INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Wednesday night, the vice presidential candidates will face off for the first time. The 90-minute debate will take place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The moderator will be Susan Page of USA Today.
For voters still making their decision on a presidential nominee, this debate could be crucial. With the pandemic, the age of both candidates and the president recently being in the hospital with coronavirus, political experts in Indianapolis said more people will be closely watching this debate for vice president.
“Not to be glib, but in many ways, the vice president’s sole responsibility is to have a pulse and to be ready to assume the office of the presidency, if necessary. And given the age and the pandemic and specifically the president’s current diagnoses, this really raises the stakes in what we are looking for in a vice president,” said Greg Shufeldt, an assistant professor of Political Science at Butler University.
Political science professors from the University of Indianapolis and Butler University said that currently, the job of the vice president is amplified.
“When we look at both of the candidates for president, they are certainly older men. And so, the question of whether or not the vice president would ever have to step in, the role that they would play in that, I think is certainly of interest to the American public,” said Laura Wilson, an associate professor of Political Science at the University of Indianapolis.
Both President Donald Trump and Democrat nominee Joe Biden are in their 70s. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a real risk to their health.
While typically voters don’t put as much weight into the vice presidential debate, the role could mean more this year. Hoosiers will likely want to hear from Vice President Mike Pence, however, he’s better known in Indiana and Hoosier voters will likely get to know Senator Kamala Harris during the debate.
Debate moderator, Susan Page, told news organizations that the debate will cover nine topics but did not elaborate on what those topics would be.
Democratic candidate Senator Kamala Harris will make history as the first black and south Asian woman to participate in a general election debate. She has been preparing in Salt Lake City since Saturday. An anonymous campaign aide said Harris plans to focus on what the campaign considers the failures of leadership by the Trump-Pence administration and what she calls the administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus.
Vice President Mike Pence’s team has not discussed his strategy as openly, however, they noted that he is “thorough” in everything he does. A former aide said Pence is “meticulously on-message” and that he will give a “measured” approach to answering questions.
Pandemic precautions will be in place. Both candidates will be tested before the debate. There will be no handshake between the two candidates. Everyone in the debate hall will wear a mask, including the moderator. Pence and Harris will not wear a mask but will have plexiglass separating them.
For both parties, the candidates are a glimpse at the future and possible presidential nominees in 2024. Plus, political experts said they think more people will pay attention to the VP debate because it will be focused on policy.
“Given the last debate people are very hungry and interested in not in the argument chaos and confusion – but really hearing where the candidates and different parties stand on the major issues,” said Wilson.