IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

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: Did Obama and Biden leave the national stockpile empty?

"They left the strategic national stockpile empty," Pence claimed.

We’ve fact checked this before, and it is false.

Reporters saw warehouses full of supplies shortly before Trump’s inauguration, and former government officials confirm the stockpile had sizable stores of supplies on hand. 

Those same officials report that while sequestration-related budget cuts did reduce the stockpile’s stores lower than they wanted, the national stockpile was far from empty when Trump took office nearly four years ago. They also told NBC News that they’d left detailed plans for refilling the stockpile and preparing for a potential pandemic — plans they believe were ignored.

Fact check: W.H. could have done 'everything right' and 200k Americans could have still died

Pence claimed Wednesday that, when it came to taking action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, medical experts including Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci “said that if we did everything right ... we could lose more than 200,000 Americans.”

While Birx, tapped to serve on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, did say this, subsequent models said that thousands of those deaths would be preventable. 

One widely cited model published in June by scientists at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington showed that about 33,000 American lives would have been saved in the subsequent months if 95 percent of people in the U.S wore masks. 

The model was updated in August to show that, if that level of mask wearing occurred, about 66,000 lives could be saved.

The Trump administration has provided conflicting messaging about mask-wearing over the last five months, which has, in turn, sown confusion, hampered the country's response to the pandemic and led to preventable deaths, public health experts have said. And Trump himself has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a mask, including at the presidential debate last month.

Upon his return to the White House from Walter Reed hospital Monday night, Trump even immediately took off his mask to pose for pictures before walking in.

Pence called Obamacare 'a disaster' but used it to expand Medicaid in Indiana

Pence called Obamacare “a disaster” during Wednesday's debate, “and the American people remember it well,” he added. The White House is now pushing to dismantle the historic health care legislation via the Supreme Court

An interesting attack from Pence, as he used the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to expand Medicaid when he was governor of Indiana, though it required participants to pay monthly premiums to receive access to health care. 

About 560,000 people in Indiana were slated to receive health care because the Affordable Care Act allowed the state to expand Medicaid, but an analysis by researchers at Indiana University found that some were not able to access health care and coverage rates were lower than neighboring states because of the requirements imposed by Pence.

Harris, like Biden, tries to speak directly to viewers

Throughout the debate so far, Sen. Harris has spoken into the camera in an effort to speak directly to Americans as Biden did during the presidential debate last week. 

Harris did it, for example, when she was speaking about Trump’s trade war with China, which she said the U.S. has lost. 

“There are estimates that by the end of the term of this administration, they will have lost more jobs than almost any other presidential administration,” said Harris, who turned to the camera, and said, “And the American people know what I'm talking about. You know — I think about 20-year-olds. ... You know, we have a 20-year-old, 20-something-year-old, who are coming out of high school and college right now and you're wondering, is there going to be a job there for me?”

Pence addresses talking points that Trump left out

Pence has been hitting the talking point that Donald Trump’s advisers had planned for the president to use on his rival during the first debate, but blew past.

Trump’s advisers left the first debate frustrated by the lack of attacks on Biden’s record on China, NAFTA and taxes.

Pence made a concerted effort to weave those themes into his responses even when they had little to do with the question he was asked. Pence also made sure to call out on the campaign’s guests in the audience, something Trump was supposed to do in the first debate with Alice Marie Johnson, but failed to do.

Twitter reacts to Susan Page's moderating

Moderator Susan Page is coming under fire on Twitter for not interjecting when Pence goes over his time or interrupts Harris. 

Others took to Twitter to applaud Page’s time restrictions, a major shift from last week’s debate moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

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