The 2020 US Vice Presidential Debate: What to Expect

Dubbed “the most important vice presidential debate in American history”, Harris and Pence will face off on 7 Oct.

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Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris are set to take the stage Wednesday night in a historical VP debate.
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Dubbed "the most important vice presidential debate in American history", Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris are all set to battle it out on stage on Wednesday, 7 October, addressing key issues like coronavirus and the US economy.

Often, the vice presidential debate flies easily under the radar during Presidential campaigns, but 2020 is different.

Against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Trump testing positive for the virus, Americans will be watching the VP debate with renewed awareness that one of those two individuals could easily become president, given that the deadly pandemic has proved to be particularly dangerous to older men – a demographic that fits the presidential candidates to a 'T'.

Ahead of the debate, VP Mike Pence, the head of the Coronavirus Task Force, tested negative for the virus after the breakout at the White House.

VP Pence is expected to continue arguing along the same lines as President Trump, perhaps with greater finesse, narrowing in on the Democratic support of the "radical left".
VP Pence is expected to continue arguing along the same lines as President Trump, perhaps with greater finesse, narrowing in on the Democratic support of the "radical left".
(Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen/IANS)

"In many ways, Mr Pence and Ms Harris are uniquely suited to do what the president could not in the first debate: be the adult in the room and one who demonstrates strength and compassion simultaneously," stated an analysis by the Brookings Institute.

"Mr Pence and Ms Harris have the opportunity to do something that the president and former vice president did not last week: be the presidential candidates America wants and needs right now."

On the night of the debate, Harris and Pence will be 12 feet apart instead of the original 7 feet, say reports. The Biden Campaign requested this change, which was later approved by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

When asked if the candidates will be required to take an on-site COVID-19 test, Shawn Wood, a debate host spokesman responded: “What I can say is we are requiring everyone to have a negative test before they enter the facilities, the debate hall, or the security perimeter.”

Wednesday will feature the first woman of colour ever to take the vice presidential debate stage.
Wednesday will feature the first woman of colour ever to take the vice presidential debate stage.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

In light of present events, it can be assessed the pandemic is not what the Republicans would like to focus on during the debate. Pence would like to talk about the US economy, and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the vacant US Supreme Court Seat.

"More likely, Pence will deliver the PG version of Trump's debate brief, argued with more finesse but still honing in on Biden as the vessel for the "radical left." Expect familiar themes on issues like "law and order" but a greater emphasis on who is best suited to lead an economic recovery", says CNN.

"Harris will come to promote Biden and his plans, but Pence likely will try to use her support in the Senate for progressive wish list items like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to define the ticket, forcing her to defend her past positions or embrace Biden's more moderate take on them," it further states.

"Even though it is a vice presidential debate, the debate is about Donald Trump and Joe Biden," said a Biden campaign aide. "And it is all about making the case for why we need Joe Biden in this moment and why Donald Trump has failed."

The vice presidential debate will be historic in another respect, featuring the first woman of colour ever to take the vice presidential debate stage. A former prosecutor, Harris, on the other hand, is known for her 'prosecutorial' style of debating.

There is popular opinion among Democrats that Harris, a very skilled inoculator, has a high chance of getting the better of Pence.

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