Democratic challenger Kamala Harris attacked Vice President Mike Pence for the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic during their only debate on Wednesday, as the White House struggles to contain an outbreak that has infected President Donald Trump and dozens of others.
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 8, 2020
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said as the debate began, with the two candidates separated by 12 feet (3.6 meters) and plexiglass shields on a stage at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City
In response, Pence defended the US administration’s efforts to battle the disease, including Trump’s decision in late January to restrict travel from the pandemic’s epicenter in China.
— Sherwin Bryce-Pease (@sherwiebp) October 8, 2020
“I want the American people to know that from the very first day President Donald Trump has put the health of America first,” he said.
Pence offered praise for the American people, arguing that Harris was discounting the sacrifices they had made.
“The American people have had to sacrifice far too much because of the incompetence of this administration,” Harris retorted. The outbreak has killed more than 210,000 Americans and battered the US economy.
Pence, 61, who heads the government’s coronavirus task force, was under pressure to show he can assume the country’s highest office if Trump, 74, battling COVID-19, becomes too ill to serve.
The stakes were similarly high for Harris, 55, whose running mate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, 77, would be the oldest US president if elected on November 3.
The two candidates were also jockeying for position in their respective parties; both are widely seen as future presidential candidates, whatever the outcome of November’s contest.