The big moments from the Pence-Harris debate

The only vice presidential debate has finished between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.


The only vice presidential debate has finished between Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence. Pence, tasked with following an unpopular debate performance from President Donald Trump, was tasked with defending the administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic against an experienced district attorney.

Harris meanwhile had to stave off attacks from Pence of her and Democratic candidate Joe Biden being too far left without breaking a delicate balance of disparate groups now under one Democrat tent just a month before the election period starts.

Here's the most talk-worthy aspects of the debate:

Kamala knows how to let a pause hang

The California senator put her knowledge of getting a room to pay attention on display. Throughout the night, she let silence to the talking, often ending a point she wanted to emphasize with a notable pause of quiet.

She used this to heavy effect in her opening remarks when she accused the Trump administration of treating essential workers as "sacrificial workers," before allowing a pregnant pause until continuing.

Pence's 'plagiarism' jest

Trying to brush off criticism's of the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus with a joke, Pence accused the Biden-Harris ticket of “plagiarism” for stealing Trump’s plan to deal with COVID-19.

Harris responded by reminding the audience of the coronavirus death toll, 210,000, under the administration's leadership.

Asked about why the administration hadn't gone farther at the start of the outbreak, Pence claimed Biden called Trump xenophobic for suspending travel from China.

“President Donald Trump did what no other American president had ever done. And that was, he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world,” he said.

Another dodge on packing the Supreme Court

Like Joe Biden in the previous debate, Harris was hounded for an answer on if a Biden-Harris administration would support packing the Supreme Court, meaning adding additional justices. And like Biden, she wouldn't give an answer, instead attempting to move the conversation back to the administration attempting to get a Supreme Court justice in record time, which Biden has also used as a response to the question.

She also attempted to frame the question as hypocritical, saying the Trump administration has not appointed a single Black federal judge.

"You want to talk about court packing," she said.

A fly stuck on Pence's head

There was briefly another participant swooping into Wednesday night’s vice presidential debate.

For several minutes, a fly landed in Vice President Mike Pence’s hair, not moving as he answered questions about racial injustice and whether justice had been served in the death of Breonna Taylor.

Conversation about the fly briefly dominated corners of Twitter, where debate watchers discussed their distraction and inability to focus on Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris’ answers. Some joked about the need to test the fly for the coronavirus, as it had skirted the plexiglass partitions separating the candidates and moderator.

Wednesday night’s intruder wasn’t the first to take center stage at an election year debate. In 2016, a fly briefly landed between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s eyes during a town hall-style debate with now-President Donald Trump.

Seizing on the moment for meme potential, a strategy that has only grown in importance when fundraising on social media, Biden's campaign quickly responded on Twitter.

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A normal, boring debate

One of the most memorable aspects of this debate is how frankly unremarkable it was. The candidates made criticisms, but they were often backed up with specifics. The candidates got testy, but never shouted. They went over their time, but with only a few notable exceptions, never more than a couple seconds. They even complimented each other, multiple times.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.