Political experts weigh in on Pence, Harris VP debate

ABC News contributors Rahm Emanuel, Sara Fagen, Yvette Simpson and Matt Dowd talk about the vice president and Democratic senator’s responses regarding COVID-19, jobs and racial tensions in the U.S.
6:51 | 10/08/20

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Transcript for Political experts weigh in on Pence, Harris VP debate
So tonight's debate a much more respectful and in some ways substantive debate. Our powerhouse round table is here now to weigh in. Rahm Emanuel, let's start with you. The events of the last week are certainly unprecedented. The president has covid. 34 people -- That's an understatement. That's an understatement, right? That's an understatement. 34 people have tested positive connected to the white house outbreak. How well do you think vice president pence did defending that outbreak and answering questions about how seriously the president treats the virus? Well, look, I mean, the truth is not very well because the facts aren't very well. It's that simple. He has a horrible hand. The American people have made a judgment even pre the white house where covid has infiltrated the white house. They have an image of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, and the covid has undermined everything they think about that sacred secular place. And you can't change people's view. They've got a conclusion over the last six months about the way the trump administration has handled covid for them, for the country, and now at the white house. And to me this is like a period at the end of a sentence. And the fact is if there's anything I would have said that kamala Harris could have done more, which was -- I think she did a very good job. She was confident. She was composed. And she was strong. But what could have been done is that you were put in charge because a, the HHS secretary was not doing a good job. And still we continued to lag everywhere else in the world when it comes to protection and moving forward and making sure that we have what we need for our frontline workers and for families. And to me I think this is going to be -- people have made a judgment, which is why you start to see these poll numbers are breaking further and further strengthening for Joe Biden and kamala Harris. Sarah, a similar question to you. Of course the vice president is also the head of the white house coronavirus task force. A majority of Americans disapprove of the administration's handling of the do you think that the vice president was effective in defending their response? I think he was very effective. He had the kind of responses about all the things the task force has done that have been positive. And there have been many positive things that have come out of this. Therapeutics, faster vaccine research, more ppe for people. Ventilators. We're now shipping ventilators to other countries. They have done a pretty good the problem is the rhetoric hasn't matched the actions. There hasn't been clear and consistent guidelines out of the white house about how Americans should became. That is their biggest challenge here. And so had president trump let vice president pence do a lot more talking in the early days of this pandemic, I think that the political landscape would be much more favorable to them right now. Yvette, I see you shaking your head. I think it's really hard for them to talk about the response that they had to the coronavirus when 34 of their own have contracted the coronavirus. I talked about the fact that Mike pence can't protect his own office, let alone the country. And with 34 infections in the GOP right now that exceeds new Zealand, Taiwan, and Vietnam cases together, which have over 124 million people. So I think he was -- as Rahm said, he did not have an answer. He could not have an answer because there was no answer to have. And so I think he would have been better suited I think to talk about what they plan to do in the future rather than try to go back in history and recreate what they did before. And Yvette, I want to stay with you for a minute. What does it say about the fight for suburban women? Pence, who is pro life and anti-abortion, dodged the question about overturning roe V. Wade. You know, I think he loses them. We know that a supermajority of Americans believe that a woman should have a right to choose. And I think kamala Harris made it very, very clear where she and Biden stand on it. We know Mike pence is an ultra conservative extremist, particularly on issues like so I think him standing on that I think probably alienated a ton of women. And the fact that he failed to answer what his own state would do if Amy coney Barrett was brought into the supreme court and that issue of choice came before the supreme court. And so I think that they lost women. They probably lost some men too. Because as I said, a lot of people support women's right to choose what happens with their bodies. Matt dowd, I want to bring you in here. With no stimulus checks since July, the president shutting down stimulus talks, and millions of Americans worried about putting food on the table, do you think that senator Harris was effectively able to make the case that Joe Biden will be the man to revive the economy? Well, I think we're in a moment where 80% of the country thinks we're off on the wrong track. So anything that talks about how bad it is and how bad things are today benefits senator Harris and Joe Biden in this race. And I think whoever is the candidate not in office is the beneficiary of what is going on today. So I thought, as I say, I think senator Harris won the debate. Not by a large amount but won the debate. I think Mike pence helped himself in the debate among Republicans who look at him and say I like Mike pence. In this I think senator Harris comes out of this more popular. But I think the fundamentals as we look at this entirety of the race, I think the country's still upset about covid, they're still upset about the economy, they're worried about health care, and all of those things in that dynamic are frozen in place right now. Mike pence had to figure out a way to shake that. He didn't shake that dynamic. He didn't do badly. One other thing about Mike pence that I found fascinating watching this is Mike pence misleads and prevaricates as much as Donald Trump but he just does it with conviction and sincerity. That's what I thought was amazing about watching this debate. And he does come across as very sincere. Rahm, last week's presidential debate was widely considered to be the worst debate ever. We often say that elections are about the top of the ticket. But with Biden 77 and trump 74 with covid, do you think that tonight was more important than the typical vice presidential debate? I don't think this will change the race, and that's not good for Donald Trump. I think it's very important because in many ways these are understudies to two candidates and I think they're showing themselves not only for 2024 but what kind of, as I said earlier, and I believe, she -- kamala Harris talked about being a partner. Pence was very much the loyal soldier. The one other thing I would touch on, while all the issues were touched by Susan in asking questions about policy, one of the things that's out there and sense of America is lost and more spiritual, which is why I thought the vice president's speech at gettysburg was so and it took an eighth-grader to ask a question about America and us as a country and a community and something that we care for each other. And I think while the policy questions got asked the things that is spiritually aching in America took an eighth-grader to Thank you so much to our powerhouse round table. We appreciate it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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