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V.P. Candidates Dodge Questions, Shift Focus to Trump; Despite Debate Rules, Karen Pence Didn't Wear Mask Onstage; Undecided Voters Respond to Vice-Presidential Debate; V.P. Candidates Shift Focus to Trump. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired October 8, 2020 - 00:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): The vice presidential debate is now history. Our coverage continues. Lots of excellent questions. Unfortunately, many of those excellent questions were not answered by the two vice presidential candidates. The vice presidential debate, once again, now history.

Let's check in with our correspondents covering the candidates, the debate performances, what happens next. First, let's go to Kyung Lah. She is on the scene for us in Salt Lake City.

So how do Senator Harris and the Biden team feel about tonight's debate?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Well, they just wrapped up a call with reporters and in this virtual, sort of, post spin room, what they say is goal accomplished. The aides on the call say that they were singularly focused and the campaign was singularly focused on trying to talk to American voters.

They believe she was able to successfully do that. And we could see it in the debate hall and you really saw it on television as well, that she would talk to the moderator. She would talk to the vice president. And then, she would look at the camera and deliver lines.

And the one line they specifically thought was very effective was where she was talking about pre-existing conditions.

She said, quote, "If you have a pre-existing condition, the Trump administration is coming for you."

So they believe she had a very successful evening. Also, drawing contrast between what the Trump administration has done and its handling of the coronavirus and how a future Biden-Harris administration would handle crises in the future.

They, also, spent a bit of time talking about the historic nature of Harris simply being on the stage and also, talked about gender specifically, that Mike Pence, yes, had that moment, where he acknowledged that it was important that she was breaking a barrier by being there.

But they believe, through his words, he simply didn't get it. Symone Sanders, one of the aides, said Pence didn't just mansplain; he mandodged. She said that he simply did not answer a lot of question. She didn't go into the fact that Harris herself also dodged several questions.

But they called him rude and ineffective. And, Wolf, we should mention, a key voting bloc this time around, as usual, are women -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, indeed, good point. Thanks very much, Kyung Lah, in Salt Lake City. Let's check in with Jeff Zeleny right now.

So Jeff, what are you hearing about the next presidential debate?

It's supposed to be next week. That would be the second presidential debate.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the next presidential debate is supposed to be a week from tomorrow evening in Miami. And as of now, it's technically on.

But questions abound about how it will be conducted, where it will be conducted, when it will be conducted, exactly. So at this hour, I am told that advisers to both sides will begin a new round of negotiations tomorrow.

They will be talking with the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is moving forward with an expected debate in Miami next Thursday evening. But, Wolf, central to all of this is the president's health.

Joe Biden has said that he plans to debate. But he said, if the president still has COVID, he likely would not debate. So talking to his advisers this evening, they say he is not going to pull away from this, that Joe Biden does plan to debate, if it is safe to do so.

Of course, we do know the president does want to have a second debate. Of course, it's critical for his campaign to try and reset this race once again.

But Wolf, so many questions abound in this because we simply do not know when the president tested negative for the last time for coronavirus.

Did he actually have the virus when he was on that debate stage in Cleveland last week?

The White House has not answered that question. We don't know if they will. So many questions surrounding the health of the president, which, of course, lead to the future of the next presidential debate.

But as of now, both sides say they are willing to go forward, having these negotiations tomorrow. But Wolf, many, many questions surrounding this. And, of course, a week ago, we could not have predicted what happened with the president's health. So we're still in a very uncertain situation.

BLITZER: Very uncertain and it's clearly unacceptable that the president's doctor is refusing to answer questions about the president's health, two days in a row now. No news conference with the president's doctor. Jeff, thank you very much.

Let's check in with Ryan Nobles right now.

So Ryan, how is the Trump campaign reacting to tonight's debate?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Trump campaign and vice president Pence had a very specific goal here, tonight, in Utah. They wanted to get on the record, a few wedge issues that they believe the Trump campaign is on the right side of and that the Biden-Harris ticket is on the wrong side of.

They tried to get them on the record when it comes to fracking. Senator Harris pushed back on that, stating emphatically that vice president Biden is not in favor of banning fracking.


NOBLES: But the one issue where they feel that vice president Pence scored a big victory was when he pressed Senator Harris on the issue of what a Biden administration would do as it relates to the Supreme Court.

Of course, the Trump campaign firmly believes that the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett is a strong way for them to reach out to conservatives across the country but it could be a little dicey with moderate and liberal voters.

So they're trying to shift that conversation away as to what could happen in the future. And there is a fear among Republicans that if Amy Coney Barrett's nomination goes through, perhaps, the next Democratic president, if that's Joe Biden, could just add new members to the court, liberal members to the court, that would change the balance and the scope of the court.

In a postgame press conference call with the vice president's chief of staff Mark Short and Jason Miller, who is a senior adviser, they repeatedly brought this up, saying the fact that Senator Harris would not answer that question, even though she was repeatedly pressed on it, is a sign that Joe Biden is at least open to that idea.

So Wolf, expect this to come up over and over again. Even the vice president, himself, said they hope this issue comes up in the next debate, if there is to be a debate.

The one thing, Wolf, they didn't point out, is that, even though the American people might have a mixed opinion as to whether or not adding more Supreme Court justices is a good idea, most polls show that many Americans would like to see the outcome of this election before the eventual replacement to Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At the same time, though, the Trump campaign clearly wants to talk about the Supreme Court. They don't want to talk about coronavirus. Ryan, thank you very much.

Anderson, back to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, thanks very much. Want to go to Andrew Yang.

Andrew, this is the first time we're all talking so let's just, quickly, hear your -- your headlines from the debate.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was a tremendous night for Joe, Kamala and the Democrats, Anderson, because if where we are in this race. Even since last week, the polls have gone sharply for Joe. According to Quinnipiac, he's up by 11 in Florida, by 5 in Iowa, which is a state that Trump won by almost 9 points in 2016.

So anything that did not fundamentally change the dynamic of this race is an enormous win for the Democrats. And nothing happened, tonight, to change the fact that Joe and Kamala have a significant lead heading into the final days.

COOPER: S.E., how do you see it?

S.E. CUPP, CNN HOST: Well, let me -- let me just start by saying I -- I know Mike Pence. I've met Mike Pence. I've interviewed Mike Pence. And at one time, I found him very impressive.

Tonight, he made my skin crawl and I think showed that you can be insulting without using insults. You know, the constant interruptions, the mansplaining, the condescending to both of the women on that stage tonight.

And the not answering questions, the gaslighting, I found infuriating. And if you are looking for the reasons why white, suburban women have been leaving the Republican Party in droves, yes, it's the chaos, the confusion, the incompetence, the corruption.

It's also the tone. And Mike Pence and Donald Trump have very different styles. But I found his dismissiveness and disrespect tonight very much cut from the same cloth. And I think suburban white women voters who are watching probably heard it the same.

COOPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, I'd like to compliment the moderator, Susan Page. I thought she did a nice job tonight. That's number one.

Number two. Republicans have been waiting for a good day for quite some time. I mean, I don't know if you guys have been watching the news or not. But it hasn't exactly been a banner period for Republicans who are trying to hope that the Trump-Pence campaign to get it together.

COOPER: I hadn't noticed.

(CROSSTALK) JENNINGS: -- with a lot of weight on his shoulders and -- yes -- he came out with a lot of weight on his shoulders and he delivered. Republicans think he did a fine job tonight, delivering on virtually every substantive exchange. He really, I think, won the exchanges on taxes, the economy, on fracking, on the Green New Deal.

I do think Harris scored some points on coronavirus and on health care. So that was good for their side.

I sort of look at this through the lens of audiences. I think the audience, where the Trump-Pence ticket has been bleeding a bit, is senior citizens. And a lot of the latest polls that Andrew was mentioning shows seniors going towards Biden.

I do think seniors would have liked Mike Pence's performance tonight. I think that's the kind of Republican performance they've been looking for and that they would -- could see themselves voting for because that's what they voted for in the past. So overall, Republicans are very happy, breathing a sigh of relief that Mike Pence got it done tonight.

COOPER: You know, S.E., so much of the focus on tonight's debate from the news and from viewers was looking to see, you know, given the fact that both the presidential candidates are so old, whether these two could fill the role as president, if that became necessary.


COOPER: Do you think that question was answered in the affirmative for both of them tonight?

I mean, do you think viewers came away, whether they liked one or the other, believing both would be capable?

CUPP: I do. I -- I think they both came off as -- as competent. Say what you will. What I just did about Mike Pence. He had facts at his fingertips. He was very quick on his feet. He had sort of a -- a catalog, at the ready, of policies and stats and talking points. And I think, yes, by anyone's estimation, he seemed very clear-eyed.

And -- and same for Kamala Harris. I don't think their competence was the issue. I think you might have a different idea of who came off as more trustworthy. I'm sure that's partisan.

But I think in terms of shiftiness and answering questions and trying to sort of, you know, be forthright, I think you might come down differently. But certainly, they both seemed competent.

COOPER: I'm not sure clear eyed was the best descriptive of Pence tonight, given that --

CUPP: Oh, shoot.


COOPER: -- blood in one of his eyes. But I don't know what that was about but I hope that he's doing OK.

CUPP: Me, too.

COOPER: Andrew, do you think that question was answered for people?


YANG: Yes. That was one of the key things I was looking for, tonight. And I think it was an enormous goal for Kamala and the Dems for her to seem like she could fit right into that second seat. And she passed that threshold and then some in my book. She was smart, thoughtful, empathetic, confident, competent.

I think that millions of Americans became very comfortable with the idea of her as vice president tonight.

COOPER: Scott, does the race change at all because of this?

JENNINGS: You know, I -- I don't typically think vice presidential picks matter all that much or the debate matters all that much. I do think, in this case, as you pointed out, I mean, look, Trump's kind of a wounded duck and Biden's no spring chicken. So both of these vice presidents -- possibilities should matter to people because of their age and the health of their running mates.

But politically, historically, these things haven't mattered all that much. Also, look, this cake, I think, after last week and with everything else and the polarization in this race, is largely baked. I don't know how many persuadable voters are left.

And if you are left, I'm not sure if watching the vice presidential debate tonight was what was going to make up your mind.

I will say this. For wobbly Republicans, for -- for conservative seniors, for some audiences that have been very, very troubled with Trump's performance, Pence, I think, would have shored those up.

So it wouldn't surprise me, Anderson, if you do see a little bit of a bounceback in some of this polling from wobbly Republicans or wobbly conservatives who have been nervous about Trump lately.

COOPER: S.E. just the way things are going, by tomorrow, who knows what the president will have tweeted, in all caps, you know. Just before this debate, he put out a video, unclear when it was actually shot. The White House claims it was shot today. Some indication maybe it was shot yesterday because he said he had gotten back to the White House the day before.

In which he said that for him getting COVID is like a blessing from God. He said that he's discovered, essentially, a cure in remdesivir. So there's no telling where -- what will happen tomorrow. This may seem like a distant memory by then.

CUPP: Right. And if we believe Scott, and I'm inclined to, that Republicans think this was a good night, we can count on the president to step all over it in the next day or two or three because he can't seem to get out of his own way, when it comes to, you know, wins that are right -- right in front of his face.

And so, I -- I tend to think, actually, this debate was very important. I think it was important for all the reasons we said but also, because I do believe there are undecideds, for whom the vice presidential pick matters.

I was -- I was there, not long ago, wondering what these two people would do if they became president. But if you thought tonight was important, just wait a few hours. It will not be, by tomorrow.


Scott, I mean, if you were advising the president, the fact that he released a video, just a few hours before this debate took place, it does change the topic away from this debate.

JENNINGS: Sure. I mean, look. I mean, Trump's made it clear, from day one, he's the most important person in this administration and in his own campaign. And, of course, most voters would -- would agree with that.

I do think that it would be smart for them to let this Pence moment breathe a little bit. I did see the president tweeting tonight that he thought Mike Pence did a great job. If I were Donald Trump, by the way, I would be meeting with Mike Pence about how you not just plan but execute a winning debate strategy.



COOPER: If you were Mike Pence?

JENNINGS: Well, as S.E. said, Mike Pence clearly knows how to -- you know, one of the things that you -- that a lot of people do in debates is try to cram 10 pounds of crap into a 5-pound sack.


JENNINGS: Trump did that last week. It was too much. Pence brought the right amount to this debate. It wasn't too much and it wasn't too little.


COOPER: Just the right amount of crap?

JENNINGS: And I do think it would be a good strategy to follow.

COOPER: He brought just the right amount of crap.

I'm not sure Pence wants to meet with President Trump. Maybe, a call would do, at this point.


JENNINGS: They have -- they have secure video conferencing.


COOPER: So I've heard. OK. All right. All right. I'm not sure there's anyone left in the White House to actually operate, you know, put the call through.

But, Andrew Yang, I mean, we've -- I know we've got results from debate watchers.

But do you think this -- I mean, tomorrow, does this -- you know, I just feel -- I feel like last week's debate seems like a year ago, given all that's happened since then.

By tomorrow afternoon, will anybody be talking about tonight's debate?

YANG: Well, we've had a very big week, Anderson. But I agree with Scott, that I thought Mike Pence did a great job reassuring parts of the base. And at this point, our attention should be on the Senate, on these House races around the country because, if you're looking at something like a 10- to 12-point swing, you could see Democrats win in places like Texas and Alaska that they have not won in a long time.

So tonight's going to matter a lot in terms of setting the stage, not just for the top of the ticket and the vice presidential nominations but also what's going to happen around the country in terms of turnout for a lot of these congressional races.

COOPER: We have more results from our instant poll and debate watchers. David Chalian is back.

David, what else are you learning from this poll?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We'll just start again with the overall, who won the debate, among debate watchers. That's what this poll is all about.

Who watched the debate?

Fifty-nine percent said Kamala Harris won this debate; 38 percent said Mike Pence. That's not just a small win. That's a big, significant 21- point win there for Kamala Harris.

But just like Jake and Dana and Abby were talking about the gender gap before, calling it a chasm. Look at this. Among women who watched the debate tonight, in this poll, 69 percent said Harris won the debate, 30 percent said Pence won.

Compare that to how men saw who won the debate. It was basically tied. Harris got 48 percent, Pence got 46 percent. This is kind of mirroring what we are seeing in national polling and why Joe Biden is so far ahead, this huge gap with women, an advantage there. And then, competitive with men.

We also asked two key questions.

Who did that key job that a V.P. has to do, which is defending your running mate?

Sixty-four percent said Kamala Harris did the better job of defending this -- her running mate; 34 percent said that of Mike Pence.

And which candidate spent more time attacking their opponent?

Fifty-six percent, a majority, said Mike Pence did that. Only 36 percent of debate watchers said Kamala Harris did that. That gender chasm is a defining characteristic of this race, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's right, David. And it's time, right now, for another fact check of what we heard in tonight's debate. Daniel Dale is back.

Daniel, I don't think I told you but you're one of my mom's favorites.

DANIEL DALE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, thank you, Jake's mom. So nice.

TAPPER: She was born in Canada, just like yourself.

DALE: She's biased.


TAPPER: That's right. She's very biased.

So on health care, Vice President Pence claimed that the Trump administration has a plan to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. Here's how he said it.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I hope we have a chance to talk about health care because ObamaCare was a disaster. The American people remember it well. And President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect pre-existing conditions for every American.


TAPPER: I think I know the answer to this, Daniel, but is that true?

DALE: Jake, it is, indeed, false. Now when they first said this, they have a plan, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. You know, maybe, it was coming in a few days, in a few weeks. But this plan has perpetually been two weeks away and it has never arrived.

Let's just do a brief review of the Trump administration's history on pre-existing conditions.

Early in the administration, they made repeated efforts to get bills passed through Congress that would significantly weaken these protections in ObamaCare. At present, right now, the administration is in court, supporting a lawsuit that seeks to get the courts to overturn, to kill the entirety of ObamaCare, including those protections. Now the president did sign an executive order that he hailed as some

big deal but all it says, it's like a line or two, that it just says that it is the policy of the United States to basically protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Frankly, that executive order is not worth anything. That is not a law. That is not a replacement for ObamaCare if the courts rule in their favor. So no, bottom line, this claim is false. There is no plan to protect people, certainly not to the extent they are protected under ObamaCare -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Under ObamaCare, not only do insurance companies have to offer plans to people with preexisting conditions, they can't charge them more, which is very significant.

Vice president Pence was also asked about this now-infamous Rose Garden ceremony 11 days ago.


TAPPER: It appears to have been a coronavirus superspreader event. Listen to how Pence recalled that event.


PENCE: If I may say, that Rose Garden event, been a great deal of speculation about it. My wife, Karen, and I were there and honored to be there. Many of the people who were at that event, Susan, actually were tested for coronavirus. And it was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advise.


TAPPER: Was this strictly an outdoor event, Daniel?

DALE: It was not, Jake. This claim, I'll say, is misleading because those festivities for nominee judge Amy Coney Barrett involved more than that Rose Garden ceremony. Both before and after that ceremony, there were indoor festivities.

Before heading to the Rose Garden, some of the attendees gathered inside White House reception rooms. There were hugs. There were handshakes. And afterwards, dozens of them gathered inside the Diplomatic Reception room, in an adjoining hallway for 30-45 minutes, a source told CNN.

And we have photos from that gathering from "The New York Times" that show President Trump and others chatting inside, without masks and people gathered quite closely together, no distancing.

Now this is the second straight debate where Trump or Pence has inaccurately used this kind of "it was just outdoors" excuse. Last time, Trump, himself, insisted his rallies were outside, even though, some of them, we know, have been inside, again with no distancing, again with very few masks -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Daniel, thanks so much. Let's talk about this for

a second because one of the things that's so appalling about the administration's handling or mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, where we lead the world in cases and deaths, is that not only has their mishandling resulted in how it's being -- how it's affecting all of our lives but also their recklessness.


TAPPER: Holding these events indoors and outdoors. No distancing. No masks required has now led to a superspreader event that might be one of the biggest ones in Washington, D.C., this year.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And -- and surprisingly, it felt like this barely came up in this -- in this debate --


PHILLIP: -- considering how enormous of an issue this is. What -- what is really incredible about Pence's response was that he suggested that, because the event -- even -- even if you just took the outdoor event, just because it was outdoors, that it was in accordance with CDC guidelines.

That is not true.


PHILLIP: It is not true that you can have an event with 150-plus people, even if it is outdoors, where virtually no one is wearing masks and everybody is walking around, hugging and kissing each other --

TAPPER: Look at this photo. One second, Abby. I'm sorry. But just look at -- these are people at the event. This is, I think, nine people at the event who, after the event, have tested positive. Some of them have, then, gone on to infect other people. And we know of a 10th person, as well, at least who's not in this photo. Yes.

PHILLIP: And this is when they're just sitting there. But really, you have to watch the footage. You know, they get up from this event. People are hugging. They're kissing. They're shaking hands. They're fist bumping. They are touching each other. They are not distanced from each other.

And what did not come up tonight was this idea that the laxness around the virus and the reliance on testing, as opposed to on all of the things that you are supposed to do, of which testing is a part, is what has led to this massive outbreak that is, probably, the largest outbreak in the entire District of Columbia right now.

BASH: Yes, absolutely. I was waiting to see if the numbers, here, in D.C., actually, you know, if the percentages go up, not just because of the Rose Garden but because of the ripple effect from that.

I mean, a lot of people there were D.C. residents. Look. This is really one of the core problems with the -- the president and the whole administration's approach to this. Number one is what they do or what they don't do; it's basically not much.

But number two, it is the whole idea of being an example for the rest of the country. And we have seen the president be the opposite of an example, since day one of this -- of this pandemic. And this was the ultimate example -- non-example, I should say, in the Rose Garden.

TAPPER: And we don't know when President Trump contracted coronavirus.


TAPPER: But people in the White House think that it might have been at that event, which was, both, outdoors and indoors. Let's put up a picture of President Trump, indoors, that day.

There he is with the family of judge Amy Coney Barrett and her -- her big, beautiful family, with first lady Melania Trump. We do not know if he contracted the virus there. But if he did, as the administration believes, the next day, he spoke to reporters in the Briefing Room. And then, he met with Gold Star families.


TAPPER: On Tuesday of that week, he went to Ohio and participated in a debate. The day after that, he went to Minnesota and he held an indoor event and then an outdoor rally, where, again, no social distancing. No masks required.

The day after that, even after finding out that Hope Hicks, one of his top aides, had contracted the virus and was showing symptoms, was actually sick, he flew to New Jersey. So there he is, as a vector. He is spreading the virus, theoretically.

And we still do not know when he last tested negative, meaning, has he been tested anytime in the last few months?

We don't even know that.

BASH: We don't know and what's even worse, it's the public's right to know, I believe. But it's the people around him's right to know and the people who are working for him, are helping him.

I mean, my understanding is that everybody who went to the White House for that event and then for subsequent events around that weekend, namely debate prep, they all got tested.

And the presumption was that, of course, the president is also tested every day. And they believe, now, that that was absolutely wrong and that many people got it from the president of the United States.

It's very hard to prove, for a million reasons, not the least of which is that we don't know when his last negative test was. But he clearly was not held to the same standard as the people around him. And because of that, he -- (CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP: And if you're Joe Biden, you've got to debate him next week. And if you're anybody who is attending that debate, you might need to sit in an audience with many, many people who you can't necessarily trust that they have been taking the appropriate precautions. It's a real problem.

TAPPER: The citizens of Ohio, New Jersey, Minnesota deserve answers from the administration; the Gold Star families. The people who travel with the president deserve that.

And frankly, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Cleveland Clinic and the Biden campaign need to insist, Anderson, they need to insist that they get testing information about the president.

COOPER: Yes. I don't understand why there would be any debate taking place, until, certainly, the Biden campaign and anybody in that hall and the country is informed when the president last tested negative.

Because we have no way of telling, nor would the Biden campaign have any way of telling, Andrew, the course of the president's illness and the trajectory of it, other than knowing when he actually last tested positive.

WANG: I think Joe's stance would be common sense to the vast majority of Americans, that you don't want to debate someone who may actively have the coronavirus and be -- be struggling with it and can still be contagious.

I'd, also, question why these debates are being held in environments that require you to travel for both candidates. You know, it would have made sense, in a time when there might've been rallies or a political reason to be in Miami.

But why would you force both people to travel unnecessarily?

Because there are a lot of variables that get introduced when you travel during a pandemic. So there are, to me, a lot of things that the campaigns need to hammer out for us to be confident there is even going to be a debate next week.

COOPER: S.E., they could very well have a debate online. It could be, you know, a Zoom or whatever debate. That would avoid the whole interruption and crosstalking. Each person gets two minutes to say their piece and then they answer the next question.

CUPP: That's just too commonsensical, Anderson. Trump doesn't want to confine his ability to gesticulate and get in the head space of Joe Biden and play off an audience. I mean, he wants all of the trappings of a traditional debate because he thinks it works in his favor.

I think, from my vantage point last week, did not. I think it had unintended effects and Joe Biden not only survived that but thrived in that environment. So if Trump wants to do that again, I say do that at your own peril. COOPER: Scott, just in terms of the recklessness, obviously, of the

president and the coverup of the -- the continued coverup by him of not letting his doctor tell people when his last negative test was, which would help contact tracers know whether those Gold Star families, who they held an event for on Monday, whether they all need to be tested, if the president was positive by then or potentially positive by then.

Even tonight, just in terms of recklessness, you know, everybody had agreed, other than the moderators -- the moderator and the two candidates -- to wear masks, that everybody in that hall had to wear a mask.

Karen Pence, as soon as the debate ends, jumps up on stage, not wearing a mask. You know, Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris's husband, wears a mask. I don't understand the -- just the recklessness of people in this White House associated -- regarding COVID-19.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look. I agree with you. I mean, I think, regarding President Trump next week, if he is still testing positive for COVID, it would not be a good idea for him to travel or be around other people. That would go for anybody that is COVID positive.

I'm not sure about the Zoom idea. I mean -- I mean, I can't imagine two 70-something-year-old men screaming at each other that their mute is on for 90 minutes.

But I do think there are ways -- there are ways that you could handle this that would not put people -- I'll be honest. When they -- by the way, when they panned in from behind Susan Page tonight, I was surprised at how many people were in the crowd. I was surprised there were people inside that building, frankly. I mean, what good is an audience when they've been instructed not to clap or cheer or boo, anyway?

So I -- I am for being careful here, and that's not just because, you know, Donald Trump has it. It's because a great many people could have it and not know it. And you've got the president, a potential president, potential vice president, the current vice president. I mean, I'm for being -- I'm for being careful and -- and I -- and I think there are ways that this could be handled, via technology, that would respect that.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, frankly, S.E., why should anybody trust, you know, of -- if next week -- or later next week, the White House says, Oh, no, the president's fine. The president's cured of this. I mean, he already, today, said he feels he's been cured and that this is a blessing from God. Why should anyone trust the White House on this?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, they shouldn't. I believe not one word coming from this administration, especially on this issue. And I just want -- can I just point out how insane and absurd the conversation we are currently having is? I know we've, like, normalized COVID and this insane disruption in our lives. But this is actually crazy that we're talking about having --

COOPER: I agree.

CUPP: -- to -- to put up -- put up, you know, shields between candidates. And we're here because of this administration's failures.

And I will say, one thing I thought was missing from Kamala Harris tonight was that human expression of exasperation. When Mike Pence would gaslight and say something pathologically nuts, like, We'll continue to follow the science, or Let's not, you know, politicize American deaths, I -- I wanted her to be emotional, and say, Did I just hear you correctly, sir? Did you just say that? We're here because of your failures. How can you say that with a straight face?

And believe me, as a woman in politics, I understand why she felt like she couldn't come off as too angry or emotional. But my God, is this not the time to be emotional and angry? I think she would have been forgiven --

COOPER: Although --

CUPP: -- had she been a bit more, you know, expressive in those moments.


COOPER: Go ahead, Andrew. Go ahead.

YANG: I think -- I think she had task, and she stuck to it. And I think that was very, very smart, given that -- where we are in this race and the context. And we all know why Trump and the Republicans want the next two debates, is because they're their only last two opportunities to possibly change the direction that we're all heading in.

But at this point, over five and a half million Americans have already voted. That number's going to go up every day.

CUPP: Yes.

YANG: The Republicans are running out of field, but that's why they're going to try and make sure these debates happen. Though, we can all see that it's inadvisable for you to have a president with coronavirus traveling and trying to debate in person.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, S.E., just quickly to your point, you know, you look at the poll David Chalian was giving. The different results, based on men watching and women watching. Women's response to Kamala Harris, 69 percent say she -- she won.

CUPP: Yes.

COOPER: Men said -- 48 percent of men said she won. Whereas, with Pence, it was 30 percent women said he won, 46 percent of men. So, that's clearly in the calculation in terms of how she felt she had to hold herself and respond, which is, obviously, a double standard. Still ahead, we're going to find out if tonight's vice-presidential

debate was a tippling point that helped any undecided voters in our focus group to make up their minds.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, we want to go back to our focus group of undecided voters in Arizona. CNN's Sara Sidner is with them in Phoenix.

Sara, the voters gave one of the highest scores of the night to Senator Kamala Harris for her answer on whether justice was served in the Breonna Taylor case. Let's -- let's watch this moment.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Her family deserves justice. She was a beautiful young woman. She had -- it was her life goal to become a nurse. And she wanted to become an EMT to first learn what's going on out on the street so she could then become a nurse and save lives. And her life was taken unjustifiably, and tragically, and violently.


BLITZER: Sara, what are -- what are the voters telling you about why that answer resonated with them?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're here in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Ocotillo restaurant. And we do have our undecided voters. Although that may have changed after the vice-presidential debate.

Let me start with you, Morgan. What did you think of the moment where social justice came to the stage, and Kamala Harris mentioned Breonna Taylor's name and talked about how she felt like that was an unjust decision?

MORGAN, UNDECIDED VOTER: I think it was an incredible moment for her to say her name. To say Breonna Taylor and to address it, head on.


I think the notion put forward by Pence that there's not a systemic issue in this country is absolutely insane. And I -- I think we see it, not just in police and interactions with, you know, people on the street. But we see it in other areas.

I work in maternal health care. And I see this -- these racial disparities, all across the board. In maternal death rates, in fetal death rates. It is overwhelmingly evident that there needs to be change.

And so, for her to tackle that, head on, that really was a moment, for me, where I looked to her like you can do some really good work on the ground where it really, really matters.

SIDNER: Did this help you decide?

MORGAN: Absolutely.

SIDNER: All right. We'll come back to you on that in a minute.

Sam, you talked about justice being something that you wanted addressed. How do you think Kamala Harris did with her answer? And Vice President Pence did with his answer?

SAM, UNDECIDED VOTER: I thought she did a really good job acknowledging that there is an issue. I appreciated that she brought up -- how she spoke to her parents. As -- as a father of daughters, that just hit me, because I would want our leader to -- to acknowledge, you know, me and the pain that the families are going through if that situation ever happened to me.

So I appreciated how she kind of humanized it. Pence. He -- he did OK. I know it's kind of a complicated issue. But -- but I thought that -- that Senator Harris did a better job of just acknowledging that it's an issue, even if there wasn't a concrete plan in place on how to correct it.

SIDNER: Got you. Thank you, Sam. All right, Wolf. There are your answers for that. That did resonate with this entire group.

BLITZER: Certainly did. And, Sara, it was Vice President Pence's closing argument to the American people, a message of unity, that earned him his highest mark of the night. Let's listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Here, in America, we can disagree, we can debate vigorously, as Senator Harris and I have on this stage tonight. But when the debate is over, we come together as Americans, and that's what people do in big cities and small towns all across this country.


BLITZER; So, why was this -- this such an important moment, Sara, for the voters?

SIDNER: Almost everyone here -- actually, everyone here has talked about unity being important to them. Bob, you heard President [SIC] Pence respond to this 8-year-old who has said, How come every time I look up on the news and I see everybody fighting? What are you guys going to try to do to fix that? And he responded. Why did that resonate with you?

BOB, UNDECIDED VOTER: I just -- I love the fact that he -- he -- he compared or he referenced how, recently, Ruth -- Justice Ruth Ginsburg, who passed away, and -- and Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia. How they were two different people with different views, but got along so well and -- and had different beliefs. But at the end of the day, they just shared one common ground and that was for the betterment of this country.

So it -- you know, they had the same beliefs regarding that. And it -- it means that you may have different beliefs but you can come together, at the end of the day, and still do the right thing for this country. And -- and that's -- when he said that, it just meant a lot to me. And -- and that was a big part of that whole debate that really stood out to me, to be honest with you.

SIDNER: OK. So, you heard that and I'm -- I know these -- these masks keep coming down. It's a little bit difficult. So we've all tried to keep them up.

So you heard that. And this is a sentiment that is sort of shared. That people like it when they see the candidates trying to bring the country together, not trying to divide the country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sara, the big question, though, did tonight's debate help any of them decide who they're going to vote for?

SIDNER: Let's do a show of hands, right? Easiest way to find out. OK. Show of hands. How many of you watched this debate and made your decision? It helped you make your decision on who you are going to vote for in the 2020 presidential election? Raise your hands.

So of ten people, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seventy percent of you are now decided voters. You came in undecided, correct? You're now decided. All right.

How many of you have decided on Biden and Harris? Raise your hands. One, two, three, four. OK. How many of you have decided you're definitely going for Trump/Pence ticket? One, two, three.

And so, we still have a couple of folks here who still don't quite know. And the reason for that, they say they would like to see another presidential debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Sara. Good work. Thank all of the voters there, as well.

We're getting more results from our instant poll of people who watched tonight's debate. Let's go back to David Chalian.

David, what do you have?


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Just to remind everyone, this poll of debate watchers, we asked the big question, who won tonight's debate? This is the big number tonight, Wolf. Fifty-nine percent of debate watchers, in this poll, say Kamala Harris won tonight's debate. That is compared to 38 percent who said that Mike Pence won. Big win for Kamala Harris, tonight.

Did the debate move the needle? We discuss that question all the time. The answer, according to our poll, is not really. Did debate watchers -- did -- did the debate make you more likely to vote for Biden? Twenty-six percent said yes to that. Twenty percent said it made it more likely they'd vote for Trump.

But a majority, here, 55 percent, said neither. And if you're doing the math at home, Wolf, I know that adds up to 101 percent. That's just because of decimals and -- and rounding.

And then, the future of presidential debates. We asked debate watchers, tonight, should the next debate, scheduled for next Thursday, October 15, take place and how? Thirty-two percent say it should be held in person, given what they know about Donald Trump's health condition. Forty-seven percent said it should be held remotely. Nearly half of tonight's debate watchers say that, because of what they know about Donald Trump's health, that the next debate between Trump and Biden should be held remotely. Twenty percent said it should not be held next Thursday, October 15.

And look how this splits by party. Look at that line there about Democrats. Sixty-four percent of Democratic debate watchers tonight say that next week's debate should be held remotely. It is a different universe with Republicans: 67 percent of Republicans say, given what they know about the president's health, next week's debate should take place in person -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed. All right. Thanks for all that work, David Chalian.

Still ahead, the big picture of how much of tonight's vice- presidential debate was factual and how much was false. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Debate night in America. That's meant it is another busy night for our fact checker, Daniel Dale.

So Daniel, tonight we heard Vice President Pence try to use the Green New Deal against the Biden/Harris campaign. Let's watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PENCE: You were the first Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal. While Joe Biden denied the Green New Deal, Susan, thank you for pointing out the Green New Deal is on their campaign website.


COOPER: So, Daniel, what do you make of that claim?

DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: So it is true that the Green New Deal is mentioned on the Biden campaign website, but this claim needs context.

The Green New Deal is a vague congressional resolution. It is not a detailed policy plan. The Biden campaign website says the resolution is a crucial framework for addressing climate change, but it doesn't say the Green New Deal is the Biden plan. It's like a friendly nod to the Green New Deal.

It then goes on to lay out an actual Biden plan, which does have some overlap with the goals of the Green New Deal, but it also differs in some key respects.

For instance, the Green New Deal says that every American should have a guaranteed job. Biden's plan does not propose that. When Republicans cite in the $100 trillion cost for the Green New Deal, they like to assume it includes a Bernie Sanders-style Medicare for all government insurance plan. Biden isn't proposing that.

Now, Biden is proposing an ambitious set of environmental initiatives: 100 percent clean energy economy; net zero emissions no later than 2050; $1.7 trillion investment over 10 years; aggressive regulation on methane vehicles, building efficiency, other stuff; and so on and so on.

So it is a big, sweeping plan for sure, but it does not precisely match with that Green New Deal congressional resolution says, Anderson.

COOPER: And Daniel, give us the big picture on what we heard from the vice-presidential candidates.

DALE: So it was imperfect, but it was -- it was conventional political spin and dishonesty, rather than just the avalanche of lies we get regularly from President Trump.

Vice President Pence made a number of significant false claims, including when he said that we always tell the truth on the pandemic. That itself is just not true.

Senator Harris herself made some false and misleading claims, certainly was not perfect.

But for me, selfishly, it was a little bit, at least, of a chance to take a breath after dealing with Trump for four or five years, because these are politicians who twist, who exaggerate, sometimes outright lie, but we're not being hit over the head, you know, every 30 seconds or a minute with an egregious lie, as we are with this president.

COOPER: Daniel Dale, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Back now with our team. Andrew Yang, if you were the Democratic candidate for president, would you next week, next Thursday, stand on the stage with President Trump?

YANG: Again, I think it's common sense that you wouldn't want to debate someone who could be actively contagious with the coronavirus. I think Joe and his team need to negotiate very, very strongly around timing, around format, around whether it's in person, because they're in the catbird seat at this point. Joe and Kamala are on track, and right now it's the Trump team that's going to be desperate to try and get on the same stage.

COOPER: I love how deadpan you are. And I mean, it's just a sign of just how crazy things are that it's just deadpan sentence, like, Yes, I would not want to stand on a stage debating somebody who was infected --

YANG: I genuinely wouldn't. Who would?

COOPER: -- with the corona -- no, you're right. But I mean, that's where we're at. This is what we're talking about, because this is the situation.

S.E., do you think the debate will take place next Thursday?

CUPP: I don't know. I mean, Biden doesn't need this debate. I think -- I think he's shown over the past few weeks, if not months, he -- he's actually doing just fine without all of the trappings of a traditional, you know, election season. He is targeting his messages much more -- in a much more focused way. He's using opportunities better.

So I think Trump is the one who needs the debate. If Joe Biden wants another swing at it, I think he can take it. And I think he needs to make the point over and over and over again that he is a sort of walking personification of his own failures, of his own ineptitude.

I would say over and over again if I were Joe Biden, You failed at keeping the country safe. You failed at keeping yourself and your own friends and family safe. Why should we trust you for another four years? I mean, I think that's a winning message. Can he do it for an hour and a half? I don't know.

COOPER: You know, Scott, one of the CDC guidelines is, you know, for when you no longer have COVID, when you can no longer, you know, have to isolate yourself is ten days from when you first start showing symptoms.


Given that President Trump continues to cover up when he actually started getting symptoms, when he actually last tested negative, I mean, would the Biden campaign be in their right to say, Look, until you release that information, we're not going to put our candidate on the same stage with -- with somebody who's hiding their health information?

JENNINGS: Well, sure they would. If I were the Biden campaign, though, I would expect the debate commission to do that, right, so you don't look like you're trying to find some reason to -- you know, to not have this debate.

And so I -- I think the debate will happen. I think they will find a way to do this. But as I said earlier, I think you got to be careful with this. I mean, it's not just President Trump. I mean, other people have this. Sometimes people have it, and they don't know it. Sometimes people have it, and they test negative and then they test positive.

So I just think when you're dealing with the leader of the free world, the potential leader of the free world and all of the staff and -- and people that go along with that, you just -- you just have to be as careful as you possibly can. And so my hope is that's what both campaigns and the debate commission decide that they want to do.

COOPER: Yes. Well, certainly, amen to that.

CUPP: Anderson, I also just think -- I think another question is will the moderator want to do this? And, you know, for issues of COVID but also for issues of repeating the same sort of bananas circus that we were all treated to last week. I mean, without some very clear rules, I'd be hesitant as a moderator to take part.

COOPER: Yes. I want to thank you all. Much more ahead on tonight's debate. Chris Cuomo, Don Lemon pick up our coverage after this short break.