Who won the vice presidential debate?

Kamala Harris won the vice presidential debate with 59% compared to 38% for Mike Pence according to CNN Instant Poll – while undecided focus group found her ‘abrasive’ and ‘condescending’

  • Kamala Harris and Mike Pence squared off in Utah on Wednesday night
  • Voters were divided after watching the one and only vice presidential debate
  • Harris was praised for her favorability and response to the COVID pandemic
  • Pence drew respect for his calm demeanor and grasp of the issues 

Kamala Harris was declared the winner of Wednesday night’s poll by respondents to a CNN Instant Poll, while a focus group convened by Republican pollster Frank Luntz took issue with her ‘abrasive’ and ‘condescending’ manner.

Following a 90-minute debate which was largely civilized and thoughtful – unlike last week’s presidential debate – 609 voters were asked by telephone for their views, in the CNN-run survey. 

Almost six in 10 (59 per cent) said Harris won, while 38 per cent said Vice President Mike Pence had the better night.

The percentage is roughly equal to predictions made by the same voters, ahead of the Salt Lake City showdown.  

Harris and Pence, separated by plexiglass, debated the issues on Wednesday night in Utah

Harris, a 55-year-old California senator, found the debate helped her favorability ratings. They rose from 56 per cent before the debate to 63 per cent after.

For the 61-year-old vice president, his remained the same, with 41 per cent approving of him before and after. 

The pair had around the same number of people saying they were qualified to be president, were Trump or Biden to become incapacitated: 65 per cent for Pence, and 63 per cent for Harris.  

The CNN post-debate poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone.

Over on Fox News, however, Republican pollster Frank Luntz was delivering quite a different verdict.

Luntz, who has conducted televised focus groups for major news outlets since 1996, was asked by the Los Angeles Times to gather a group of undecided voters via Zoom. 

Frank Luntz’s poll was conducted via Zoom

Harris saw her favorability rise in the CNN Instant Poll, but Luntz’s group was more critical

Pence, the former governor of Indiana, earned respect for his calm demeanor

Luntz has mostly worked for Republican clients in the past, but he is not working for any presidential candidate or political party in the 2020 election. 

His group felt that Pence won, describing him as composed and calm.

During the debate, he tweeted: ‘I might get #cancelled for this, but my undecided focus group doesn’t like how Kamala Harris interacts with her opponent. 

‘We saw this in the Dem debates – she is applauded for her knowledge, but they just don’t like her ‘condescending reactions.”

Asked for one word to sum up Harris, he explained on Fox, and his respondents said: ‘evasive, nervous, shifting blame, caring, snarky, too rehearsed, nervous, abrasive, unsteady, rigid and unpresidential.’  

Pence was praised for his ‘straightforward answers – even if I don’t agree with him on policy.’

Luntz’s focus group were unimpressed by Harris’ manner with Pence

And at the New York Post, their three observers were split in their verdicts. 

Republican Staten Island political strategist Leticia Remauro said Pence won.

‘Pence won this debate. He delivered his message in a measured, even tone which connected with viewers,’ she said. 

‘Harris didn’t connect as well with viewers because she came off angry and jumpy.’ 

Eric Soufer, who worked on the Democratic presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Barack Obama, said Harris won the COVID arguments easily.

‘COVID and its devastating consequences are the only things that matter,’ he said.

‘The head of the coronavirus task force had to speak behind plexiglass because he works in the world’s most infamous cluster.’ 

But Matt Mackowiak, a longtime Republican strategist, podcast host and chairman of the local Republican Party in Austin, Texas, said it was a draw.   

‘Both sides made their points well. Both sides went on the attack. Both ignored questions they didn’t want to answer,’ he said.  

‘I’m not sure either side made up any real ground.’ 

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