Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah
Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo: AFP
 Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah

Pence, Harris to clash in VP debate amid White House virus outbreak

VP debate could take on greater importance than in prior years, as both Pence and Harris will seek to demonstrate they can step into the Oval Office if necessary to lead the country amid the pandemic

Reuters |
Published: 10.07.20 , 22:46
Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris will square off on Wednesday in their only debate, as President Donald Trump's coronavirus diagnosis and the ongoing pandemic continue to roil the U.S. presidential contest.
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  • The televised clash comes at a precarious moment for the Trump-Pence re-election campaign, less than a week after the president announced he had contracted COVID-19 amid a White House outbreak that has infected numerous high-profile Republicans.
     Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah
    Preparations for the vice presidential debate, in Salt Lake City, Utah
    (Photo: AFP)
    Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is leading Trump in national polls, including advantage of 12 percentage points in the latest Reuters/Ipsos survey of likely voters, with less than four weeks until the Nov. 3 election.
    Late on Tuesday, the two sides were still arguing over Harris' request for plexiglass barriers on stage to lessen the chance of infection. CNN reported that a member of the commission that oversees the debate said Pence would be permitted to appear without a barrier, while Harris would have one on her side of the stage if desired.
     Vice President Mike Pence speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington about the coronavirus outbreak Vice President Mike Pence speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington about the coronavirus outbreak
    Vice President Mike Pence speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington about the coronavirus outbreak
    (Photo: AP)
    Both Pence and Harris, a U.S. senator, tested negative for the coronavirus on Tuesday. Current government guidelines call for anyone exposed to someone with COVID-19 to quarantine for 14 days regardless of test results.
    Pence's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
    Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign rally for Joe Biden in Detroit Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign rally for Joe Biden in Detroit
    Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign rally for Joe Biden in Detroit
    (Photo: AP)
    In a statement, Harris spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said, "If the Trump administration's war on masks has now become a war on safety shields, that tells you everything you need to know about why their COVID response is a failure."
    With two septuagenarians at the top of the ballot, the debate could take on greater importance than in other years, when the vice presidential match-up was largely seen as an afterthought to the presidential debates. Both Pence and Harris will seek to demonstrate that they can step into the Oval Office if necessary to lead the country.
     Workers install plexiglass panels between the candidates’ desks for the 2020 vice-presidential debate between US Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris  Workers install plexiglass panels between the candidates’ desks for the 2020 vice-presidential debate between US Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris
    Workers install plexiglass panels between the candidates’ desks for the 2020 vice-presidential debate between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris
    (Photo: EPA)
    Trump, 74, returned to the White House on Monday after three days in a military hospital. It is unclear when he will again be able to campaign. Trump has said he plans to participate in the Oct. 15 presidential debate.
    The pandemic is likely to dominate the proceedings. Biden, 77, and Harris, 55, have made Trump's handling of the disease the central theme of their campaign, blaming Trump for deliberately downplaying the health risks and failing to endorse mask-wearing.
    President Donald Trump arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in BethesdaPresident Donald Trump arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda
    President Donald Trump arrives at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda
    (Photo: AP)
    The 61-year-old Pence, who headed up the administration's coronavirus task force, will defend Trump's response to the virus, which has killed 210,000 Americans and decimated the U.S. economy even as other wealthy nations have managed to get the disease under control.
    Viewers will have a constant reminder of the pandemic's effect on daily life: Pence and Harris will be more than 12 feet apart on stage at the University of Utah, in addition to the plexiglass barrier
    In preparation for the debate, Harris got help from former Democratic presidential primary rival Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is familiar with Pence's past record when he was governor of the state.
    President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate
    President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate
    (Photo: AP)
    The debate is unlikely to match the sheer chaos of the first presidential debate last week, when Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and the two traded insults. Pence, who once hosted a radio show as a congressman, and Harris, a former prosecutor known for sharp questioning during Senate hearings, are both seen as polished communicators.
    A Biden campaign official said Harris has prepared for Pence to attack her as too liberal, echoing Trump's assertion that the moderate Biden will advance a "radical left-wing" agenda if elected.
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