People Will Be Watching Tonight Because of Kamala

The rundown on Wednesday's vice presidential debate
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 7, 2020 4:58 AM CDT
Updated Oct 7, 2020 7:05 AM CDT
People Will Be Watching Tonight Because of Kamala
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at a drive-in campaign event Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

(Newser) – As Quartz notes, vice presidential debates are not typically a huge draw for audiences—but that could very well change this year, thanks to the participation of Kamala Harris. While VP debates typically bring in significantly lower ratings than presidential debates, the debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden got higher ratings than any of the debates that year between the presidential nominees (not to mention the highest ratings for any VP debate, ever). The second-highest ratings for a VP debate? The 1984 debate between George HW Bush and Geraldine Ferraro, the only other one to feature a female candidate. Add to that the fact that Harris is known as an accomplished debater and has already been at the center of several viral debate moments from this year's Democratic primary, and the Wednesday night ratings could be pretty darn good. More on the debate:

  • Who is the moderator? USA Today's longtime bureau chief Susan Page. The Los Angeles Times has an extensive piece on the "veteran White House reporter, who has covered six administrations and 11 national campaigns." She's also the author of a Barbara Bush biography and has a book on Nancy Pelosi coming out next year, and is a frequent panelist on political roundtable shows. The article notes she's the first print journalist to moderate a televised debate since 1976.

  • Safety precautions: Harris and Mike Pence will be 12 feet, 3 inches apart on the stage, separated by a plexiglass shield, and will not come any closer than that for a physical greeting. The New York Times notes that while Pence's team objected to the barrier, by late Tuesday it had acquiesced. Both candidates will also be tested for the virus prior to the debate; while Pence has had multiple negative tests in recent days, he had frequent interactions with multiple White House advisers who have since been diagnosed with COVID, and experts warn the incubation period can be as long as 14 days. Event organizers will escort out any audience members not wearing a mask.
  • What to expect: Per Fox News, don't anticipate a repeat of the "chaotic" first Trump-Biden debate; pundits expect this one to be "more sane." Tim Kaine, of course, debated Pence during the 2016 campaign; he tells the New York Times, "Pence is a professional communicator. He was a radio talk show host before he was in politics, so he can deliver a line. And, I think it’s frustrating when you’re onstage with somebody who’s delivering a line that’s false. But he does it—he can do it very, very well." Read his full interview here.
  • What to expect, part 2: Harris' former chief of staff tells the AP he hopes she won't be forced into too conservative a stance: "Overly scripting Kamala Harris is tantamount to removing five bullets out of her gun before you walk into a gun fight."
  • When, where, and how to watch: The debate starts at 9pm Eastern time in Salt Lake City, Utah, and will run for 90 minutes with no commercial breaks. CNET has a rundown on how to watch it.
  • As for the final two presidential debates: They're scheduled for Oct. 15 and 22, but it's still not clear whether President Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the larger White House coronavirus outbreak will impact them. Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that if Trump is still positive for the virus, next week's debate should be canceled, Fox News reports. Biden added that he is looking forward to the debate, should it happen: "I’ll do whatever the experts say is appropriate for me to do. Listen to the science. If scientists say that it’s safe ... then I think that’s fine." Sources tell the NYT a virtual debate is being considered, and some close to Trump say the POTUS has suggested an outdoor debate.
  • Speaking of that outbreak: The very helpful WH Covid Tracker is tracking those whose infections have been publicly confirmed; check it out on Twitter.
(Read more Election 2020 stories.)

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