SALT LAKE CITY — Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are set to meet Wednesday night at the University of Utah in the vice presidential debate as both candidates face intensified pressure to demonstrate they are prepared to step in as commander in chief.
The vice presidential debate typically draws little fanfare, Pence and Harris will be examined by voters who are choosing between two senior citizens for president.
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis last week sparked questions over the transferral of the powers of the presidency. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said he sees himself as a “bridge” to the next generation of Democrats, raising speculation as to whether he would seek a second term.
Regardless of who wins, Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, would both set a new record for the oldest president on to take the oath on inauguration day.
The 90-minute debate will be moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page and will begin at 9:00 p.m. ET. It is the only vice presidential debate of the 2020 presidential campaign.
The debate will be divided into nine segments of approximately 10 minutes each and there will be no commercial breaks. Topics are not being disclosed ahead of time.
Harris will also make history as the first Black woman and the first Asian American to participate in a general election debate as a candidate on a major-party ticket.
While Trump’s diagnosis is expected to hang over the debate hall, Wednesday’s event will also feature a visual reminder of the ongoing pandemic and the nearly 20 people tied to Trump who have tested positive for the virus in the past few days.
Sheets of plexiglass will separate the two candidates on the stage, an extra safety measure that Harris requested because of Pence’s potential exposure to Trump. There was some concern that Trump could have infected Biden during last week’s debate. Biden has consistently tested negative.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that the candidates would also be separated by more than 12 feet, an increase from the 7 feet that kept Trump and Biden apart.
Masks are also required by all attendees except for the candidates and the moderator. The CPD has indicated that the mask requirement will be enforced on Wednesday, following last week’s debate when members of the Trump family ignored the rule.
Both Pence and Harris have tested negative for Covid-19 multiple days in a row, according to their campaigns.