When is the vice-presidential debate? Here’s what we know about the clash between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence
It’s been a little more than a week since the first presidential debate left Americans shocked, and Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus test left the world stunned.
But the 2020 election campaign is still rolling on, with the only vice-presidential debate of the campaign set to play out.
Here are five quick questions to bring you up to speed.
1. When is the vice-presidential debate? And other important bits to know
The debate will be held on Thursday, October 8 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm AEST.
The venue will be the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The moderator will be USA Today bureau chief Susan Page.
The debate will be divided into nine different segments, each lasting about 10 minutes each, with topics and questions selected by the moderator. The candidates get two minutes to respond to each question.
The topics haven’t been released ahead of time like the first presidential debate, but Page said they would give American voters a chance to see both candidates and “see both what they think of them personally and what they think about their policy ideas”.
Have your snacks ready: Just like the first presidential debate, there are no commercial breaks. Once it starts, the debate doesn’t stop until it’s over.
2. How will Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis change things?
After the news filtered through that both Pence and Harris had tested negative for coronavirus in the wake of Trump’s infection, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the VP debate would still happen.
In the days since, the Commission has announced that the candidates will now be 12 feet apart, rather than the 7 feet originally planned, at the request of the Biden campaign.
The Commission denied a Biden campaign request that the candidates stand, meaning they’ll be seated, according to Politico.
Plexiglass has also been installed on the stage to separate Pence and Harris from each other, as well as both candidates from the moderator.
“If Senator Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it,” Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller told Politico.
A small live audience made up of students from the University of Utah is still expected to attend.
Putting on the mask: It’s unclear if the Commission will require the audience to wear masks. Plenty of the audience in the first debate, including members of the Trump family, did not wear masks.
3. What do we know about the moderator?
Page is a veteran political journalist who’s covered 10 presidential election campaigns, six White Houses, and interviewed the past nine US presidents.
She’s the Washington bureau chief for the USA Today newspaper.
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Page faced criticism recently when it was revealed she had hosted an off-the-record event at her home honouring recent Trump administration appointees. USA Today said the event “fell well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold”.
Page hasn’t commented publicly on what happened at the first presidential debate.
First time for everything: Despite being a vastly experienced journalist, this will be the first time Page has moderated a presidential or vice-presidential debate.
4. Will it be like the first presidential debate?
It’s impossible to say, but given the first debate was received so badly — pundits variously called it “the worst presidential debate I have ever seen in my life” and a “shitshow” — it seems unlikely either candidate will approach this clash the same way.
What’s interesting to note is that the veeps’ debating styles are almost the opposite of their running mates’.
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris, on the other hand, was picked partly because her brutal primary debate takedowns could bring a flint-hard edge to Joe Biden’s career-long reputation of being Mr Nice Guy.
Sound familiar? At the only vice-presidential debate in 2016, Pence was broadly declared the winner because his opponent, Tim Kaine, interrupted too much. Kaine admitted that even his wife was mad at him for not letting then-candidate Pence speak.
5. Will there be more debates?
It’s still unclear at this stage, and the Commission hasn’t commented.
Everything will depend on the progress of Trump’s coronavirus recovery. He left Walter Reed hospital yesterday and tweeted that he was looking forward to the next debate, but, again, the Commission hasn’t confirmed anything.
Biden was clear about his preference when asked by reporters:
“I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate.”
There are two debates remaining in the campaign, both between Trump and Biden.
The next scheduled debate is on Friday, October 16 AEST, which will be 14 days since Mr Trump revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus. The US Centers for Disease Control recommends people isolate for at least 10 days after first noticing COVID-19 symptoms.
If Mr Trump returns another positive test before the debate, it’s hard to see the Commission allowing it to happen.
The final presidential debate is scheduled for Friday, October 23.
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