Kamala Harris and Mike Pence

Reuters

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will lock horns in Salt Lake Metropolis Wednesday night time within the first and solely vice presidential debate of 2020. 

However the coronavirus will solid a shadow over the present. 

With lower than 4 weeks till Election Day, the pandemic’s presence looms bigger than ever over the nation, and the political fortunes of incumbent President Donald Trump and his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Greater than 211,000 individuals within the U.S. have died from Covid-19 this 12 months, and hundreds of thousands extra have misplaced their livelihoods amid pandemic shutdowns and financial stagnation.

These contaminated embody Trump, 74, who revealed on Friday that he and first girl Melania Trump had examined optimistic for coronavirus after months of the president downplaying the severity of the lethal virus. 

Trump spent the subsequent three days in a army hospital present process aggressive therapy. Throughout that very same 72 hours, greater than a dozen White Home aides and Republican lawmakers introduced they, too, had examined optimistic for the virus.

Pence and Harris will take the stage simply two days after Trump was discharged from the hospital and into the care of White Home physicians. Pence has examined damaging for the virus, however as a precaution, he and Harris will likely be greater than 12 ft aside and separated by plexiglass. 

The 90-minute debate will likely be held in Kingsbury Corridor on the College of Utah, beginning at 9 p.m. EST. The occasion will likely be livestreamed on CNBC.com and can air on White Home pool networks.

Here is what Pence and Harris every must do:

Pence has to shine within the highlight

The president’s hospitalization has drastically modified the dynamic of the controversy, mentioned Mitchell McKinney, director of the Political Communication Institute on the College of Missouri and an professional on presidential debating.

“Like many individuals, I initially thought many of the consideration Wednesday could be targeted on Harris, however previously week a lot has modified with the president within the hospital,” McKinney informed CNBC on Tuesday. 

“Voters are taking a look at Mike Pence now with a brand new sense of urgency.”

Biden’s age had been a frequent goal of the Trump marketing campaign, which has been overtly skeptical concerning the 77-year-old Democrat’s psychological acuity and well being. However Trump’s prognosis, and the pressing questions on his situation, have put extra stress on Pence to show his readiness to steer.

“Each of the presidential candidates are outdated, they usually have well being points,” mentioned Aaron Kall, director of the College of Michigan’s debate program.

“So are these [vice presidential] nominees able to step in at a second’s discover? Are they skilled? Have they got a very good temperament?” Kall mentioned. “Voters on the debate are actually going to be asking these questions, given the well being of the 2 individuals on the prime.” 

Harris must tie Pence to Trump’s worst excesses 

Harris could also be debating Pence, however she ought to prepare her sights on Trump, as effectively, McKinney mentioned.

“Harris has to name into query the whole Trump operation, all of the chaos. She’ll take it to Mike Pence, however the case she’s prosecuting is the case in opposition to Trump,” he mentioned.

Pence has been amongst Trump’s most loyal and outspoken defenders all through his tumultuous first time period. As a longtime public determine and a former talk-radio host, he is good on the kind of verbal jousting required in a debate. Pence scored a transparent victory over then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s working mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, of their debate in 2016, polls confirmed.

However he could also be pressured to play protection in opposition to Harris, a former prosecutor, who confirmed within the Democratic major that she was keen to go on the assault.

“There is a gendered factor right here. It is usually the feminine candidate who will convey probably the most aggression to the stage to indicate she’s up for it,” McKinney mentioned.

“The expectation is on her to select aside this rosy image Pence desires us all to think about.”

Pence can reap the benefits of the format

With Trump away from the marketing campaign path, Pence is being pressured to select up the slack — an infinite activity given latest polls displaying Biden’s lead over the president creeping into the double digits in nationwide polls.

The format of Wednesday night time’s debate is more likely to work in Pence’s favor, nevertheless.

“The vice presidential debate has at all times been extra of a dialogue and fewer of a podium battle than the highest of the ticket debates,” McKinney mentioned. “This works in Pence’s favor, as a result of that is his model.” 

Hewing to VP debate custom, Pence and Harris will each be seated at tables on Wednesday night time in Utah.

The Fee on Presidential Debates, as a part of its slate of virus-related changes, will seat the 2 contenders greater than 12 ft aside. There will likely be no handshake between the candidates, or with the moderator, USA Right now’s Susan Web page.

The fee additionally introduced this week that there will likely be a plexiglass wall between them — a call that reportedly prompted Pence’s crew to boost objections.

On Wednesday night time, Pence must reassure voters that the chaos engulfing the White Home is momentary, McKinney mentioned. 

Harris would not must defend her file

Within the Democratic major debates final 12 months, Harris was tripped up by Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who zeroed in on Harris’ file as a former prosecutor.

Pence would possibly take an analogous tack, by contrasting the California senator’s file with the Biden marketing campaign platform she now helps.

Harris ought to hold herself out of that place, Kall mentioned.

“She actually would not should defend her file,” Kall mentioned. As Biden’s working mate, her job “is to assist the particular person on the prime of the ticket. So her place is the place of Joe Biden.”

Pence ought to ship the ‘Trojan Horse’

Quite a few audio system eventually month’s Republican Nationwide Conference, together with Pence and Trump, portrayed Biden as a “Computer virus” – that’s, a politically milquetoast automobile via which far-left Democrats can smuggle radically progressive insurance policies.

If Pence wields that message successfully within the debate, he would possibly land a powerful blow in opposition to Harris, by suggesting to on-the-fence viewers that Biden’s youthful, extra liberal working mate would actually be working the present.

“It is simpler to do this than assault Biden instantly,” Kall mentioned. “In some methods, Biden has proved Teflon.”

The standard assault labels, which regularly follow Democratic politicians – “socialist,” “radical,” “far-left” – appear to be bouncing off Biden.

However “these might be pinned on her much more simply,” Kall mentioned of Harris, and “they are much extra more likely to be impactful.”

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