On Wednesday, Vice President Pence and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) faced off on the debate stage at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Following the yelling match that took place during the first presidential debate, many women across the country watched excitedly as Harris made history as the first Black woman or woman of color to appear on the debate stage in a general presidential election. Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, moderated the event.

In the wake of President Trump’s hospitalization due to the coronavirus, the issue of the pandemic was ubiquitous, with both candidates sitting behind clear, plexiglass dividers. For many women, the pandemic shaped their viewing experience, too, with some connecting with friends and family members via text-messaging groups as the historic debate took place.

We wanted to know what was taking place in those intimate, candid messages — so, ahead of the event, we reached out to women across the country who were willing to share their group texts from the night.

From a group of suburban moms in the Mid-Atlantic to college-aged antiabortion activists, several groups shared their real-time texts with us — reacting to issues such as the Supreme Court vacancy, police reform and climate change. Below, we have charted some of the highlights of the debate, and the texts that came with them.

Meet the group texts:

A group of co-workers living in Texas who are supporting the Biden-Harris ticket.

A group of college-aged antiabortion activists who volunteer with antiabortion organization Students for Life of America.

A group of progressive moms and women living in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

A group of LBGTQ teenagers, ages 16 to 18, living on the West Coast.

A pair of friends, one liberal and the other conservative, who are millennials living in California.

Note: Last names have been redacted to allow participants to express their political views openly without potential repercussion.

Ahead of the debate

From the group of college-aged antiabortion activists:

October 7, 2020

Kristan

Abortion Queen vs Pro-Life King...here we go!

Autumn

So curious if we will get any real answers on packing the Supreme Court.

On Pence vs. Harris’s debating styles

In comparison to the first presidential debate, this one was more “civil,” many noted, with Pence’s soft-spoken debate style a contrast to Trump’s tone last week. But, as Washington Post reporters pointed out, he still repeatedly went over his allotted time and spoke over moderator Susan Page. Harris cut Pence off when he interrupted her and was often the more assertive of the two.

From the pair of liberal and conservative friends:

October 7, 2020

Stephanie

Pence just has so much class in comparison

Darea

What?!? Class?

Stephanie

Tell me you don't see the bias in this moderator.

Darea

Ya there is definitely bias

Stephanie

Biden should have picked Tulsi as vp

Stephanie

She could have united liberals and conservatives

Darea

Idk who he should have picked, but Harris was a bad choice.

Stephanie

At least we can agree there ;)


From the group of progressive moms:

October 7, 2020

Celeste

I hate to say this, but would he have respected an old white man moderator better than a white female?

Jessica

Yup

Amber

You betcha

Amaya

Sadly yeah

Sarah

But let's all agree that the tone of tonight's debate is a far reach from what we had the last time

Rebecca

He is yet to stop when his time is up so disrespectful

Celeste

Thanks Sarah for your positivity. Yes, better.


From the college-aged antiabortion activists:

October 7, 2020

Mary Kate

Pence is such a class act

Mary Kate

I'd be rolling my eyes so hard but he has it totally together

Brenna

She's louder and appeals to pathos more. It's a cheap trick


From the LGBTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Niko

Oh my god stop talking

Niko

CUT HIS MIC

Haley

Why is he still talking

Sarah

I know

Niko

Cut the cameras

Sarah

I want someone to record how much actual time each one talked

On Trump’s health and the administration’s coronavirus response

The issue of the pandemic was the opening topic of the night. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 211,000, and the disease has also come very close to Pence, who attended various events with associates who have since tested positive for the virus. Harris came out swinging when it came to the administration’s coronavirus response, calling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”

From the group of LGBTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Niko

Oh starting with covid okay here we gooo

Haley

TEA KAMALA

Haley

Tell the facts tell the facts

Niko

"Greatest failure of any presidential admin in our history" HARSH but fair

Haley

Fair, other countries dealt with it so much better than us

Sarah

I'm wondering how she'll respond to what Pence says

Haley

DONALD DOESNT CARE ABOUT AMERICANS

Haley

PENCE STOP LYING

Sarah

The health of the United States first

Niko

He did not put Americans first


From the group of college-aged antiabortion activists:

October 7, 2020

Kristan

Dems want it both ways. Shut everything down. Millions of jobs and businsses lost.

Kristan

Then they attack for the jobs lost

Kristan

They attack for not doing enough but Biden attacked for shutting down travel from China! They always want it both ways.


From the group of progressive moms:

October 7, 2020

Jessica

How on earth can he claim Trump put our health first? Laughable

Stephanie

Omg, he is absolutely dead inside or he just couldn't lie like this without burning.

Stephanie

Go girl!!!

Sarah

"You respect the American people when you tell them the truth!" - Our next Vice President

On climate change

The two candidates clashed over the issue on climate change, with Pence denouncing the Green New Deal and claiming that Biden wanted to eliminate fracking, which Biden has not said. Harris, meanwhile, attacked Trump’s record, saying, “They don’t believe in science.”

From the LGBTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Haley

Yeah we want the green new deal??? We want a future sir

Niko

Yeah but clean energy makes more jobs

Haley

Just because you and your posse are on the verge of death doesn't mean we can't think ahead

Sarah

Global warming is gonna be irreversible in 7 years

Haley

Can we ban fracking though?

Sarah

Yea for sure

Haley

I'm down with it

Niko

Maybe we can't promise that in the election because we need those people


From the progressive moms:

October 7, 2020

Jessica

Love that line - believe in science

Rebecca

She's smart

On abortion rights

With Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the issue of Roe v. Wade has been top of mind for many voters. Pence said he couldn’t presume how Barrett would vote on abortion cases if she were confirmed to the Supreme Court, but both candidates ultimately made their beliefs known when it comes to abortion access. “I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body,” Harris said. Pence responded: “I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it.”

From the group of college-aged antiabortion activists:

October 7, 2020

Kristi

If you can't win by the rules you're going to change the rules ... will you pack the Supreme Court?!?!

Kristi

She never answered about court packing!!!

Kristan

That's the end of democracy as we know it


From the group of progressive moms:

October 7, 2020

Sarah

There should be rules for the debates that the responses should only be allowed to be relevant to the question

Rebecca

Avoiding women's choice by scare mongering re Muslims

Jessica

Is he seriously saying we should feel safe with Trump "protecting us"?

Kim

Answer the question!

Jill

Wait. A sizable American family? WTF?!

Rebecca

Oh we can question Islam but we cannot question Christianity. Give me a break! Notice he did not answer the abortion choice question.


From the group of LGBTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Sarah

I WANT MY RIGHTS

Sarah

THANKS

Haley

I want my rights! No uterus no opinion

Sarah

Yeees

Sarah

She said it

Haley

It should be HER decision

Sarah

WOMEN HAVE RIGHTS TO THEIR BODY

Haley

God that is so nice to hear

Niko

Sanctity of human life? You let thousands of people die

On police reform

Both candidates were asked whether justice was done in the case of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville police officers in her apartment on March 13. A grand jury indicted only one of the officers in the case. Harris said she did not think justice was served, raising the killings of other Black people by the police. Pence claimed that there is not implicit racial bias in law enforcement and said that Trump had “repeatedly” condemned white supremacists, although he did not in last week’s debate with Biden.

From the pair of liberal and conservative friends:

October 7, 2020

Stephanie

Nervous about how Pence is going to answer about Breonna Taylor

Darea

S--- is gonna pop off now. They played the race card

Stephanie

Kamala Harris should not talk about marijuana charges after the c--- she pulled

Darea

They are both skirting the questions. This is the only one that I've seen her answer directly. And I agree with her answer.

Stephanie

He's not prepared for this one

Darea

Nope

Darea

He's not answering

Darea

He has a fly on his head. Buzz buzz


From the group of LGBTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Niko

Breonna Taylor and racism let's go this is the climax

Haley

Pence bout to be disrespectful I can feel it

Niko

Yeah no more modern day slavery with prison reform

Haley

Police reform!!!

Haley

YES YES YES

Niko

Why is property damage an appropriate reasoning for murder but murder is not a good reason for property damage

Niko

No one cares if his kids are jewish that's like saying I'm not racist my friend is black

On Harris’s facial expressions

One unexpected star of the night was Harris’s facial expressions — raised eyebrows, side eyes. Some said she reminded them of their own mothers, someone they wouldn’t want to cross, or their “Asian Aunties.”

From the group of LBGTQ teenagers:

October 7, 2020

Niko

Kamala is staring into my soul

Haley

She's looking


From the college-aged antiabortion activists:

October 7, 2020

Kristan

Her smirking is the absolute worst

Kristan

I know people hate Trump but she is another Hillary

Kristan

Americans won't be able to stand her


From the group of progressive moms:

October 7, 2020

Randy

Kamala has shown such restraint and respect in her letting him speak uninterrupted and respecting the time limits. He is incapable of doing the same.

Sarah

Yes! Her facial expressions are full of patience

Sarah

Yes! Coming off so polished and lovely


And later in the night:

October 7, 2020

Mollie

She also has to avoid being an angry Black woman

Amber

As a woman of color, she has to smile, not raise her voice, not come be angry or too smart

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