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Harris vs. Pence: Vice presidential debate updates and analysis

Wednesday's vice presidential debate comes less than a week after Trump announced he had tested positive for Covid-19.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris faced off in a heated debate Wednesday night, their first and only matchup.

The 90-minute debate started shortly after 9 p.m. ET at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading more on the debate here.

The coronavirus pandemic was a prominent topic at the debate, which came less than a week after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with Covid-19. As head of the White House coronavirus task force, Pence has faced criticism over the administration's response to the pandemic.

Read highlights from the debate, including fact-checks, takeaways and who some experts think won.

Fact check: Pence calls the Obama admin's swine flu response 'a failure'

Pence called the Obama-Biden administration’s response to the swine flu “a failure" during the debate.

"Sixty million Americans contracted the swine flu,” Pence said. “His own chief of staff Ron Klain would say last year that it was pure luck, that they did 'everything possible wrong.' And we learned from that.”

Pence's got his details right, including the critique from Klain, though overall the 2009 swine flu response from the federal government was largely considered effective.

Ron Klain, Biden’s former chief of staff, indeed credited luck — and not the Obama administration response — with the fact that the swine flu did not kill more people.

“We did every possible thing wrong — 60 million Americans got H1N1,” he said at a biosecurity summit in May 2019. “It is purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events in American history. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right. It just had to do with luck.”

The swine flu is estimated to have killed 12,000 in the U.S., far smaller than the more than 200,000 who have died of Covid-19 to date.

Klain later told Politico his comments referred to the administration’s difficulties producing enough of the vaccine they developed, and argued the Obama team quickly adapted to the pandemic — quickly responding and distributing supplies from the federal stockpile, for example — and made very different choices than the Trump administration. 

But it's worth noting that the Obama administration received generally high marks for its response to the swine flu. While government reports after the fact identified room for growth, they also highlighted successes, like rapid research and development of a vaccine that arrived in less than six months.

Covid, Trump and the economy are most talked about topics so far

Forty-five minutes into the debate: More than 500 mentions of the coronavirus, 354 mentions of President Trump and the economy coming in third with a little over 200 mentions. 

We're live-tracking all the topics at the debate tonight. 

Pence's answer on climate change just doesn't line up with reality

A question directed to Pence on climate change and wildfires spurred an answer that is hard to square with the Trump administration's actions.

Pence stated that Trump and his administration will follow the science but declined to call climate change an existential threat.

The Trump administration has taken a variety of steps to undercut climate research, sidelining scientists and proposing budget cuts. Six former EPA chiefs recently called for a reset of the agency in hopes of changing course.

Trump weighs in, rails on Biden-Harris over fracking

Pence interrupts Harris again, claiming Biden will repeal the Trump tax cuts

Pence again interrupted Harris several times when she said that Biden would not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. 

Pence appeared to say Biden would repeal the Trump tax cuts and Harris responded, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking. I’m speaking.” 

Pence continued to interrupt, saying, “Joe Biden said twice in the debate last week that he's going to repeal the Trump tax cuts. That was tax cuts that gave the average working family $2,000 with a tax break.”

“That is absolutely not true,” Harris said.

Analysis: White House *has* spared expenses in coronavirus relief

Pence just said he and Trump have “spared no expense” in helping Americans recover from the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Trump told his aides to break off negotiations on a Covid-19 relief package. Then, Trump said he wants to negotiate a smaller package of aid.

All along, the White House and the Senate Republicans have fought House Democrats on precisely how much to spend — which has resulted in no money being spent since the CARES Act was enacted several months ago.

Pence congratulates Harris on the ‘historic nature’ of her nomination

Pence thanked Harris and Biden for expressing their concern for the president and he also congratulated her on the “historic nature” of her nomination as the first black woman vice presidential candidate of a major party. 

"Senator, I want to thank you and Joe Biden for your expressions of genuine concern. And I also want to congratulate you, as I did on that phone call, on the historic nature of your nomination,” he said. 

Harris, meanwhile, said that Biden has been transparent about his health while Trump has not.

Harris goes after Trump on his taxes

Talking about the difference between the two candidates, Harris touted Biden’s transparency and pivoted to the bombshell New York Times report that said the president paid only $750 in income taxes the year he won the presidency and again during his first year in office, and has not paid any income taxes in 10 of the past 15 years. The president has denied that.

It was sort of a skillful pivot because the news the Times published may have gotten lost amid the chaotic presidential debate and news of the president becoming infected with Covid-19.

Plexiglass barriers aren't stopping the interruptions