VP debate 2020: Pence and Harris clash on coronavirus pandemic

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The contenders for US vice-president have clashed over the coronavirus pandemic in their only debate ahead of next month’s election. Democrat Kamala Harris called Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration” in history. Vice-President Mike Pence, a Republican, said the Democratic Party’s pandemic plan amounted to “plagiarism”.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads Mr Trump with 26 days to go to the vote. Opinion polls indicate the Republican president is trailing by single digits in a handful of battleground states that will decide who wins. Vice-presidents have tie-breaking power in the Senate and are required to step in if a president is unable to perform their duties. Their day-to-day responsibilities vary with each administration, but they typically serve as top advisers and some take on specific policy portfolios.

Wednesday night’s meeting was a civil debate between two smooth communicators compared to last week’s belligerent showdown between Mr Trump and Mr Biden, which degenerated into insults and name-calling. Mr Pence did not interrupt as much as the president last week, but when he did, Ms Harris interjected: “Mr Vice-President, I’m speaking, I’m speaking.”

The viral moment on Wednesday was a fly landing on Mr Pence’s head and remaining there for some two minutes.

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