Students watch Harris, Pence in their first and only debate

Students watch Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence face off at the vice-presidential debate watch party on the Foote Green on Oct. 7. This was the second watch party, the first held during the presidential debate on Sept. 29.
Students watch Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence face off at the vice-presidential debate watch party on the Foote Green on Oct. 7. This was the second watch party, the first held during the presidential debate on Sept. 29. Photo credit: Ruthie Hires

In the first and only vice presidential debate of this election season, Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence met last night at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Students at the University of Miami were once again able to watch the debate on the Foote Green at a watch party event sponsored by the Butler Center for Service and Leadership, UDems, College Republicans and more.

“It was not as huge, but it was very well managed,” said Michael Cocozziello, a sophomore majoring in finance and business technology who is a registered Republican and also the fundraising chair for College Republicans.

In the wake of last week’s debate riddled with interruptions and sidebars, students were interested to see how each vice presidential candidate would handle themselves on the debate stage. Most were satisfied by the cordiality each candidate displayed.

“I would like to see both presidential candidates doing more of a debate like Pence and Harris did tonight,” Cocozziello said.

The debate was moderated by Susan Page, the chief of USA Today’s Washington bureau, and ran for 90 minutes, with ten minutes devoted to a different topic. In trying to move the debate forward, Page occasionally interrupted the candidates once their time was up.

“I think she should’ve given them the opportunity to finish the sentence before she said it for the third, fourth and fifth time,” Cocozziello said.

Janie Lobel, a freshman majoring in music education and registered Democrat who also watched the debate, thought Page was a good moderator.

“I felt she did a great job allowing each candidate to finish their final remark to the issue being discussed,” Lobel said.

The 90-minute debate covered a range of topics, including the economy, transparency, the Supreme Court, healthcare, racial injustice and a peaceful transition of power. In light of Trump’s recent coronavirus diagnosis, both candidates were also asked about COVID-19 and the actions taken as well as their plans going forward.

“Pence made more excuses than giving a legitimate plan for the future, while Harris took responsibility for the mistakes made in the past and has a more clear plan,” said Rachel Salomon, a freshman majoring in psychology and registered Democrat who attended the debate watch party.

Lobel echoed these thoughts and liked how Harris discussed steps that Biden’s campaign will take in regards to managing the COVID-19 pandemic, such as providing proper personal protective equipment, distributing testing and developing national contact tracing methods.

“I think that Kamala Harris kinda trashed on the Trump administration given that Pence is the leader of the task force,” Cocozziello said.

Another hot button issue debated was climate change, a topic popular among young voters. Both candidates were asked about their respective platforms in regards to climate change.

“While I was happy to hear the issue of climate change being discussed during the debate, I was unsatisfied with the results,” Lobel said. “ I felt that Pence was simply arguing that in his time in office… that it was a priority in their administration and that it needs no improvement. The reality is that climate change is an ever-changing topic.”

Both platforms have very different policies and beliefs when it comes to climate change, and recently there has been some confusion as to where the Biden campaign stands.

“One thing that surprised me was how moderate the Biden campaign has become,” Cocozziello said. “But, I think that how the US government has been doing is pretty good at dealing with the climate.”

Cocozziello and Lobel also noted how valuable the role of vice president is within the government. They can preside over the Senate and also allow for the president to have a reliable individual to discuss policies with.

“We live in unprecedented times and need to have confidence in our VP,” Salomon said.

Although there is a debate between President Trump and Vice President Biden scheduled for Oct. 15, it currently remains up in the air as Trump has signaled he would not take part in a virtual debate, as announced by the debate commission. The university currently still plans on holding a debate watch party. Gates for the event will open at 8:30 p.m. if the debate remains scheduled for next week.