TV Newsers React to 2020 Vice Presidential Debate: ‘Questions Are Being Asked. They Are Not Being Answered’

By A.J. Katz 

Tonight, vice president Mike Pence and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris face off for the only vp debate of the 2020 election cycle, sanctioned by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The event takes place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, with USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page serving as moderator.

This debate is noticeably different than previous debates. For one, TV newsers probably aren’t going to be referring to this debate afterwards as “the worst debate I have ever seen.” Secondly, the candidates will be seated and separated by plexiglass in light of the coronavirus having spread throughout the White House in recent days.

The vice president has tested negative as recently as this morning, but the Harris campaign doesn’t want to take any chances.


The most recent vp debate (Pence versus Sen. Tim Kaine on Oct. 4, 2016) hauled in 37.2 million viewers. and was moderated by CBSN’s Elaine Quijano. Will tonight’s debate exceed that? Remains to be seen.

If you’re not sure where or how to watch tonight’s event, we’ve got it all laid out for you …

Here’s what the previous debate moderator said he was looking forward to tonight:

At least one TV newser feels this vp debate is more significant than those of the recent past:

Apparently Cupp isn’t the only person to feel this way:

Interesting thoughts, particularly No. 3 from CNN’s Bakari Sellers.


And now we’re off. Some TV newsers’ reactions:

Good marks for the moderator so far:

An interesting tidbit:


People became less impressed with the moderator as the night has gone on:

Perhaps someone got in Page’s ear:

Oh, and then a fly showed up on the vice president’s head at around the 10:20 p.m. ET mark, and didn’t leave for roughly 2 minutes; maybe longer. Needless to say, Twitter was abuzz (pun intended).

ABC’s Martha Raddatz and NBC’s Lester Holt are two experienced debate moderators in their own right. They provided insights on the evening’s proceedings.

Raddatz commented on how Page performed as moderator, saying, “You really do have to listen to what they are saying, and then follow-up and we seem to move pretty quickly on to the next question,” remarked Raddatz. “There were had very few answers to questions that Susan Page asked and they were well-crafted questions.”

Holt commented on the debate more broadly: “I think it’s fair to say a lot of people holding their breath after last week wondering what the tone would be in this debate. Largely civil … It’s not without its moments, but we certainly got a chance this time to hear from both of them and take a measure and the question, perhaps, right now not who won or lost but who did what they had to do under the circumstances.”

Baier’s colleague Chris Wallace added: “I think they both ducked a lot of questions, Martha [MacCallum]. You know, well, she [Sen. Kamala Harris] ducked the question about what the restrictions or lack of restrictions would be in California. Mike Pence said exactly the same on restrictions in Indiana. I thought that her worst refusal to answer was exactly as you say, on the packing of the court. But I thought that Pence had an equally egregious refusal to answer when he was asked, what would you do about protecting people with preexisting conditions? And he absolutely refused to even discuss the issue.

I thought both of them had a pretty good night. I thought that Kamala Harris’ best point was when she was going after President Trump and Mike Pence on healthcare and the effort to overturn Obamacare in the Supreme Court the week after the election. She said, if you have preexisting conditions, they’re coming after you. If you’re one of the 20 million people on Obamacare, they’re coming after you. If you’re one of the people who is 26 or under who’s on your family’s plan. I thought, on the other hand, that Pence was most effective when he went at Kamala Harris on the question of a left wing agenda that she and Biden would raise taxes as soon as they came in, and also that they would push their environmental, what he said, radical environmental agenda at the expense of American workers. I thought it was actually a pretty even night. I agree with Brit, I don’t think it’s going to change that narrative very much.”

CBS’ Norah O’Donnell: “We know that the plexiglass in between them did not stop the interruptions of either the moderator or the candidates.”

Gayle King added: “The President just this afternoon said that it was a blessing from God that he got coronavirus. And that it is a blessing in disguise. Said no one ever who had Corona…or someone who lost someone, Norah. And you know, I think when people hear that, I think it is very triggering and I think it is very painful.”

ABC’s Mary Bruce: “What simply was most striking, having been in the room last week and here tonight, was just how normal this felt. It felt like a normal traditional debate, despite the very unusual circumstances here, seeing the two of them separated by that plexiglass, all of us here in our masks. The level of civility. There was a low bar for it after last week’s debate, but it just was astounding straight off the bat.”