- Pence, Harris are meeting for the sole vice presidential debate of the 2020 campaign. Susan Page of USA Today will moderate the debate from Salt Lake City, Utah. Their meeting comes amid President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Plexiglass has been installed between the candidates as a precaution. Trump and Joe Biden are scheduled to debate for a second time on October 15 in Miami, Florida.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris, with Al Jazeera Americas senior editor Jennifer Glasse, political editor Steve Chaggaris, William Roberts, Creede Newton and debate analyst Alan Schroeder.
20:35 ET – Inside the debate hall
Tonight’s debate is taking place in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and the pool reporter inside the hall describes the set up there: “The stage is set up with three desks and chairs set about 12 feet apart for the two candidates and the moderator, separated by plexiglass screens. … Some 20 seats for guests are set up in front of the stage, at least 6 ft apart.”
A member of the production staff holds a seating chart while putting labels on chairs socially distanced from each other ahead of the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah [Julio Cortez/AP Photo]The University of Utah selected 60 students via a lottery to sit in the audience, and the tickets they distributed included a liability waiver for the Commission on Presidential Debates and the university regarding coronavirus: “The ticket holder relieves the CPD and the event site host of any and all liability … including in the event of … sickness (including Covid-19).
20:10 ET – This is the third male-female VP debate; the first had some tension
In 1984, the first-ever general election debate between male and female candidates proved treacherous for then-vice president George HW Bush, AlJazeera.com debate analyst Alan Schroeder notes. About halfway through the debate, opponent Geraldine Ferraro delivered a soundbite that resonated with millions of American women: “I almost resent, Vice President Bush, your patronising attitude that you have to teach me about foreign policy.”
For the remainder of the debate, Bush never regained his footing.
Vice President George HW Bush, left, shakes hands with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro before the beginning of their debate in Philadelphia, October 11, 1984 [File: Gene J Puskar/AP Photo] 20:00 ET – Women organize watch parties to root for Harris
Various women’s groups around the US will gather as Kamala Harris, the first woman of colour on a major ticket takes the debate stage tonight.
Activist groups, college associations and individuals around the country have organised mostly online “watch parties” as Harris debates US Vice President Mike Pence.
“I really can tell that Kamala is ready,” said Rahdiah Barnes, the president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications in New York, which pushes for diversity in media, and has organised a watch party. “This is history. She has something to prove, and I’ve heard her say a couple of things over the past couple days, so I can know that she’s getting ready for war.”
19:45 ET – Battling over details in the time of coronavirus
Vice President Pence’s campaign initially rejected the proposal to have plexiglass barriers between the candidates, as a coronavirus precaution, but later relented.
Pre-debate haggling about production details dates all the way back to the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates, points out AlJazeera.com debate analyst Alan Schroeder. In past years, on-site negotiators have battled about lighting, lecterns, room temperature, reaction shots – even the colour of the background. Who could have imagined that in 2020 the dispute would involve plexiglass?
Members of the production crew stand 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, October 6, 2020, in Salt Lake City [Patrick Semansky/AP Photo] 19:30 ET – Tonight’s debate takes on heightened importance
Even if Donald Trump had not become the international poster child for COVID-19, he was always destined to loom over the vice-presidential debate, especially after his disastrous opening encounter with Joe Biden, writes presidential debate expert Alan Schroeder.
Now, the president’s illness – and the uncertainty shrouding the state of his health – presents Republican running mate Mike Pence with a tricky challenge. It also complicates the task of Democratic nominee Kamala Harris, leaving her with a delicate line to walk. Even in absentia, even from his sickbed, Trump commands centre stage at the vice-presidential debate.