines on taxes. And these messages did not come across last week. And the Trump-Pence campaign is a little bit behind the eight ball on this.

TAPPER: It sounds to me like you're saying that he succeeded.

PHILLIP: He succeeded in executing the Trump-Pence talking point.

TAPPER: Yes.

PHILLIP: Did he answer the questions?

BASH: No.

PHILLIP: No, he did not.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: But if debates are about delivering your message to the American public, Mike Pence is, to quote President Trump, very effective of not even coming close to the question and talking and talking and talking and delivering his talking points. And you know, it's up to the American people at this point which version of this they want to take home and believe.

BASH: Yes. Well, the other thing is that because we have not seen Kamala Harris in this kind of situation, obviously we've seen her in interviews and on the stump with Joe Biden, but this is the first time that she's really had to meld her record and her beliefs and Joe Biden's, obviously Joe Biden's wins out. And that one moment where she looked at the camera and said explicitly that Joe Biden does not want to ban fracking --

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: -- which is a big, big issue in places like southwest Pennsylvania.

TAPPER: Pennsylvania, yes, absolutely.

BASH: Where they're doing well. But that was really interesting because in the primaries she did want to ban fracking. And so, now she is falling in line, as running mates do, with the guy at the top of the ticket.

TAPPER: I do have to say though, I still think that the major three issues as to why people are going to vote and how they're going to vote are the coronavirus response, the economy and health care. And when it comes to the coronavirus response, Vice President Pence was unable to answer the question, why is our death rate so much higher than any other Western country? Why is are the number of corpses we have here so much higher than any other wealthy country.

He just was unable to answer that question. And he was forced to create an alternate reality where the H1N1 flu under President Obama was as bad and as deadly as coronavirus and projecting out what that would have look like. That's not planet earth. That's not what we're living on. I mean, maybe that's great if, you know, Ray Bradbury version of the coronavirus vaccine.

PHILLIP: Right, well, you don't get to choose which version of the reality you live in. And I think one of the things that perhaps Harris was trying to execute on in this debate tonight was just saying to the American people in response to those things, what is your life like today right now?

And you don't really even have to make a comparison between the two because we all sitting here lived through H1N1 and I don't remember the economy shutting down, I don't remember quarantining, wearing a mask, or doing anything like that. I don't even know a single person who contracted the H1N1 flu.

[23:10:14]

TAPPER: Yes.

PHILLIP: I know countless people who have contracted COVID-19.

TAPPER: Yes. President Trump is one of them.

PHILLIP: Including the president of the United States. So, I do think that that argument from Pence really skirted the question. And just putting aside the politics of it, in this moment that we are living in, I do think the American people deserve real answers from a Vice President Pence, from President Trump about why we have gotten to this point. And what they're going to do about it from this point forward.

BASH: Yes, no, I agree. The fact that she kept going back to the fact that the president and the vice president knew early on, particularly the president leaning on the Bob Woodward tape because why wouldn't she, it would be malpractice if she didn't.

And then looking into the camera and saying to the American people you don't have to be in this mess as much as you are. You don't to have your kids in virtual school the way that they are now. If they would have actually acted in a much more robust way on what they knew, then things would be different. You know, I'm sure that was effective.

TAPPER: I mean, I think it was effective but I don't think she did it enough to be honest. I mean --

BASH: She could have done it more.

TAPPER: -- if politics is about the repetition of your talking points, the repetition of the arguments you're trying to make so that they get through to the American people, because let's be honest. First of all, most Americans did not watch the debate.

Second of all, if they were watching they were probably on their phones, they were doing other things. They were putting their kids to bed. They were in and out of the living room. You really have to say it a few times. She said it I think twice.

BASH: Because she was answering the questions.

TAPPER: Right. Well, that's the thing. It was in this very room at the very beginning of the Trump presidency -- I think it was Vice President Pence was Vice President-Elect Pence and they had just fired Michael Flynn's son from the transition because he was out there pushing crazy PizzaGate nonsense.

And I told Vice President Pence, you know, he was doing this and did you know that they put in a security clearance for him. And Pence refused to answer my question eight times. There's a shamelessness about him in terms of like how much he doesn't answer questions that actually is very effective whether or not you appreciate it, Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks. I want to go to our fact checker Daniel Dale. Daniel, the candidates clashed over jobs, manufacturing, trade with China. I want to play one exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: The vice president earlier referred to as part of what he thinks is an accomplishment, the president's trade war with China. You lost that trade war. You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China? America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs.

PENCE: I would love to respond. Look, lost the trade war with China? Joe Biden never fought it. Joe Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China over the last several decades. And, again, Senator Harris, you're entitled to your opinion. You're not entitled to your own facts.

When Joe Biden was vice president we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs and President Obama said they were never coming back. He said we needed a magic wand to bring them back. In our first three years after we cut taxes, rolled back regulations, unleased American energy, this administration saw 500,000 jobs created.

HARRIS: Thank you, vice president.

PENCE: And that's exactly the kind of growth we're going to continue to see as we bring our nation through this pandemic.

HARRIS: Thank you, Vice President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, Daniel. Did the candidates get the facts straight on manufacturing?

DALE: Anderson, this exchange was kind of a mess on both sides. I'm going to start at the beginning. So, Senator Harris said that 300,000 manufacturing jobs were lost because of Trump's trade war with China. Before the pandemic, there was actually a net gain under the Trump presidency of 483,000 manufacturing jobs. Now many economists do believe that the trade war did cause some jobs

to be lost and prevent further gains. But I haven't seen a credible estimate that it's as many as 300,000 losses.

Now, Pence then said that 200,000 manufacturing jobs were lost under Obama and Biden. This, Anderson, is misleading by omission. Those losses occurred because Obama inherited a steep recession with manufacturing jobs plummeting, it was well underway when he took office. And the number of jobs kept falling until about a year into his tenure, more than a million lost in his first year alone.

But then the trend reversed and between March 2010 and the end of the Obama-Biden tenure in 2016, more than 900,000 were added. So, no, Obama did not give up on manufacturing jobs.

And relatively Pence like Trump claimed that Obama explicitly said manufacturing jobs are just gone. You couldn't bring them back. That's also misleading. Obama said at a 2016 PBS town hall that some were gone for good but he also boasted of how many were being created under his leadership.

Now, finally Pence then boasted of 500,000 manufacturing jobs created in the first three years of the Trump presidency. Well, that's true. It was 483,000 as of February. But Pence ignored what happened in year four and that is the number of manufacturing jobs plummeted because of this pandemic.

[23:15:13]

Through September it's now a net loss of 164,000 manufacturing jobs since Trump took office. So, bottom line, Harris was kind of misleading with the first stat, Pence was misleading in a number of respects with his last three claims. So, neither of them was, even close to perfect. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Daniel Dale. Thanks very much. Van, what happens tomorrow? Does the race change at all after this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I don't think that there's going to be a big shift or anything like that. But I think what you're going to see is further consolidation. Because I guarantee you within 24 hours we're not going to be talking about any of the nice things that Pence said. He's very smart, erudite -- Trump will do something nutty and we'll be in some other situation.

But I wanted to say that I'm trying to figure out what's going on here. You have a lot of people who are -- this is -- they finally got a chance to see what a debate is supposed to be. Don't forget it. Every presidential race brings in new people, new voices, people who have not done this before and this is how it's supposed to be.

I think we actually got a little bit of credibility back as a political class tonight. Because the class act from Kamala Harris.

COOPER: I've heard that Vice President Biden is fundraising off of the fly. JONES: Yes.

COOPER: I don't know exactly how, but I think -

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: With a fly swatter, picture of a -- the question that I have about the fly in one of our numerous interludes here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winging it.

BORGER: That's such a dad joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. There it is.

COOPER: Pitching $5 helped this campaign fly.

BORGER: Did he know the fly was on his head and just not touch it?

JONES: I just thought --

BORGER: Where was Mike Pence? I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I hope it goes into quarantine.

But in terms of the race, I mean, does anything change?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. No, I really don't think so. I think Kamala Harris did very well and that she had a better argument to make too on the things that people care about.

And I think she executed on that. Pence, you know, maybe he gave some comfort to Republicans who are worried that an avalanche was about to take them all down and in that sense maybe that will be the case. But, no, I don't think it changes anything.

One thing I want to say is someone who's prepared people for -- helped prepared people for debates, this idea of not answering questions, every time you prepare for a debate, you know, there is an element of here's how we're going to deal with this and sometimes you want to get into it and sometimes you don't.

But generally you make some passing effort to acknowledge the question. And I think the thing that was probably troubling to people watching the debate tonight was particularly when Pence just completely ignored it and just drove past it and said, no, I'm not going to even bother making a pass at that.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As someone who was guilty to a fault of answering every question I was ever answered directly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why you are here with us.

SANTORUM: And that's why I'm sitting here today? I am not going to criticize someone --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why we like having you here.

SANTORUM: OK. So, good job Mike Pence. I would agree that on a couple of occasions, most of the time he did it it's because he wanted to comment on something from the previous question, not because he was trying to dodge the question, but because there was something about the last question that he didn't get the chance to respond to. So, and that's perfectly legitimate to do.

BORGER: But when he was asked about whether he would accept the result of the election, he didn't answer that, he went back and said you guys have been trying to delegitimize us.

SANTORUM: And which I think was a -- number one, that was a great answer, but he didn't then follow up and answer the question, which he should have. And that was a big mistake. And David, you don't give much credence to this.

I think it is a huge issue that on a fundamental issue like whether you're going pack the United States Supreme Court that you can't get an answer out of a major presidential candidate that you're going change the balance of power and the constitutional structure of this country? I mean, I'm just telling you that is not going to fly. I'm sorry, no pun intended.

AXELROD: I mean, I think after last week, they should have had the better answer than the non-answer that she gave. I understand the politics of it, but I think they should. But what I would say to you is I don't think this election is going to turn on that issue. We're right in the middle of a 100-year pandemic, and we've --

SANTORUM: OK.

AXELROD: -- it's like we're adrift. And on the major things that are on people's minds today --

SANTORUM: But I -- OK --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: But there was one answer. Wait a second. We are talking about unanswered stuff. There was one answer that he gave that I think was bad. You know, he said there's no systemic racism. He went there. I don't understand what they're doing on this question of race. On the one hand they seem to be trying to go after black male supporters, as you mentioned earlier.

[23:20:04]

On the other hand that is a stick in the eye to every African-American parent raising a kid. All of us are terrified about the way our kids are treated in school. If little Johnny throws an eraser, he's being precautious. If little Leroy throws an eraser he's being violent.

We have to deal with this every single day with our kids and I just do not understand why Mike Pence -- if they want to get African-American male support, they've got to cut that crap out. There is systemic racism. It doesn't mean America is a terrible country, America is a great country. But it's got a big problem on this issue that was a terrible issue (inaudible).

BORGER: But how can he say it is Donald Trump hasn't said it? I mean, this is -- Mike Pence, who's not going to cross Donald Trump. He's never going to disagree with him. It's not a surprise that he would answer that way, right? Because the president has said it I mean and time again.

SANTORUM: I need to get something in here because Jake was right that health care and COVID and the economy are the big three issues that Americans care about. And I think that he did a poor -- that the vice president did a poor job in articulating what this administration has done on healthcare and it's a lot. I know Van is dismissing. But -- this is what (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

They've done a lot. And whether he doesn't know or can't articulate it is a huge problem. And Trump's got to fix that. But I would say on the other side, if you listen to the substance of what Kamala Harris said about what they would do with COVID, it is absolutely no different than what the president is doing right now.

JONES: But they could be effective with it.

SANTORUM: Well, OK. But the point is you can't say well, they're terrible, and because they're are not effective, we are going to do the same thing and be better and say this is (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: I thought she was good on that.

SANTORUM: He really missed the bar.

COOPER: I think what she missed is you can -- I think that's a fair argument that, you know, if you look at the nuts and bolts --

SANTORUM: The same thing.

COOPER: -- there are similarities. What would be different was that not being completely reckless both in personal behavior and also in undercutting the scientists at every step and politicizing the science.

SANTORUM: This is the point that I've been making on this panel for a long time. It's not what President Trump does because Biden's not going to do anything different than Trump does.

JONES: That's not true.

SANTORUM: It's how he communicates it.

BORGER: No.

JONES: No, it's not true. It goes far beyond communication.

COOPER: No, it's not just communication. It's putting the thumb on scientists and actually having, you know, folks in HHS.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: This is a very important point to me. I think that the Trump administration as a whole does not understand one thing. For an ordinary person, your actions speak louder than your words. That is true. But when you're the president of the United States, your words speak way louder than your actions.

And when you have the president of the United States who is pulling his mask off and doing all sorts of stuff, it has a profoundly disruptive, destructive effect.

BORGER: Exactly.

JONES: And they also didn't use their power to get the industry on the side of PPE. There's a lot of stuff that they did not do that Biden would have done.

AXELROD: The major point here, you know, he does have a communications problem. He was told that this was a deadly virus and he forgot to communicate it to the American people.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: I mean, that is the essence of it. Rick, you can shake your head, but we went through months of hell because the president sat on his -- on this information. He did not -- he told us it was like a flu, said it was a cold. Even after he told Bob Woodward it is deadly, it is five times more deadly than the flu. How can you withhold that information?

COOPER: He's also currently covering up what actually happened. He is refusing to allow his doctor to say when his last negative test was. He's covering up the history of this. He very well may have stood on the stage, knowingly positive with COVID, spewing and yelling at Joe Biden six feet away, spewing who knows what -- I mean, that's completely irresponsible.

SANTORUM: But you're talking about character -- hold on. But you're talking about character. You're talking about behavior. I'm talking about policy.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm not going to argue with you. I'm just saying, if you look at the policy as opposed to --

COOPER: No, no, that's not true.

The policy, telling the CDC Director, you know what, your get back to school policy guidelines are too tough, you've got to rewrite them and weaken them.

SANTORUM: Excuse me. With all due respect, the president has the right to do that. He runs the country.

BORGER: But what about --

SANTORUM: The CDC doesn't run the country.

BORGER: But Rick --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: He has a right to say to the CDC --

COOPER: So, you're fine with Donald Trump --

SANTORUM: I'm fine with the president making decisions about the policy of the country is.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- with the paragon of recklessness. You know, what. There are gay people in this country who are HIV positive and in some states they can be arrested if they don't inform a sexual partner they're HIV positive even though if they're on medication, it's absolutely zero threat to any sexual partner, none if they're on medication.

They cannot transmit the virus. In America, in several states they can be sent to jail because of that. Donald Trump is out there possibly infecting people. He could have infected Joe Biden on the stage and it's not that -- he's not held responsible?

[23:25:08]

SANTORUM: Again, Anderson, I'm not arguing with you about the president's character. I'm arguing about the policy decisions --

AXELROD: No, no, no, the character -- the character --

BORGER: Can I just say --

AXELROD: What's happened to -- what's happened to him in this country and in our politics is that his character now, the cost of it is clear. When you subjugate public interest to your political interest to the degree this president has on this virus and people's lives are lost because of it --

SANTORUM: David, are you telling me --

AXELROD: That's a policy problem.

SANTORUM: Hold on. Are you telling me that Barack Obama followed every advice from every adviser he ever had and never changed it if an adviser came forward?

(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: On public health issues, on public health issues he took his

guidance from public health experts and that is the difference.

BORGER: Well, let me just say one thing on policy because just recently maybe it was yesterday, the president of the United States tweeted -- or maybe it was today -- tweeted that the FDA was slowing down purposefully and without any scientific reason, apparently, he thinks, the vaccine because it insisted ongoing through a couple of months of approval process. So, you have a president of the United States --

SANTORUM: Who complained about an agency?

BORGER: -- everyone wants a vaccine in this country. But you have the president telling the scientists and the doctors they don't know what they're doing and that they are somehow slowing it down for political reasons. This was his --

SANTORUM: OK.

BORGER: No, this was his insinuation. Maybe he stated it flatly.

SANTORUM: But what happened? But what happened? But what happened?

BORGER: They did it.

SANTORUM: They did it.

BORGER: They did what they wanted to do. But, you know, but who knows what Donald Trump's next step is.

JONES: That's pretty cold.

BORGER: Because does he have the power to overrule the FDA?

SANTORUM: He does.

BORGER: So, maybe he will. Stay tuned.

COOPER: All right. Let's go back to Wolf. We'll have more ahead.

BLITZER: All right. Anderson, thank you. Undecided voters often watch these debates like the one we saw tonight to try to help them make up their minds. We have a group of undecided voters in the battleground state of Arizona. They've been watching the Vice Presidential debate. Sara Sidner is with them in Phoenix. So, Sara, what did the voters think of the candidates' performances?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really interesting. They thought it was a good debate overall. But let's ask them. Let's go ahead and talk to Tyler here. You're 19 years old. This is your first time voting in a presidential election. In one word, describe to me the performance of Vice President Pence.

TYLER (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Shifty. SIDNER: Shifty. OK. And we are going to go back behind you to Debra.

Debra, tell me, you have in the past I think you voted for President Trump back in 2016. You are now on the fence, undecided. In one word describe to me what you thought of Vice President Pence's performance.

DEBRA (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Confident.

SIDNER: OK. So, we've got Tyler, shifty. We've got Debra who is saying confident. Let's go back now here to, let's see -- who is in the back here. Sam, Sam, you're back here. I saw you a little bit nodding and engaging as you are watching this. One word to describe how Vice President Pence did.

SAM (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Not sincere.

SIDNER: OK. So, shifty, confident, not sincere. Morgan, front row. You were very engaged as well. I was watching you go up and down with your device. What did you think of Vice President Pence in one word?

MORGAN (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Stubborn.

SIDNER: Stubborn. OK. All right. Judy, we've got you back here. You voted for President Trump I think in 2016. Is that right?

JUDY (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Yes.

SIDNER: You're on the fence but leaning towards Trump. What did you think of his vice president?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overtime.

SIDNER: What did you say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overtime. He kept stealing her time.

SIDNER: OK. So, going over time. Taking, you know (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not being considerate.

SIDNER: OK. All right. Joseph, you are back here. I think you are leaning towards Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

JOSEPH (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Yes.

SIDNER: What did you think of Vice President Trump's performance?

JOSEPH (ph): He was evasive.

SIDNER: Evasive. OK. All right. We have Bob here who is sitting in the front. Bob, you were listening intently. What did you think of the vice president?

BOB (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Polished.

SIDNER: Polished. OK. Very positive reaction to how he performed tonight. BOB (ph): Yes.

SIDNER: OK. Vanessa, you have sort of talked to me a little bit about how important this vice presidential debate is to you. What did you think of Vice President Pence?

VANESSA (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Calculated.

SIDNER: Calculated. OK. Now we have you, Cody. You're also a first- time voter for the presidential election. You were leaning I think towards Trump what did you think of his vice president?

CODY (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: Confident.

SIDNER: So, we got two confidents. And last but certainly not least, Dennis. You've been sitting here back patiently. Ready to talk? One word to describe Vice President Pence.

DENNIS (ph), UNDECIDED VOTER: I'll describe it as consistent because there was nothing new, no surprises.

[23:30:00]

SIDNER: OK. Nothing new. No surprises. We should also mention that there weren't any really huge moments except for one, and we'll talk about that in a bit. I also should mention that we have talked to these folks and sort of canvassed them about whether or not this debate has helped them decide who they are going to vote for in the 2020 election. We got some good answers. I'm going to toss it back to you, Wolf and Anderson.

BLITZER: You know, the undecided voters, Sara, they had some strong reaction to the discussion about the coronavirus. Both men and women agreed with Senator Harris' criticism of the Trump administration's response.

Before we show you that, take a look at how the voters' reactions will appear at the bottom of your screen. Men's responses are in green, women in yellow. When the lines go up, that means this group liked what they heard. If the lines go down, this means the group didn't like the candidate's answer.

Now, let's listen to those key moments for Senator Harris. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And they knew what was happening and they didn't tell you. Can you imagine if you knew on January 28th as opposed to March 13th what they knew, what you might have done to prepare? They knew and they covered it up.

You respect the American people when you tell them the truth. You respect the American people when you have the courage to be a leader speaking of those things that you may not want people to hear but they need to hear so they can protect themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So, Sara, why did that moment resonate with the undecided voters there?

SIDNER: Yeah, so let's talk about that. That was a very strong performance. The men, by the way, if you watched throughout the debate, the men tended to be much more decisive, much more emotional about what they strongly agreed with. They went up quite a few times.

I'm going to start back here with Dennis. Dennis, Kamala Harris, this was a strong reaction from the men as much as anyone, but the women as well, strongly reacted when Kamala Harris sort of went on the attack and said, look, the president knew very early on before the American public that, indeed, COVID was dangerous and he hid that from the public. What did you think of that response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, hiding it from the public was perhaps trying to protect the public from fear, may be the terms that I might use. But I will also say that, you know, in talking about the large number of deaths that we had, if we look at Americans in general, we're not really a whole bunch of conformists.

And so I think we may have contributed to that not because the president didn't take any specific action or enough action but perhaps because we independently maybe didn't think it was necessary or hadn't bought into the seriousness.

SIDNER: Let me follow up with you. Talking about the American public sort of wanting to have things their own way and they don't always follow all the rules that are put out for them, do you think that the president had something to do with that because he was refusing to wear a mask or saying it wasn't that big a deal?

You wouldn't see him wearing a mask often. Do you think he played into the American idea that, like, I don't have to do this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think some Americans might have read that for sure as that it wasn't serious in that respect. But let's face it, Pence was thrown in to the limelight when he started running the Coronavirus Task Force and was very straightforward. They had the science there. They tried to -- they had the facts and the science, and they seemed to be working with it.

SIDNER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I trusted it.

SIDNER: Thank you very much for your answer. We're going to go to Anessa (ph). Anessa (ph), what did you think of Senator Harris's response when she said, you all knew this and you kept it from us and put Americans in danger?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it was valid for her to bring up. However, I don't necessarily agree that she was right that the president was jeopardizing Americans. I feel like Americans do their own research. They are well aware of what was going on with the virus. I think Trump did. As soon as he was aware of the severity of it, I mean, they did put together a task force, they did what they could. So, that's what I think.

SIDNER: OK. That's how you feel. Joseph, I'm going to go to you. What were your thoughts on that exchange there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought that it was a very valid comment because it's true. For me, when you're telling a reporter that it's very bad, you can get it through the air. And there are recommendations and you're not following them and you're downplaying them and then consistently pushing the other way.

I felt that that was irresponsible of the administration and they need to own it that we didn't really believe in masks and we didn't believe in doing anything preventive except staying at home when we knew that it was really bad and we knew it was bad early.

SIDNER: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to blame it on China, it's our fault because we didn't do our own research and we didn't push to make sure that we were protecting the American people.

[23:35:02]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And just being up front and letting us make the decision, telling us that it's going away, it's going to be fine, is not acceptable.

SIDNER: Do you feel like you were lied to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we were.

SIDNER: OK. So, you heard there sort of the differing ideas of how this went down, but that was a very, very strong reaction from this group. Wolf?

BLITZER: Sara, do the voters there with you think there was a clear winner tonight?

SIDNER: I'm going to ask that question. Show of hands, how many of you think that there was a clear winner tonight in this debate? One, two -- two out of ten. Only two out of 10. So, there's your answer, Wolf. Only two out of ten people thought there was a clear winner.

I'm going to ask them now who they think it was. How many of you think that Vice President Pence won this debate? Raise your hands. One, two, three, four. Four people out of 10. How many of you think Kamala Harris won this debate? Senator Harris, one, two, three, four. So, it's a tie.

Four people think -- and then there are obviously people -- we only have eight people who think so. The other people who have not raised their hands, it was (INAUDIBLE). But four people think Kamala Harris won this debate and four people out of 10 think that Vice President Pence won the debate. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah. Very interesting indeed. Sara, thank you. Thank the voters for us, as well.

Coming up, we're going to get the first results of our instant poll of debate watchers. Did they see a clear winner tonight? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Right now, we have the first results of our instant poll, debate watchers giving us their take on how the vice presidential candidates did tonight.

Let us go to David Chalian. He has got the results. David, what are the results? Who won?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Before I get to the results, Wolf, I just want to remind you, this is a poll of debate watchers, not representative of the country overall, of those folks who watched the debate tonight.

And our sample of folks who watched the debate tonight leans a little more democratic, about 38 percent Democrats in this poll, 33 percent independent, 29 percent Republicans.

[23:40:02]

CHALIAN: So, the audience was a bit more democratic. Now, for the results, Kamala Harris is the clear winner, according to debate watchers in our flash poll. Fifty-nine percent say she won the debate tonight. Thirty-eight percent say Mike Pence won the debate tonight.

Here is some evidence to back that up. What winning a debate means? Improving your position from where you went in. Take a look. We asked about whether people had a favorable opinion before the debate of both candidates and after.

Look at the progress that Harris made. Before the debate, 56 percent had a favorable opinion of her, after the debate, 63 percent. She increased her favorability by seven percent. Mike Pence held steady. He didn't lose any ground, but didn't make up any ground, 41 percent before the debate favorable, 41 percent after the debate favorable.

The critical question for VP candidate, are they qualified to be president, can they stop into that top job? Sixty-three percent, nearly two-thirds of debate watchers will say, yes, Kamala Harris is ready and qualified to be president.

And Mike Pence, the sitting vice president of the United States, he scores equally, as well, in that category. Sixty-five percent say he is ready and qualified to be president. Only 34 percent of debate watchers said that he is not, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to be getting some more results shortly from you, as well. I know you're going through the numbers right now. David Chalian, thank you very much.

Let's go back to Jake, Dana, and Abby.

TAPPER: Thanks, Wolf. So, one of the interesting moments, Dana, considering especially that this is an administration in which President Trump has in front of everybody leaned on the CDC and the FDA --

BASH: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: -- to help him get re-elected --

BASH: Yup.

TAPPER: -- by getting a vaccine out or therapeutics out or whatever to the point that people who work at the CDC and FDA are worried about their agencies being tainted. One of the interesting moments was Vice President Pence telling Senator Harris not to play politics with the coronavirus vaccine.

BASH: I mean it was the ultimate, ultimate brazen move by the vice president. You know, we're used to seeing and hearing the guy at the top of the ticket project. That's kind of one of his moves. When there's something happening to him or something that is, you know, either bad or a liability or just generally things that happen, he says, OK, that this is happening to somebody else. And that's exactly what Vice President Pence did tonight.

I mean, the idea that he had the (INAUDIBLE) to say to Senator Harris, please stop playing politics with people's lives about the coronavirus, is -- I mean -- I don't know how she held it together to not respond to that one.

PHILLIP: Do you know what really strikes me about that moment in particular, but several other moments in tonight's debate? Mike Pence says exactly the same thing that Donald Trump says, but in a more polished demeanor.

They're not on different pages on the substance of these issues and that's actually one of the reasons Mike Pence has remained in such good standing with this president. It's the way that he says it.

But in this case, it's so obvious that that is not true. It is not an accurate reflection of what is actually happening in the world. I think some people might be lulled into just listening to it and just -- you know, well, that was said very nicely. You know, it's clearly, clearly untrue.

TAPPER: Well, same thing with when he started talking, Abby, when it came to climate change.

PHILLIP: Right.

TAPPER: He wants to follow the science.

PHILLIP: This is another clear moment in which Pence is saying something that is consistent with the president's position in some respects, refusing to answer whether he believes climate change is an existential threat to humanity.

Then claiming that they're going to follow the science but not acknowledging that the president on television, on live television, just a couple of weeks ago, questioned an actual scientist, telling him that climate change is contributing to wildfires in California and in the west. The president went on national television and said, you know, I don't think the science really knows anything about this.

BASH: By the way, while he was in California --

(CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP: After ignoring the wildfires for several weeks. Look, just because it's being said with pleasant demeanor doesn't mean that it's true, and that was one of those clear cases where this administration's position, this president's position on climate change, is not one where they let the science lead.

TAPPER: No, and of course, that was misrepresented to the voters tonight. Something else that was misrepresented to the voters, the Republican Party and the Trump-Pence administration are very clear when it comes to Roe versus Wade, the landmark ruling in the Supreme Court in 1973, that made abortion legal, their goal and President Trump has stated this, is to appoint antiabortion judges to the Supreme Court --

BASH: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: -- such as Kavanaugh or Gorsuch or now Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and have them eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

[23:45:01]

TAPPER: That is their stated goal. President Trump has said that. Mike Pence this evening said that he was very proud to be pro-life but refused to acknowledge that this is the plan, even though it is the plan. If you're proud it, even though polls suggest that majority of the country is not supportive of that position --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: -- you should just state it.

BASH: That was one area where he did try to thread the needle a bit and pull back from the stated goal of the administration. For the most part, aside from that moment, maybe one other, he, as you said, he was saying Trump things but sounding very, very different, and it's because he's much more of a traditional politician, although he is unabashedly anti-abortion, pro-life in his words.

He understands the dynamics of the political landscape. And to say it that bluntly might not be the best thing for the kinds of voters that they're trying to reach now, not the voters that they already have, the kinds of voters they're trying to reach now.

PHILLIP: I still find that to be so interesting because ultimately Republicans make the argument that the courts are such a strong issue for them, it is a galvanizing issue for their voters. We should note, a lot of recent polling shows Democrats are at least equally motivated by the courts, at least they tell pollsters that as Republicans are.

But given that they have the votes for Amy Coney Barrett in the Senate and there's really no feasible way for Democrats to block it, I'm with you, Jake, why not just acknowledge that this is the plan?

Republicans will say they believe that this is a center right country that supports their position on these policies. And if that's the case, it's surprising that not only would Pence not say it, but even recently, President Trump has been trying to dodge this issue, trying to say he hasn't really talked to his court nominees about this issue, when you know that this is a central issue for Republicans when they're choosing this.

BASH: Because the gender gap right now isn't a gap. It's just a huge --

TAPPER: Chasm.

BASH: -- chasm.

TAPPER: Yeah.

BASH: And that's A. And B, it's also the suburbs where they're bleeding votes in swing states all over the country. And as much as they are pretty obvious about saying what they want, they also understand that this is the politics of the moment and that's why they're pulling their punches.

TAPPER: Something else that both candidates this evening dodged was Susan Page had a very obvious question and a good question which is, both of your running mates are in their 70s. Donald Trump is 74, Joe Biden, I think, 77, have you talked to them about what needs to happen if they need -- if you win and the senior citizen that you're running with needs to step down for health reasons or whatever? And neither of them answered the question.

PHILLIP: Neither of them answered the question. You know, I thought Susan Page's questions were excellent. But this is one of those that I think it would have been great to have a follow up.

TAPPER: I don't think she was allowed to do follow ups.

PHILLIP: I agree. The format -- so, you know, the format of this debate seemed to be reflexively in response to what happened last week.

BASH: Mm-hmm.

PHILLIP: You get two minutes uninterrupted and that seemed to almost mean not even the moderator could press you to answer the question. But this is one that I think the American people really deserved an answer to. Have you had that conversation?

And then the other part of the question is do the American people deserve transparency about the health of these two candidates. There is no more moment more vivid than this one for why we need transparency. The president was just hospitalized a few days ago.

TAPPER: Yeah, and we still don't know his health condition and we are still not getting straight answers. Still ahead, more results from our instant poll of debate watchers. Did men and women see the debate similarly or were some of them on Mars and some of them on Venus? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are breaking down the vice presidential debate, and whether the candidates stuck to the facts. Our fact checker, Daniel Dale, is back with us. Daniel, the debate hit on environmental concerns about the process of fracking to extract oil and gas. The vice president, Mike Pence, made this claim about Joe Biden's position. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator, the American people can go look at the record. I know Joe Biden says otherwise now, as you do, but the both of you repeatedly committed to abolishing fossil fuel and banning of fracking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Daniel, did the vice president get it right?

DALE: So, he was correct when it comes to Senator Harris. Harris said, during the 2019 democratic primary, that there's no question that she is in favor of banning fracking. So, that's correct.

But he was at least a little bit misleading, at least a little bit, when it comes to former Vice President Biden. Now, Biden's plan on his website and so on says that he is proposing to ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and in public waters.

So, that is not a ban on all fracking, just talking about public lands and waters, and it is not a ban on existing fracking, just talking about new permitting.

However, I think it's important to be at least a little bit generous to Vice President Pence here, because during the democratic primary, Biden repeatedly created confusion about his stance, including in an exchange with our Dana Bash of CNN.

She was asking about oil and gas subsidies and fracking, and he responded, basically, we're going to make sure that that's all eliminated. So, it was -- it was a vague answer, but he certainly created the impression that he supported banning fracking.

Now, Wolf, every time he would give such a vague answer, his campaign would say, no, no, look at our website, that's not our actual plan. And during the general election, Biden has been much clearer, much more explicit that he is not running on fracking ban.

So, bottom line, Pence is correct about Harris at least during the primary. He is at least a little bit misleading about Biden at least during the primary. But we have to be generous to Pence because Biden has certainly given him some ammunition, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. The candidates, Daniel, also clashed over taxes. Listen to what Senator Harris said about the Democrats' plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year. He has been very clear about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Daniel, is that an accurate portrayal of the Biden/Harris plan?

DALE: So, this is complicated. I'd say it's a needs-contacts kind of claim. As CNN's excellent reporter Katie Lobosco has reported, at least two economic models, Wolf, show that Biden's plan would not raise taxes, as Harris said, on people earning below 400,000. But that's if you look at just direct taxes like income taxes and payroll taxes.

[23:55:02]

DALE: Those taxes are not the whole story when assessing a candidate's tax plan. It's also important to look at the impact of things like Biden's proposal to hike the corporate tax rate.

That isn't a direct tax hike on some earnings, say, 50,000 or 100,000, but many economists say that workers bear some of the cost of a corporate tax increase in their after-tax wages. One analysis, for example, found that about 82 percent of taxpayers could see a reduction in wages as a result of Biden's plan.

In addition, Biden has proposed to change the way 401(K)s are treated under the tax code. That could leave some middle-income earners with a higher tax bill, as well.

So, it's a challenge to fact check what will happen in the future and there is a basis for what Harris is saying, but it's far from certain that if you are making less than 400,000, you'll have no impact, whatsoever, under the Biden plan.

BLITZER: Excellent fact-checking, as always. We're going to get back to you, Daniel. Thank you very much.

Still ahead, more results from our CNN instant poll and whether there was a gender gap among debate watchers. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)