The plexiglass was transparent. The vice presidential candidates weren't as clear, often dodging questions that need answers.

But overall, the debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris was more civil and civically enriching than last week's shambolic, shameful presidential debate. In fact, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden would do well to emulate their understudies, who both not only proved viable should they be thrust into the presidency, but also provided a template on how to spar, not brawl.

Yet it was far from ideal. There were too many interruptions and time violations, and moderator Susan Page should have been more forceful. Reminding Harris that her time was up and repeating "Thank you, Mr. Vice President" was ineffective. Future debates need a mute button and a moderator who will use it, as well as more direct follow-ups that actually force candidates to answer the questions. Most notably, neither Harris nor Biden have directly answered if they plan to try to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with more justices. The American people have a right to know.

And Page let Pence obfuscate on answers to fundamental questions about his (and in effect, Trump's) positions on climate change and the climate for democracy if he and Trump lose. His evasion on committing to a peaceful transfer of power is unacceptable.

Whether there will be more 2020 debates is uncertain. Trump petulantly dropped out of next week's presidential debate because of the decision to make it a virtual affair, though the switch was a justifiable call considering his health.

The nation's COVID condition was the dominant theme in the VP debate. America is leading the world's nations in the number of infections, loss of life and loss of livelihoods, prompting Harris to begin with a withering critique that "the American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country."

How voters respond to that assertion is likely to be critical as voting continues. As evidenced by Harris' charge and Pence's defense of the president's handling of the coronavirus crisis, the difference in vision between the two tickets — and the nation's direction — is stark.