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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.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence offered a vigorous defense of the Second Amendment in an address to the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas.

Pence pointed to the Trump administration’s work to address school security and support for changes to the background check system, as well as arming teachers.

The vice president said “the quickest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

He faulted media outlets for not telling “the whole story about firearms in America” and the role of “firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens” making communities safer.

Pence was speaking ahead of President Donald Trump’s address to the NRA.

Pence is the former governor of Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak in Indianapolis at the end of April.

According to the group America First Policies, the former Indiana governor will be appearing at an event to talk taxes.

The group says Pence will address the impact of the recent tax code overhaul.

The event is set for 10:30 a.m., but a location has not yet been announced.

The event details say attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

You can register and reserve up to two tickets here.

President Donald Trump plans to send Vice President Mike Pence to an upcoming summit in South America the president has decided to skip.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Tuesday that Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia as planned. Pence will travel to the summit in his place, but will not go to Colombia.

Pence’s deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, said in a statement that Pence is “honored” to attend the summit, adding that last year he “traveled to the region to meet with the Presidents of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Panama to increase the pressure against the Maduro regime and negotiate better trade deals that benefit American workers.”

Sanders said Trump has decided to stay in the United States to “oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.” This marks the first time an American president has not attended the summit, which was first held in 1994 and is scheduled to begin April 13.

The decision came after an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria. Trump has vowed to respond “forcefully,” warning that Russia or any other nation found to share responsibility will “pay a price.”

White House officials said the decision to miss the summit was made Monday, adding that the raid of the office of Trump attorney Michael Cohen was not a factor in the decision. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.

Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, advocated that Trump stay in Washington in the aftermath of the attack, said one of the officials.

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordan’s king appealed Sunday to Vice President Mike Pence to “rebuild trust and confidence” in the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, following fallout from the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pence tried to reassure the monarch that the U.S. was committed to restarting peace efforts and to a two-state solution, if both sides agree. Such a caveat deviates from long-standing U.S. support for that approach as the only possible outcome of any peace deal.

Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem last month infuriated the Palestinians, who seek the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as a future capital. They accused the U.S. of siding with Israel and said Washington can no longer serve as a mediator.

Jerusalem is the emotional centerpiece of the long-running conflict, and Trump’s policy shift set off protests and condemnation across Arab and Muslim countries.

It posed a dilemma for Abdullah, a staunch U.S. ally who derives his political legitimacy in large part from the Hashemite dynasty’s role as guardian of a key Muslim site in Jerusalem. Any perceived threat to Muslim claims in the city is seen as a challenge to Jordan, where a large segment of the population is of Palestinian origin.

Pence told the king that the U.S. has committed “to continue to respect Jordan’s role as the custodian of holy sites, that we take no position on boundaries and final status.” It was a message Pence relayed Saturday in talks with Egypt’s president.

Later, after meeting U.S. troops near the Syrian border, Pence said he and Abdullah had “a very frank discussion.”

“Look, friends occasionally have disagreements and we agreed to disagree on the decision by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But what we agreed on was the need for all parties to come back to the table,” Pence said.

“The Palestinian Authority has been absent from direct negotiations since 2014. And I hope I impressed upon King Abdullah our earnest desire to restart the peace process,” Pence said.

Abdullah expressed concerns about the regional fallout from the Jerusalem decision.

“Today we have a major challenge to overcome, especially with some of the rising frustrations,” he said. He described the Pence visit as a mission “to rebuild trust and confidence” in getting to a two-state solution, in which a state of Palestine would be established in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967.

Another cause of concern for Jordan is the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Jordan vehemently opposes such a move if taken ahead of an Israeli-Palestinian partition deal.

Israel views Jerusalem as its unified capital.

An international consensus has long held that the city’s final status should be decided through negotiations, which was also U.S. policy going back decades.

Palestinians view Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a blatantly one-sided move.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not meet with Trump administration officials and called off a meeting with Pence that had been scheduled for mid-December.

In a new expression of that snub, Abbas overlapped with Pence in Jordan from Saturday evening to midday Sunday, when the Palestinian leader flew to Brussels for a meeting with European Union foreign ministers Monday. There, Abbas is expected to urge EU member states to recognize a state of Palestine in the pre-1967 lines, and to step up involvement in mediation.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an Abbas adviser, reiterated that “the U.S. is no longer acceptable as a mediator.”

Pence was scheduled to hold meetings on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, deliver an address to the Knesset and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Netanyahu called Pence “a great friend of Israel” and said there was “no alternative for American leadership” in the peace process. “Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace – does not want peace,” he said at a meeting of ambassadors in Jerusalem.

Palestinians in the West Bank protested Pence’s arrival by burning posters with his image on them.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Mike Pence is making his fourth visit to Israel, returning to a region he’s visited “a million times” in his heart.

An evangelical Christian with strong ties to the Holy Land, Pence this time comes packing two key policy decisions in his bags that have long been top priorities for him: designating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and curtailing aid for Palestinians.

Pence departed as scheduled Friday evening as U.S. lawmakers sought to avert a federal government shutdown at midnight. Alyssa Farah, a Pence spokeswoman, said the trip was “integral to America’s national security and diplomatic objectives” and would go on as scheduled. Pence was set to depart Friday evening, and Air Force Two was expected to land in Ireland for a refueling stop early Saturday en route to Cairo.

Since his days in Congress a decade ago, Pence has played a role in pushing both for the shift in U.S. policy related to the capital and for placing limits on funding for Palestinian causes long criticized by Israel.

Traveling to Israel just as Palestinians have condemned recent decisions by President Donald Trump’s administration, Pence will arrive in the region as a longtime stalwart supporter of Israel who has questioned the notion of the U.S. serving as an “honest broker” in the stalled peace process.

“The United States certainly wants to be honest, but we don’t want to be a broker,” Pence once told the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2010. “A broker doesn’t take sides. A broker negotiates between parties of equals.”

The vice president will hold four days of meetings in Egypt, Jordan and Israel during his visit, the first to the region by a senior administration official since Trump announced plans in December to designate Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and begin the process of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv, angering Palestinian leaders.

His trip will also follow Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S. is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Both decisions have come as Trump has expressed frustration over a lack of progress in restarting peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who withdrew plans to meet with Pence during his visit to the Middle East.

Senior White House officials said security issues, countering terrorism and efforts to push back against Iran would figure prominently during Pence’s trip, which concludes on Tuesday. But the vice president also is expected to face questions about Israel’s future.

On the embassy, Pence played a steady role in pushing for the shift in U.S. policy. The decision upended past U.S. views that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Pence had wanted the Trump administration to convey “a clear-cut policy” on Jerusalem after the president asked him last summer to visit the Middle East, White House officials have said.

Pence discussed the issue with Jewish and evangelical leaders in the months leading up to the decision and advocated for the plan within the administration. But he noted to religious leaders late last year that the decision was the president’s alone and would fulfill a commitment from the 2016 campaign.

Pence has long aligned himself with Israel.

In Congress, he pushed for limiting U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority during the presidency of George W. Bush, warning the funding could be redirected to groups like the militant Hamas movement, which controls Gaza.

He was a vocal advocate for Israel’s security fence and co-sponsored the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act in 2011 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. Veteran House members recall Pence’s role as a staunch ally of Israeli causes and his steadfast support for moving the embassy to Jerusalem at times when few were talking about the issue.

As Indiana’s governor, Pence signed a bill requiring the state to divest from any business that engaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement – a grassroots international boycott movement against Israel.

Kenneth Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, said it has been “central to his political life from the absolute outset, from when he first ran for Congress – it’s something that’s central to who he is, to what he believes in.”

Pence traveled to Israel for the first time as an Indiana congressman in January 2004, joining a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis. He placed a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and visited the Western Wall, both of which are on Pence’s itinerary again next week, and he had a private meeting with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Doug Rose, a philanthropist in Indianapolis, flew with Pence on his 2004 trip to Israel and recalled him being deeply affected by the experience. “How could you not be moved?” Rose said of their site visits.

Pence told the Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion after his 2004 trip that he was often asked if he had been to Israel before, “and my response was, ‘Only in my dreams.’ I was raised an evangelical Christian and tried to read the Bible every day, so in my mind and in my heart I have been there a million times.”

Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has drawn protests from Middle Eastern leaders and prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to pull out of a planned meeting with Pence in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem. Administration officials said Pence is not expected to meet with Palestinian leaders during the trip.

Pence remains popular with evangelical voters in the U.S., a large and influential constituency that helped propel Trump to victory in last year’s election. American evangelicals, especially the older generation, have a strong affinity for Israel, drawn both on spiritual grounds and a genuine love for the modern-day country and the Jewish people.

“From our very first meeting, I knew this was a man deeply committed to standing with Israel,” said the Rev. John Hagee, founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, whose organization helped pay for a portion of Pence’s trip to Israel with family members in 2014.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the U.S.-born founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a charity that raises tens of millions of dollars for Israeli causes from American evangelicals, said Pence’s upcoming visit should go over well with evangelicals and help shore up their support for the Trump administration.

“He’s an extension of evangelicalism and evangelical feelings for Israel, and its history,” Eckstein said. “Trump doesn’t have that history. Pence has that history of being pro-Israel.”

JERUSALEM (AP) – Mike Pence’s office on Monday said the U.S. vice president still plans on visiting Israel this month, despite an apparent delay in the schedule.

Pence had been scheduled to come during the week of Jan. 14. But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that the visit was no longer on its schedule for January.

Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon gave no reason for the apparent delay, but said it was still possible that Pence could still decide to come. “It’s not on our schedule,” he said. “We can always adapt it and change it.”

Later Monday, Pence’s deputy chief of staff, Jarrod Agen, said the visit was still on. “As we said, we are going later this month,” he said, without providing specific dates. Agen also said that Pence is still planning to go to Egypt.

Pence had been scheduled to visit Israel last month but called off the trip at late notice and said he would come instead in January.

The official reason for the delay was the Senate tax vote. But it also followed region-wide uproar over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians, who seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, canceled a planned pre-Christmas meeting with Pence in the biblical town of Bethlehem to protest Trump’s decision.

Leading Muslim and Christian clerics in neighboring Egypt also said they would refuse to meet with Pence during a planned stop in Cairo.

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Neighbors of the home where Vice President Mike Pence has been staying in Colorado this week have a message.

They’ve placed a rainbow-colored banner on a stone pillar at the end of the driveways to both homes near the posh ski resort of Aspen. The banner reads “Make America Gay Again” – a play on President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Michael Buglione tells the Aspen Times that Secret Service agents weren’t bothered by the sign.

Pence has described himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” He has opposed legislation prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the workplace.

Pence and his family arrived in the Aspen area Tuesday and plan to leave Monday.

COLUMBUS, Ind. (The Republic) – Vice President Mike Pence returned to his hometown of Columbus on Saturday aboard Air Force 2, just in time for Christmas.

The former Indiana governor and his wife, Karen Pence, arrived at 3:33 p.m., touching down at Columbus Municipal Airport. Pence held the leash of a family dog as he departed the plane and waved to onlookers. After mingling a bit on the tarmac, the Pences left the airport 13 minutes later in a black sport-utility vehicle, although their next destination was not known.

Pence’s mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, and two of his brothers, Greg and Ed, live in Columbus area, along with their spouses. The White House did not announce the vice president’s weekend schedule ahead of his trip to Columbus.

In a Saturday morning tweet, Pence sent out a Christmas message to the nation: “No matter your belief may you find renewed strength this season. For all who in the coming days will look to a manger & claim the promise announced on a Holy Night of peace on Earth & good will toward men – from the First Family, my family & families across America: Merry Christmas.”

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence asked small businesses across Indiana how tax cuts could benefit them, at a round table discussion in Plainfield.

Five businesses answered questions about what they’d do with extra money and what impact the cuts would have on business.

The forum took place at TKO Graphix, a longstanding business in Plainfield.

Watch the video to hear from the Hoosier businesses about the impact of tax reform.