All this makes the stakes especially high for Vice President Pence, 61, and Sen. Kamala Harris, 55, who will face off tonight for the first time to defend the policies and records of their candidates. These are some key measures of success for both sides, according to sources close to both campaigns:
Can Pence spin the White House coronavirus outbreak that infected at least 18 people in contact with Trump?
Trump’s No. 2 – and head of the White House coronavirus task force – will almost certainly be forced to address the outbreak that’s ensnared the president, along with the administration’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States. “Pence’s challenge is to explain what happened in the last few days and defend it,” a Trump campaign source told Power Up.
- “You wonder why [Trump’s] numbers with seniors are hurting? You have to show you care,” the source said. “There’s probably a way to get them back because they probably don’t want to vote for Biden but they want Trump to acknowledge that he gets it.”
- Still, some questions could be nearly impossible for Pence to answer – namely, the potential exposure of Trump’s supporters: “I can basically defend anything about the White House and coronavirus except for them allowing Trump to go to Bedminster – I’m sorry but there is no good spin on that specific point,” the source added.
- Trump mingled with more than 200 people at his New Jersey golf club last Thursday, hours before he tested positive – and after knowing he was exposed to the virus.
Will Pence – and the Trump team – take more safety precautions at the debate this time?
Trump’s family was criticized for taking off their masks at least week’s presidential debate. Now that six of the eight members of Trump’s debate prep team have tested positive so far, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and campaign manager Bill Stepien, a public show of masks and distancing could go a long way to show the White House takes the virus seriously.
- Yet Pence’s team fought hard against the wall of plexiglass that will divide the candidates on the Salt Lake City debate stage – and traveled to the debate yesterday with his spokeswoman Katie Miller whose husband, top White House aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for coronavirus last night.
Making things more complicated: Questions about whether Pence himself is at risk are already taking center stage. Pence’s doctor released a statement that the vice president’s coronavirus PCR test came out negative yesterday afternoon and therefore is “encouraged to go about his normal activities and does not need to quarantine.”
Pence’s clean up of Trump’s coronavirus messaging could be critical on the campaign trail: Trump’s advisers, staffers, and allies see the president’s response to his own diagnosis “as a missed opportunity,” our colleagues Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report. “Some had hoped that he would emerge from his hospital stay slightly