What to know before the lone debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris


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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (NEXSTAR) — From the moment Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., was selected as Joe Biden’s Democratic running mate, liberals have had the calendar marked for the Oct. 7 vice presidential debate.

The first-term senator from California has earned a reputation for carrying her litigation skills into Senate committee hearings, where she has created soundbites grilling Bill Barr, Mark Zuckerberg and others. Harris will attempt to prosecute the failures of the Trump administration as Pence, a former conservative radio host, builds a case to give the Trump-Pence ticket four more years in office.

Wednesday’s debate will be broadcast on all major networks, WGN America and streamed on our website beginning at 9 p.m. ET. It’s the only time these two candidates will debate before the Nov. 3 election. It will also be the first debate since President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The debate takes on perhaps more significance than a typical vice presidential debate in the wake of the president’s hospitalization. Both Trump, 74, and Biden, 77, are of an age that presents added risk during recovery. Either candidate could be asked to assume the powers of the presidency in the months ahead.

As a precaution, Harris and Pence will debate with a plexiglass shield between them to guard against coronavirus transmission.

The Biden-Harris campaign requested a plexiglass shield, and the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed to it. That’s according to a campaign aide with knowledge of the request who was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The debate in Salt Lake City is likely to produce the largest audience exposure of the campaign for the two supporting candidates. As the moderator, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page will hope to keep the nominees on topic, a task that proved difficult for Fox News’ Chris Wallace last week.

It’s not the first time plexiglass will be used in a debate as a virus precaution. Democrat Jaime Harrison used a plexiglass partition during his Saturday debate against Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.

A second debate between President Trump and Biden is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 15. It remains to be seen whether that event will remain as scheduled in some form.

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