The first and only vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris will take place on Wednesday, October 7, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
It follows last week’s chaotic presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which devolved into personal attacks, frequent interruptions and little substantive debate on the issues plaguing a divided nation.
Following that first debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates released a statement saying additional structure needs to be added to the remaining debates to “ensure a more orderly discussion” for the “benefit of the American electorate.” The commission has not yet announced what those changes will be.
Mitchell S. McKinney, presidential debate expert and director of the Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri, said the debate is likely to be the most viewed and most consequential vice presidential debate in history.
“There was already heightened interest in this vice presidential debate with the inclusion of the first female candidate of color, Kamala Harris,” McKinney said. “Now, with the ongoing concern focused on both presidential candidates following President Trump’s positive coronavirus test, Americans will be anxious to hear from these running mates, who could possibly be required to assume the presidency themselves.”
Here’s how to watch.
When is the debate?
The vice presidential debate will run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET without commercial breaks.
How to watch the debate
The vice presidential debate can be viewed on CNN, Fox News, CBS, ABC, C-SPAN, NBC and MSNBC.
Who is moderating the debate?
Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, will be moderating the vice presidential debate.
What is the debate format?
The debate will be divided into nine 10-minute segments, each focused on a major topic.
Page will open each segment with a question and Harris and Pence will each have two minutes to respond. Then, the candidates will have the opportunity to respond to each other. The moderator will use the rest of the time to prompt deeper discussion, according to the commission.
On October 2, Trump announced that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 — days after he stood on a debate stage with Biden. More than a dozen people in the president’s family and close circle have also tested positive in recent days. As a result, Pence — who tested negative — will stand 12 feet away from Harris on the debate stage, rather than the seven feet as initially planned. Politico reported that there are also plans to put plexiglass between the two vice presidential candidates.
What are the debate topics?
Page has not yet announced which topics will be discussed.
However, the conversation will likely include how the Trump administration has responded to the coronavirus pandemic, which has now infected more than 7.4 million Americans. More than half of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the virus, which — in addition to being a public health crisis — has sent the nation into a recession.
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In the lead-up to November 3, the candidates are likely to discuss the integrity of the election. During the first presidential debate, Trump claimed without evidence that there could be rampant voter fraud, warning against mail-in voting. There are ongoing concerns about online misinformation, poll workers facing shifting election rules and an incumbent president who won’t guarantee a peaceful transfer of power.
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Pence and Harris might also discuss the Supreme Court following Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett who is poised to fill Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s vacant seat. Republicans have been aiming to fast-track Barrett’s confirmation while Democrats have opposed the move. As COVID-19 spreads among Senate Republicans, efforts to confirm Barrett ahead of the November election could be derailed.
When are the next presidential debates?
Trump’s condition could potentially force the cancelation of the two remaining presidential debates.
For now, the second presidential debate is still scheduled for Thursday, October 15, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. The final presidential debate is set for Thursday, October 22, at Belmont University in Nashville.