Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) faced off in the only vice-presidential debate, moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page in front of a small audience of people wearing face masks.

The first topic of the debate was the novel coronavirus and the U.S. response and death toll, coming less than a week after President Trump announced that he tested positive. The candidates also exchanged criticisms over the economy, jobs, taxes and foreign policy, as well as race and the justice system, with Pence sometimes returning to previous topics instead of answering the question in front of him.

What to know after Wednesday’s debate

10:42 p.m.
Headshot of Amy Wang
Amy Wang: Harris spent a good portion of the debate looking straight at the camera when answering questions, while Pence mostly trained his responses at Page or his opponent. The effect was that Harris frequently looked like she was speaking directly to viewers at home. It was an approach Biden said he turned to out of necessity in the first presidential debate after Trump repeatedly interrupted him.
Amy Wang, National politics reporter
10:40 p.m.
Headshot of Toluse Olorunnipa
Toluse Olorunnipa: It’s a sign of how strange things have become that one of the last questions each candidate was asked was how they would respond if Trump refused to accept the results of the election — something the president has threatened. Harris’s answer — essentially telling people to vote — accused Trump of openly suppressing the vote and trying to subvert democracy. Pence largely dodged the question but used it as an opportunity to baselessly accuse Democrats and the FBI of spying on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Though the debate wasn’t as contentious as last week’s presidential standoff, this answer showed just how bitter the race is just four weeks ahead of Election Day.
Toluse Olorunnipa, Political investigations and enterprise reporter
10:23 p.m.
Headshot of Eugene Scott
Eugene Scott: Harris said that, if elected, she and Biden would make chokeholds illegal in police departments. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, at least 32 of the country’s 65 largest police departments have already banned or strengthened restrictions on the use of neck restraints since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than seven minutes.
Eugene Scott, National political reporter on The Washington Post's breaking news team
10:22 p.m.
Headshot of Sean Sullivan
Sean Sullivan: Pence has dodged questions on major topics tonight, from climate change to abortion and other issues. When pressed on whether he thinks climate change is an existential threat, Pence within seconds redirected to Biden and taxes. When asked on what his home state should do if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Pence spoke initially about Qasem Soleimani. It’s been clear which topics he is and is not interested in elaborating on as the debate has unfolded.
10:17 p.m.
Headshot of Robert Barnes
Robert Barnes: Harris would not answer the question of whether Democrats will try to add seats to the Supreme Court, just as Biden refused last week. She tried to shift the subject, saying that the Trump administration was “packing” lower courts and has failed to tap a Black nominee among 50 judges for the appeals courts.
Robert Barnes, Reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court
10:08 p.m.
Headshot of Robert Barnes
Robert Barnes: Pence did not answer what he would like his home state of Indiana to do if Roe is overturned and the issue of abortion is returned to state legislatures. But he signed a number of abortion restrictions while governor, some of them upheld by courts and others struck down.
Robert Barnes, Reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court
10:05 p.m.
Headshot of Sean Sullivan
Sean Sullivan: One name that Harris frequently mentioned tonight: Barack Obama. Obama may not be on the ballot, but he’s been a frequent topic of discussion in the campaign. Much like Biden, Harris has sought to remind viewers of Biden’s service as Obama’s vice president, bringing up the Affordable Care Act, the auto bailout and the pandemic response efforts as examples of their collaboration. The reason behind the strategy is clear: Obama remains hugely popular among Democrats, and closely associating the current ticket with the last presidency could excite voters who may be less enthusiastic about Biden.
9:58 p.m.
Headshot of Toluse Olorunnipa
Toluse Olorunnipa: Harris has done more to try to introduce herself to the country, biographically, than Pence in the first hour of the debate. She mentioned her immigrant mother and how proud she would be to see her on that stage. “We have a 20-something-year-old,” she said, mentioning her stepchild during an answer about the difficult job market. Pence, on the other hand, has been in the national spotlight for the past four years and focused less on his biography, instead spending more time defending Trump.
Toluse Olorunnipa, Political investigations and enterprise reporter
9:43 p.m.
Headshot of Eugene Scott
Eugene Scott: Vice President Pence called Obamacare a disaster. But most Americans disagree with him. Fifty-two percent approve of the Affordable Care Act, according to a March Gallup poll. And last month, Trump signed an executive order that will enshrine the law’s most popular feature — protecting people with preexisting conditions.
Eugene Scott, National political reporter on The Washington Post's breaking news team
9:38 p.m.
Headshot of Annie Linskey
Annie Linskey: One of Harris’s goals tonight is to introduce herself to the American people, since she is the least known of the four candidates on the ticket. She has used some early questions to talk about her political resume as a California Attorney General, highlighting her work leading the country’s second-largest Department of Justice and ticked through her agenda there.
Annie Linskey, National reporter covering the White House.
9:29 p.m.
Headshot of Toluse Olorunnipa
Toluse Olorunnipa: Harris accused Trump of calling the virus a hoax. But Trump and the Republicans say the president was referring to Democratic complaints when he mentioned the word “hoax” in the early days of the pandemic. Expect this to be an issue the GOP jumps on.
Toluse Olorunnipa, Political investigations and enterprise reporter
9:27 p.m.
Headshot of Amy Goldstein
Amy Goldstein: In the early minutes of the debate, Pence sought to portray the administration’s management of the coronavirus pandemic as nearly identical to the plan that the Biden campaign has put forth, saying, “When I look at their plan that talks about advancing testing, creating new PPE, developing a vaccine, it looks a little bit like plagiarism.” The vice president omitted the fact that Biden has pledged to double drive-through testing sites, rather than deferring largely to states; urge states to require residents to wear masks; and ratchet up the federal role in purchasing protective gear.
Amy Goldstein, Reporter covering health-care policy and other social policy issues
9:23 p.m.
Headshot of Sean Sullivan
Sean Sullivan: Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden in their first debate. But Harris signaled early in tonight’s matchup that she doesn’t intend to be cut off. “Mr. Vice President -- I’m speaking,” she said in one exchange. The moderator underscored the ground rules at the outset more than is typically seen, which also reflects the chaos that broke out at the Cleveland debate.
9:15 p.m.
Headshot of Annie Linskey
Annie Linskey: Harris got the first question of the debate, on the coronavirus. The order of the debate is determined by a coin toss. Typically, debate participants prefer to go second, after the ice has been broken.
Annie Linskey, National reporter covering the White House.