Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence will face his Democrat rival, Senator Kamala Harris, in the first and only vice presidential debate.
The vice presidential debate takes place in Utah at 9 p.m. ET. Many in the media have referred to this debate as having the highest stakes for two reasons: President Trump’s COVID diagnosis has made many people unsure about whether another presidential debate will take place, and because the two presidential candidates are two of the oldest men to ever run for president.
According to CNN, “Pence and Harris share tickets with two of the oldest men to run for president — the 74-year-old Trump and the 77-year-old Democratic nominee, Joe Biden — putting an extra emphasis on their roles as the second in command.”
1) Safety Protocols and Their Implications
With COVID being in the forefront of everyone’s mind due to the president and many other Republicans being diagnosed in the last week, increased precautions will be taken at the debate.
A number of changes are being made to the typical safety protocols, including keeping the two debaters 12 feet apart, using plexiglass as barriers between them, and requiring everyone in the audience to wear masks.
Many Democrats have tried to use the recent COVID outbreak in Washington as an excuse to cancel the debate. Joe Biden even joined in on these calls in relation to the presidential debate, stating “I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate,” despite the fact that the president has already been released from the hospital and is reportedly not feeling sick anymore.
Jesse Schonau, Mike Pence’s physician, released a memo on Tuesday which stated that the vice president does not need to quarantine, as he was not a “close contact” of anyone who has tested positive. Pence has had several negative COVID tests.
Despite the fact that President Trump and Vice President Pence have tried to avoid making COVID the center of their campaign, these changes may do just that. Pence attempted to challenge the installation of the plexiglass barriers, but eventually agreed to the installation.
Trump has cast his COVID diagnosis and recovery as a bonus, showing himself to be a fearless leader who took on the virus and won. Democrats and the media have tried two tactics against his COVID diagnosis: some are claiming that he is lying about having COVID, and some are claiming that he is actually so sick he may be dying.
Regardless of the Democrats’ theories about Trump’s COVID diagnosis, this may be a difficult subject to talk about at the debates.
If Kamala Harris pushes too hard about Trump catching the virus, she may be seen by undecided voters as being overly cruel towards someone who is suffering. Harris will have to draw a strong connection between the president’s handling of the virus and the outbreak within his administration.
Mike Pence may have to tread lightly on the subject as well, as he will most likely have to answer for the fact that Republicans who have pushed back against wearing masks are now becoming sick. Pence will also have to stand up for his administration’s handling of the pandemic, which may be called into question due to recent events.
3) Pence needs to project calm
Mike Pence will need to project calm after the chaotic week for the Trump campaign, as well as the first presidential debate. President Trump has been, and likely will always be, a bombastic man without a filter. Pence has long been viewed as the calm, collected vice president cast to balance out Trump’s personality.
As many suburban housewives and independent voters are turned off by the president’s attitude, it will be up to Pence to sway these voters into choosing Trump despite their misgivings.
According to people who know Pence well, is one of the most skilled politicians at redirecting a question to a topic he wishes to focus on.
“Mike is a good debater. On certain questions that he gets, if he doesn’t want to answer it, he is just a master at not answering it and pivoting to talking points,” said John Gregg, a Democrat from Indiana who went to law school with Pence, and also ran against him for governor in 2012.
4) Harris’ Record
As many people remember, Tulsi Gabbard destroyed Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign during the Democrat primary debates by describing her record as a prosecutor.
Gabbard brought up the time that Harris blocked DNA evidence from being used to free an innocent man on death row, until she was forced to allow it by the court.
“She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep the cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way,” Gabbard said.
These pieces of Harris’ record do not sit well with many on the left, who are pushing to defund police and dismantle the criminal justice system. Those on the right also denounce these actions, as they support the rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system.
Harris also raised her hand at the debate when the moderator asked who’s healthcare plan would eliminate private insurance. She has since attempted to walk back her support for Medicare-for-all, but has flip flopped on the issue multiple times.
Pence will have to bring these facts to the debate, and really push Harris on the issues.
5) Unanswered questions
During the first presidential debate, Biden refused to answer a question about court packing, or increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Many Democrats have come out in favor of this as a response to the possibility of Amy Coney Barrett being nominated to the Supreme Court, which would give conservatives a 6-3 majority.
Biden also refused to respond to a question about whether he would support abolishing the filibuster if Democrats gain control of the Senate.
Since President Trump could not get Biden to answer these questions, and Chris Wallace as a moderator didn’t even push the questions, it may be up to Mike Pence to get Kamala Harris to answer for Biden. Pence will also have to push Harris to admit her far-left leanings, as Joe Biden has attempted to portray himself as a moderate, and tried to avoid the fact that he is representing a party which has moved closer to the radical progressive left in the past few years.
Pence will also have to answer for President Trump’s recent tweets about the second economic stimulus package.
The president’s first tweet states that he is going to stop negotiating with Democrats about a second stimulus bill until after the election. Democrats have tried to portray this as Trump withholding stimulus funds from the American people, ignoring the first half of the tweet which states that “Nancy Pelosi is asking for $2.4 Trillion Dollars to bailout poorly run, high crime, Democrat States, money that is in no way related to COVID-19. We made a very generous offer of $1.6 Trillion Dollars and, as usual, she is not negotiating in good faith.” With that statement included, it is obvious that the president is giving up on talks because the Democrats refuse to compromise and focus on the American people, and instead want to include funds for their own benefits that have nothing to do with the actual subject of the bill.
…request, and looking to the future of our Country. I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business. I have asked…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
President Trump makes this obvious with a later tweet where he states: “If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?”
If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy? @MarkMeadows @senatemajldr @kevinomccarthy @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Mike Pence will likely be asked about this issue, as the American people are still suffering from the economic effects of the virus and subsequent lockdowns. The vice president will have to answer for the way Trump’s tweets were portrayed in the media to the American people.