Campaign, party leaders preview vice presidential debate

Members of the production crew stand in on the stage near plexiglass barriers which will serve...
Members of the production crew stand in on the stage near plexiglass barriers which will serve as a way to protect the spread of COVID-19 as preparations take place for the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Salt Lake City. The vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is scheduled for Oct. 7. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)(Julio Cortez | AP)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 2:04 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are poised to face-off tonight in Salt Lake City, Utah for the first and only vice presidential debate.

This is the first debate since President Donald Trump and several members of his staff tested positive for the coronavirus. Pence, who recently had close contact with the President, has tested negative.

While debate moderator Susan Page has not publicly released tonight’s topics, the coronavirus discussion is expected to take center stage.

“The cavalier attitude about this coronavirus is a major reason why we are in still trouble,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. “We can’t fix the economy until we fix the coronavirus, and that’s what we are going to talk about tonight.”

Citing recent death toll data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Perez and other Democrats are criticizing the administration’s handling of the pandemic. Trump Campaign National Press Secretary Hogan Gidley says the Vice President is prepared to address the topic.

“The therapeutics are on track; the vaccine is on track,” said Gidley. “It’s good news but you can’t ignore how much death has occurred because of the this. The Vice President, I’m most sure, will talk about that tonight and how those families out there are grieving, but how help is on the way.”

Both candidates have agreed to take a few extra safety precautions at the University of Utah event. Pence and Harris will stand more than 12 feet apart, separated by plexiglass.

Campaign and party leaders say the candidates are also ready to discuss the Supreme Court opening.

President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Confirmation hearings are set to begin next week, despite the Democrat’s call to postpone until after the election.

“Having a full Supreme Court on the back side of the election is going to be important,” said Gidley. “If some of these cases go all the way up to that level, you need preventative measures for a 4-4 tie.”

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Harris will have the chance question Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Shortly after the election, the high court is scheduled to revisit Obamacare.

“Healthcare is not only on the ballot Nov 3rd, it’s on the docket of the Supreme Court one week later,” said Perez. “We will be talking about that tonight.”

The United States Election Project estimates more than 4 million votes have already been cast in the November election. Evidence suggests debates do not tilt elections or individual votes, although experts say this is the most highly anticipated vice presidential debate in recent memory.

Harris is making history as the first Black and South Asian woman to participate in a general election presidential campaign debate.

The event is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET.

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