As the coronavirus sweeps through the upper reaches of government, Republican Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic challenger Kamala Harris face off Wednesday night in a debate highlighting the parties’ sharply conflicting visions for a nation in crisis.
The candidates will be separated by plexiglass barriers in an auditorium where any guest who refuses to wear a face mask will be removed, an extraordinary backdrop for the only vice presidential debate of 2020.
Ultimately, the prime-time meeting is a chance for voters to decide whether Pence or Harris, a U.S. senator from California, is ready to assume the duties of the presidency before the end of the next term. It’s hardly a theoretical question: President Donald Trump, 74, is recovering from the coronavirus, and 77-year-old Joe Biden has not been infected but would be the oldest president ever.
For those reasons and more, the debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City may be the most meaningful vice presidential debate in recent memory. It comes at a precarious moment for the Republicans in particular, with growing concern that Trump’s position is weakening as more than a dozen senior officials across the White House, the Pentagon and inside his