(SALT LAKE CITY) — With plexiglass and more than 12 feet of distance separating them, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Sen. Kamala Harris of California debated in Salt Lake City in the first and only one-on-one matchup between the vice presidential candidates.

The showdown came as President Donald Trump and several in his orbit have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, raising questions on a transfer of power to the vice president were Trump at 74 — or Democratic nominee Joe Biden at 77 — become too ill to serve.

The debate’s format was divided into nine 10-minute sections with each candidate having two minutes to respond to the opening question in each segment and the remaining time allowed for follow ups. Moderator Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, did not release the topics in advance.

The sole vice presidential debate follows Trump and Biden’s chaotic debate last week in Cleveland.

Here is how the news developed Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Oct 08, 12:04 am
Pence, Harris dodge debate questions

ABC News Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl said both candidates showed their differences from Trump on the stage in terms of their demeanor, noting Pence started off by commending Harris for making history on the ticket.

But Karl also said there were missed opportunities to press the candidates for follow-up questions when, at times, they skirted around giving direct answers.

“It was also somewhat maddening at times to see both of them avoid answering basic questions and not really seeing enough of a follow up, but especially Mike Pence,” Karl said. “Mike Pence has an amazing ability not to answer a direct question, and you really have to press, and there was no real opportunity to do it here.”

Harris dodged a question from Pence earlier on packing the Supreme Court, while Pence would not answer whether he believes in man-made climate change, among other questions.

Oct 07, 11:23 pm
Final candidate speaking times

ABC News calculated of the candidate’s approximate speaking times during more than 90 minutes on the debate stage:

Pence: 35:22
Harris: 38:48

ABC News also calculated the approximate speaking times spent on each topic including moderator speaking time:

COVID-19: 11:58
Role of the vice president: 9:27
Economy: 9:20
Climate change: 9:23
Foreign policy: 12:34
Supreme Court: 10:02
Race: 10:35
State of the election: 6:52

Oct 07, 11:20 pm
Trump tweets Pence ‘WON BIG!’

Shortly after the debate wrapped, Trump — known to enjoy his time in front of the television — signaled his approval of Pence’s performance and declared him the winner in a tweet.


Mike Pence WON BIG!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2020


The Trump campaign also released a statement in which Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short said the vice president made the argument to the American people that Trump is “the clear choice to rebuild the economy.”

Oct 07, 11:18 pm
Pence’s pink eye and an errant fly grab social media attention

Social media users clamored to point out that Pence’s eye looked red and enflamed, which led to speculation about his health after being exposed to COVID-19 from the president.

ABC News’ Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton weighed in, saying that pink eye has been reported in anywhere from 11% to 30% of COVID-19 cases. But as always, Ashton said that it is not possible to diagnose anyone from television and that it was a possibility that it could just be that he just had “some makeup in his eye.”

An errant fly that landed on Pence’s head during the debate also grabbed the attention of social media users. The Biden campaign immediately seized on the moment, using it as an opportunity to fundraise, posting a tweet asking for donations to “help this campaign fly,” along with a photo of Biden holding a fly swatter.

Oct 07, 11:07 pm
Biden says Harris did great, Pence repeated ‘same disproven lies’

An aide to the Biden campaign told ABC News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce they feel Harris did “great” and that she spoke directly to the American people about the things families care about, like they feel Biden did last week.

The aide also reacted to Pence’s performance, arguing the vice president is just a different person repeating the same disproven statements as Trump.
“Once again it’s super clear they don’t have a real pitch or message for re-election. He repeated the same lies we’ve heard before. It’s just smoother and in complete sentences. Folks at home aren’t buying it,” the aide said.

Oct 07, 10:46 pm
Harris, Pence respond to question from student about civility in politics

At the end of the debate, Harris and Pence took a final question from a high school student who asked about civility in politics.

Pence touted “free and open debate” as the basis for American life. Pence referenced the relationship between late-Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia for their close relationship despite ideological differences.

“I just want to encourage you, I want to tell you that we’re going to work every day to have government as good as our people,” Pence said. “The American people, each and every day, love a good debate and a good argument. But we always come together, and we’re always there for one another in times of need. And we’ve especially learned that through the difficulties of this year.”

Harris responded by talking about Biden’s efforts to be bipartisan and work across the aisle.

“So when you think about the future, I do believe the future is bright. And it will be because of your leadership, and it will be because we fight for each person’s voice through their vote. And we get engaged in this election,” Harris said. “You have the ability through your work, and eventually your vote, to determine the future of our country and what its leadership looks like.”

Oct 07, 10:43 pm
Candidates asked how they’d react if transfer of power isn’t peaceful

Page asked both candidates how they would react if Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power if Biden were to win the election.

Both candidates dodged the question and used the opportunity to begin pitching their closing message to voters.

“Joe and I are particularly proud of the coalition that we have built around our campaign. We probably have one of the broadest coalitions of folks that you’ve ever seen in a presidential race,” Harris said.

“It is within our power, and if we use our society, and we use our voice, we will win,” she added. “And we will not let anyone subvert our democracy.”

Pence suggested any concerns over a peaceful transfer of power are unfounded and that he expects Trump will win reelection.

“President Donald Trump has launched a movement of everyday Americans from every walk of life,” Pence said, “and I have every confidence that the same Americans are delivering it in 2016.”


Oct 07, 10:35 pm
Harris and Pence weigh in on race and the death Breonna Taylor

Harris said that she does not not believe justice was done in the case of Breonna Taylor and she called for policing and justice reform, touting her history as a prosecutor.

“And that’s why Joe Biden and I have said on this subject, look — and I’m a former career prosecutor, I know what I’m talking about — bad cops are bad for good cops,” Harris said. “We need reform of our policing in America and our criminal justice system, which is why Joe and I will immediately ban chokeholds and carotid holds. George Floyd would be alive today if we did that.”

Pence said that his “heart breaks” for the loss of innocent life and the family of Breonna Taylor, but he said that he trusts the justice system and the findings of the Grand Jury in the Breonna Taylor case. Pence criticized protestors and rioters who caused damage in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

“With regard to George Floyd — there’s no excuse what happened to George Floyd — and justice will be served,” Pence said. “But there’s no excuse for the rioting and looting that followed. I mean, it really is astonishing.”

Oct 07, 10:31 pm
Pence presses Harris on packing the Supreme Court

Pence pivoted from a question on pre-existing conditions to press Harris for an answer on whether or not she and Biden supported adding additional seats to the Supreme Court.

“I think the American people would really like to know, if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States, are you and Joe Biden, if somehow you win this election, going to pack the Supreme Court to get your way?” the vice president asked.

Harris used her first answer to attack the Trump administration for rushing a vote on Barrett’s nomination by bringing up a Republican the president often compares himself to — Abraham Lincoln.

“It was 27 days before the election, and a seat became open on the United States court. Abraham Lincoln’s party was in charge of not only the White House but the Senate,” she said, referring to the 1864 election.

“But Honest Abe said it’s not the right thing to do,” Harris added. “The American people deserve to make the decision about who will be the next president of the United States, and then that person can select who will serve for a lifetime on the highest court of our land. And so, Joe and I are very clear: the American people are voting right now, and it should be their decision about who will serve on this most important body for a lifetime.”

Pence used her non-answer to say that Biden and Harris would pack the Supreme Court and that he and Trump would protect the current number of justices on the court.
“The American people deserve a straight answer,” he said. “And if you have not figured it out yet, the straight answer is they are going to pack the Supreme Court, if they somehow win this election.

Harris responded that Republican efforts to get more conservatives confirmed as federal judges amounted to packing the court, noting that of the 50 people the president nominated to the Court of Appeals none were Black. She did not state her position on adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oct 07, 10:25 pm
Pence and Harris spar on abortion

Page turned the conversation toward abortion — as Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative, awaits her confirmation hearing in the Senate next week.

Pence, asked directly what he would want his home state of Indiana to do if Roe v. Wade is overturned, at first did not answer the question. Instead, he applauded Barrett as a nominee and defended her Christian faith.

“Let me say, President Trump and I could not be more enthusiastic about the opportunity to see Judge Amy Coney Barrett, become Justice Amy Coney Barrett,” Pence said. “And our hope is in the hearing next week, unlike Justice Kavanaugh received, with treatment from you and others, we hope she gets a fair hearing. And we particularly hope that we don’t see the kind of attacks on her Christian faith that we saw before.”

Pence later returned to the original question on abortion, making his pro-life stance clear.

“I couldn’t be more proud to serve as vice president to a president who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life,” Pence said. “I’m pro-life. I don’t apologize for it. And this is another one of those cases where there’s such a dramatic contrast.”

Harris, in her response, first said it’s “insulting” to suggest she or Biden would attack someone’s faith — before arguing Barrett’s nomination should wait as issues like abortion are on the table and Americans are already voting.

“People are in the process of voting right now. And so, Joe has been very clear, as the American people are, let the American people fill that seat in the White House and then we’ll fill that seat on the United States Supreme Court,” she said.

“There’s the issue of choice, and I will always fight for a woman’s right to make a decision about her own body. It should be her decision and not that of Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence,” she added.

Oct 07, 10:19 pm
Trump tweets praising Pence for doing ‘great’

Trump tweeted in support of Pence saying he is, “doing GREAT” and Harris, calling her a “gaffe machine,” a criticism he uses often to attack her running mate Joe Biden.

Biden has also tweeted in support of his running mate during the debate, saying that Harris is “showing the American people why I chose her as my running mate.”

Oct 07, 10:15 pm
Pence talks about the death of Kayla Mueller in ISIS custody

In speaking to American leadership, Pence brought up the case of Kayla Mueller, a humanitarian worker from Arizona who was kidnapped by the Islamic State in Syria in 2013 and died in the terror group’s custody.

Mueller’s parents were in the debate’s audience as Pence’s guests and appeared last month at the Republican National Convention.

Pence suggested former President Barack Obama and Biden carried blame for Mueller’s death, saying they “hesitated for a month” while she was held captive.

Harris, in her response to the topic of American leadership, first addressed Mueller’s family.

“First of all, to the Mueller family, I know about your daughter’s case and I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. What happened to her is awful and it should have never happened,” Harris said. “And I know Joe feels the same way. And I know that President Obama feels the same way.”

Oct 07, 10:13 pm
Harris on American leadership: ‘It’s about relationships’

In a discussion of foreign policy and the role of American leadership, Harris brought up Trump’s handling of the Iran nuclear deal and criticized the president’s “unilateral” approach.

“He’s walked away from agreements,” she said. “We were in the Iran nuclear deal with friends, with allies around the country. And because of Donald Trump’s unilateral approach to foreign policy, coupled with his isolationism, he pulled us out and has made America less safe.”

“So, Susan, it’s about relationships and the thing that has always been part of the strength of our nation, in addition to our great military, has been that we keep our word,” she added. “But Donald Trump doesn’t understand that because he doesn’t understand what it means to be honest.”

Oct 07, 9:56 pm
Harris says Trump administration ‘lost’ trade war with China

On the issue of jobs, Harris took aim at the Trump administration trade policy with China.

“You lost that trade war. You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs,” Harris said. “Farmers have experienced bankruptcy because of it. We are in a manufacturing recession because of it.”

Pence responded by criticizing Joe Biden’s record on China, calling him, “a cheerleader for communist China.”

“When Joe Biden was vice president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs and President Obama said they were never coming back,” Pence said.

Oct 07, 9:56 pm
Harris says Trump administration ‘lost’ trade war with China

On the issue of jobs, Harris took aim at the Trump administration trade policy with China.

“You lost that trade war. You lost it. What ended up happening is because of a so-called trade war with China, America lost 300,000 manufacturing jobs,” Harris said. “Farmers have experienced bankruptcy because of it. We are in a manufacturing recession because of it.”

Pence responded by criticizing Joe Biden’s record on China, calling him, “a cheerleader for communist China.”

“When Joe Biden was vice president, we lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs and President Obama said they were never coming back,” Pence said.

Oct 07, 9:43 pm
Harris raises transparency concerns with Trump, hits reporting on his taxes

Continuing on the theme of transparency, Page asked Harris, “Do voters have a right to know more detailed health information about presidential candidates especially when they’re facing a challenge?”

Harris said “absolutely” and raised recent reporting on Trump’s taxes.

“That’s why Joe Biden has been so incredibly transparent, and certainly by contrast, the president has not. Both in terms of health records, but also let’s look at taxes. We now know because of great investigative journalism that Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes. When I first heard about it, I literally said, ‘You mean $750,000?"” Harris said. “And it was like, ‘No, $750."”

“We now know Donald Trump owes and is in debt for $400 million,” she said, in reference to New York Times reporting. “It would be really good to know who the president of the United States, the commander in chief, owes money to because the American people have a right to know what is influencing the president’s decisions and is he making those decisions on the best interest of the American people, of you, or self-interest?”


When asked about transparency, Sen. Harris cites Pres. Trump’s health and tax records: “Donald Trump paid $750 in taxes.

When I first heard about it, I literally said, ‘you mean $750,000?’

And it was like, no, $750.” #VPDebate

— ABC News (@ABC) October 8, 2020


Pence defended the attack by painting Trump as a “businessman” and “job creator.”

“He’s paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes. He’s created tens of thousands of American jobs. The president said those public reports are not accurate and the president’s also released literally stacks of financial disclosures the American people can review just as the law allows,” Pence said, though Trump has not released his tax returns, repeatedly saying they’re under audit.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the vice presidential debate in Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, Oct. 7, 2020, in Salt Lake City.

Oct 07, 9:36 pm
Harris touts historic nature of her vice presidential run

When asked about whether Harris had spoken with Biden about a plan in case of presidential disability, she touted her career and the historic nature of her nomination, but she said their shared purpose is the reason she is on the ticket with Biden.

“I think Joe has asked me to serve with him because he knows that we share, we share a purpose which is about lifting up the American people,” Harris said. “And after the four years that we have seen of Donald Trump, unifying our country around our common values and principles.”

In response to the same question, Pence touted the “transparency” that the White House practiced while the president was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center.

“The American people have a right to know about the health and well-being of their president and we’ll continue to do that,” Pence said.

Oct 07, 9:34 pm
Harris, Pence square off on reliability of COVID-19 vaccine

During the first open discussion session, Page asked Harris if she would take a COVID-19 vaccine if it was approved by the Trump administration.

“If the public health professionals — if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it, absolutely,” Harris said. “But if Donald Trump tells us I should take it — that we should take it, I’m not taking it.”

Page tried to move on to the next topic — the role of the vice president — but Pence used his uninterrupted two minutes to respond to Harris’ comment on a potential vaccine and to criticize how the Obama administration handled the Swine Flu or H1N1 pandemic of 2009.

“We have five companies in phase three clinical trials and we’re right now producing tens of millions of doses,” the vice president said.  “So, the fact that you continue to undermine public confidence in a vaccine, if a vaccine emerges during the trump administration, I think is unconscionable.”

“And senator, I just ask you, stop playing politics with peoples’ lives. The reality is, that we will have a vaccine, we believe, before the end of this year,” he added. -ABC News’ Kelsey Walsh 


VP Pence to Sen. Harris: “I just ask you, stop playing politics with people’s lives. The reality is that we will have a vaccine, we believe, before the end of this year and it will have the capacity to save countless American lives.” #VPDebate

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 8, 2020


Oct 07, 9:27 pm
Pence responds to Harris’ criticism of the administration’s COVID response

Pence defended the White House’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that Trump “has put the health of America first.” Pence pointed to the administration’s early ban on travel to China, testing efforts and the efforts to research and administer a vaccine.

Pence also went after the plan the Biden campaign released to combat coronavirus, saying “it reads an awful lot like what President Trump and I, and our task force, have been doing every step of the way.”

He said that the plan “looks a little bit like plagiarism,” because of its similarity to the White House Coronavirus Task Force plan.

Harris hit back at Pence, citing the revelations that Trump downplayed the coronavirus to prevent panic.

“I want to ask the American people, how calm were you when you were panicked about where you were going to get your next roll of toilet paper, how calm were you when your kids were were sent home from school? How calm were you when your children couldn’t see your parents because they were afraid they could kill them?” she said. 


VP Pence to question on why U.S. COVID-19 death toll is higher than any other nation; cites China travel advisory as early intervention: “I want the American people to know that from the very first day, Pres. Trump has put the health of America first.”

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 8, 2020


Oct 07, 9:17 pm
First question on COVID-19 goes to Harris

Moderator Susan Page posed the first question to Harris, revealing the first of nine topics: The coronavirus pandemic.

Noting the president’s recent diagnosis, Page asked Harris, “What would a Biden administration do in January and February that a Trump administration wouldn’t do?”

True to her form as a prosecutor, Harris — the first Black woman and first Indian American to take a vice presidential debate stage — laid out her facts, arguing the administration knew about the threat of the virus in January but didn’t act soon enough.

“They were informed that it’s lethal in consequence, that it’s airborne, that it will affect young people,” Harris said. “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you.”

Harris then said the Trump administration still doesn’t have a plan.

“Well, Joe Biden does and our plan is about what we need to do around a national strategy for contact tracing, for testing, for administration of the vaccine, and making sure that it will be free for all,” she said.

There was no handshake between candidates — customary at the top of such events — due to COVID-19 precautions. The audience, limited to under 100 attendees, applauded Pence and Harris as they took the stage.

Former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who played Pence at some mock debate rehearsals for Harris, was also spotted in the audience.

Oct 07, 9:10 pm
Debate is underway

Pence and Harris have taken the stage in Salt Lake City for the vice presidential debate. The candidates skipped the traditional handshake due to COVID-19 and are divided by plexiglass.

Oct 07, 9:05 pm
Campaign chief of staffs weigh in on what to expect from their candidates’

Harris’ chief of staff Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that Harris won’t spend the night fact-checking Pence on stage.

Instead, the former prosecutor will “bring the case forward” on how Biden and Harris could lead to a different America.

“This debate is about Donald Trump’s failure to contain COVID-19, and not just that but to also help working families,” said Jean-Pierre, adding Harris has a “very diverse team” that has prepared her for the debate.

Jean-Pierre also criticized the example Trump has set since testing positive for the novel coronavirus last week.

“You have a president right now when he left the White House, he decided that he was going to make a campaign by removing his mask. His rhetoric has been incredibly dangerous,” she said. “As Joe Biden said, it’s a tragedy that he believes that he was blessed to have this virus, when people are suffering.”

Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, noted that Harris, like Pence, is “also a very skilled debater and has a record as a prosecutor, so I think it will be a very engaging conversation for the American people and hopefully one that shows a clear contrast in visions between the two campaigns.”

Short said Pence will argue the case that the Trump administration protected more American lives in its COVID-19 response.

Oct 07, 8:43 pm
Early voting by the numbers

With less than a month to go until the election, early voting has already begun in 33 states and at least 5.5 million votes have been cast — hitting record numbers across the nation.

According to the United States Elections Project, spearheaded by the University of Florida’s political expert, Michael McDonald, an unprecedented 5,618,155 voters have already voted and at least 69,786,179 ballots have been requested in early voting states.

The coronavirus pandemic plays a factor in explaining the large early voting numbers as well as an increase in voter interest. Voters in 2020 are more eager to cast a ballot ahead of Election Day where polling sites could be viewed as overcrowded during pandemic standards.

Seven states — California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington — have an all-mail ballot election meaning anyone registered to vote automatically receives a ballot to their registered address.

Oct 07, 8:40 pm
This is ‘the first debate of 2024’: Rahm Emanuel

Former Chicago Mayor and ABC News contributor Rahm Emanuel said that the night’s debate, although also important for the 2020 race, is also “first debate of 2024.”

“I would call this the first vice presidential debate of 2020,” Emanuel said. “And the first debate of 2024, because they’re auditioning for that post.”

Oct 07, 8:20 pm
34 people connected to White House infected by the coronavirus

An hour ahead of the debate, ABC News learned the coronavirus outbreak has infected “34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

ABC News “World News Tonight” Chief Anchor David Muir said the news presents an additional hurdle for Pence as the Trump-Pence team faces an uphill battle in the polls.

“He’s the head of the coronavirus task force and he will have to make the case tonight that the American people are supposed to be able to look to this White House — look to Vice President Mike Pence — to keep them safe, knowing full well the president is positive, 34 people around him are positive,” Muir said.

“And we also know the president will be watching tonight. He knows where the polling is right now, and he’s expecting a command performance for Mike Pence to help with these numbers,” he added. 


.@DavidMuir reports on the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak connected to the White House; at least 34 people connected to Pres. Trump and the White House have tested positive. #VPDebate

— ABC News (@ABC) October 8, 2020


Oct 07, 7:57 pm
With uncertain future for presidential debates, Matthew Dowd says ‘the pressure is on’

ABC News Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd told “ABC News Live Prime” that the pressure is on Pence Wednesday night as it’s uncertain whether the public will see more presidential debates in light of the president’s positive diagnosis.

“That’s the concern for Trump-Pence is that this may be the last opportunity they have in this kind of setting to present their argument to the American public,” he said. “But Kamala just has to keep things going.”

Dowd, who prepped former Vice President Dick Cheney for his debate in 2004, said it’s Pence’s job tonight to ensure the Trump-Pence campaign doesn’t lose any more ground.

“This is a debate that, in order for Donald Trump and Mike Pence to get back in this race where they’re significantly behind, Mike Pence at least has to stop the bleeding in the polls that are going on right now,” said Dowd.

“November 3 is the end of the election, so he has to begin to start chipping away at that lead and present the Donald Trump case in a much more forceful way of why they should get another four years,” he added, noting early voting is underway in several states.

For Harris, Dowd said, it’s her first big introduction to the American people, and her goal should be to keep the momentum going.

“They don’t have to build on a lead. They already have a lead it’s just to keep the momentum going because we have no idea whether we’re gonna have another presidential debate next week or at all,” he said.


“For Trump Pence…this may be the last opportunity they have in this kind of setting to present their argument to the American public so I think the pressure is really on Mike Pence, but Kamala just has to keep things going.” — @matthewjdowd #VPDebate

— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) October 7, 2020


Oct 07, 7:33 pm
What to expect from the candidates on the debate stage

ABC News’ Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce told ABC News Prime Anchor Linsey Davis about what precautions will be in place at Wednesday night’s event amid the coronavirus pandemic and what to expect from both candidates on the debate stage.

“The candidates will both be seated behind Plexiglass more than 12 feet apart,” Bruce said.

Both Pence and Harris have tested negative for the coronavirus, and even as the outbreak at the White House grows, Pence’s team says he is safe to debate. Bruce also explained how Pence and Harris have been preparing for tonight’s debate. Harris will rely on her background as a former prosecutor.

“Despite the fact that she is known for those pointed questions her team says don’t expect her to eviscerate Mike Pence,” Bruce said. “She is going to try though, to speak directly to the American people that’s a strategy that we saw Joe Biden use last week.”

Pence will rely on his background and experience on the debate stage. Mary Bruce warns that Pence will go after Harris, and expects Pence to paint Harris as a far left candidate, a common line of attack from the Trump campaign.

“He does have a lot of experience on a debate stage,” Bruce said. “He is a skillful communicator actually former television hosts, so he has much more experience in this arena.”


On @ABCNewsLive, we break down what you need to know ahead of the vice presidential debate between Vice Pres. Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris in Salt Lake City. WATCH LIVE:

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) October 7, 2020


Oct 07, 7:20 pm
FiveThirtyEight’s latest presidential election forecast

Ahead of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, FiveThirtyEight’s presidential election forecast has Biden favored to win the election. The model gives the former vice president an 84 in 100 chance of wining in November and Trump a 16 in 100 chance of being re-elected.

FiveThirtyEight Politics Editor Sarah Frostenson told ABC News Live’s “Your Voice, Your Vote: The Breakdown” it’s hard to pinpoint one event that changed the polls due to the speed of the news cycle, but the economy and the last debate were two key factors.

“It was really the economy that was helping Trump the most,” Frostenson said. “And so one reason why Biden is ahead out and doing so much better is Trump hasn’t been able to deliver on economic promises here leading up to the election.”

However, she said, voters still trust the president more than Biden on handling the economy.

As for last week’s debate, Frostenson said that Biden got a “modest uptick” in the polls, but it caused a shift due to Biden’s already sizable national lead.

“Going into this debate, you know, Pence and Harris aren’t as well known as Biden and Trump, so there is a possibility that in seeing the number two candidates tonight, voters at home will be able — who are still maybe on the fence — to hear their messages and decide whether or not they’re in Trump or Biden’s camp,” she said. “So it’s not over for Trump yet by any means.”

Oct 07, 6:26 pm
Pence vs. Harris on the issues: Guns

The vice president has been a steadfast gun-rights advocate and a supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA), with a record that shows him opposing restrictions on the Second Amendment.

In 2010, Pence said “Congress should rebuff attempts to restrict the Second Amendment and recognize that programs such as national firearms registration and the assault weapons ban are antithetical to the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.” Most recently, when Pence spoke at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum in 2019, he told them “under this president and this administration, the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

During her presidential campaign, Harris has proposed executive actions to counter gun violence including banning assault weapons and near-universal background checks administered by people who sell over five guns a year. Gun manufacturers and dealers who fail to comply would have their licenses revoked. As the vice presidential nominee, she has called for the renewal of the assault weapons ban also called for the elimination of the “boyfriend loophole” in addition to her avid support of universal background checks.

“Before somebody can buy a lethal weapon, you might want to know if they’ve been found by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. You just might want to know,” Harris told a crowd in Philadelphia in September. “These are the things about background checks, you just might want to know certain things before you give somebody something that can kill other human beings.”

Harris told reporters in April 2019 that she owned a gun for “personal safety,” but says it’s a “false choice… to suggest you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away.”

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 5:58 pm
Jimmy Carter offers well wishes for Kamala Harris ahead of debate

The Biden campaign released a statement from former President Jimmy Carter offering well wishes to Harris ahead of the vice presidential debate.

“We need champions in the White House like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris who understand the needs and values of working Georgians. Kamala Harris has the talent and charisma to lead our great nation as our next Vice President, and I know Americans will see that on full display during tonight’s debate,” Carter’s statement read.

The longest-living president endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign in August.

-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Oct 07, 5:39 pm
Pence vs. Harris: Health care

One thing that remains absent from Pence’s speeches at campaign events is how he envisions providing health care for Americans. The Trump/Pence campaign in 2016 ran on a “repeal and replace” position of Obamacare and have repeatedly gone through the court system to try to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during their first-term. They have yet to put out a replacement plan since taking office.

Like Trump, Pence has also expressed the need to protect Americans with preexisting conditions, even though the Trump Administration is currently asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Obamacare in its entirety, which already protects those vulnerable Americans.

As recently as September, during a town hall moderated by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump was pressed about his repeated claims to deliver a health care plan without following through. Trump said, “I have it already, and it’s a much better plan,” but he has not delivered.

On Sept. 24, Trump did sign several executive orders, framing them as his “America First Health Care Plan,” which are not legislative proposals, but rather administrative actions. He claimed his new plans cost 60% less than options under Obamacare, an end to surprise billing and protections for Americans with preexisting conditions, which is already covered under the ACA.

Harris was initially a supporter of “Medicare for All” and backer of Sanders’ plan which would get rid of private health insurance. During the presidential primary, Harris changed her position, instead calling for an expansion of health care access while still allowing for private health insurance. Harris, in an interview with Axios in October 2019, acknowledged that she’d been “called a flip-flopper for that.”

As the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Harris has backed Biden’s health plan which would provide a public option for Americans seeking health care and aim to lower costs.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 5:01 pm
Pence vs. Harris on the issues: Climate

Sen. Harris was once a proponent of the Green New Deal as both a co-sponsor of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bill and as a presidential candidate.

Since becoming Biden’s running mate, Harris has moved away from her support, instead, embracing Biden’s climate plan, which calls for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate agreement, aims for the U.S. to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and invests $2 trillion in clean energy and infrastructure.

Fracking contributes to the economy in Pence’s home state of Indiana and he’s an advocate for the fossil fuel industry. He once called global warming a “myth,” but has evolved slightly to say “there’s no question” human activity has “some impact on climate change.” He touts the economic sectors of oil, gas, fracking and coal as areas that boost job creation and the overall economy. He also hailed Trump for removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, which he has called a “bad deal since the moment it was signed” by the Obama administration in 2015.

He also misleadingly told a group of farmers and ranchers in Iowa that he was not going to let Harris reduce the amount of red meat Americans should eat, referencing a comment she made during a 2019 CNN town hall as a way to curb the impact of climate change.

“Sen. Kamala Harris said she would change the dietary guidelines of this country to reduce the amount of red meat Americans can eat. Well, I’ve got some red meat for you. We’re not gonna let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat.”

Changing health guidelines does not necessarily mean Americans will be required to implement them, they are only recommendations.

During the 2019 town hall, Harris was asked if she “would support changing the dietary guidelines” in the U.S. to reduce red meat consumption and she answered, “yes.” She said, “I love cheeseburgers from time to time,” but that there needs to be more education surrounding “the effect of our eating habits on our environment.”

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 3:58 pm
Biden says Harris will ‘do well’ against Pence

Former Vice President Joe Biden told reporters his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris will “do well” against Vice President Mike Pence when they meet on the debate stage in Salt Lake City in a matter of hours.

Exiting from his car in Wilmington, Delaware, and giving a quick wave to reporters, Biden initially ignored shouted questions from the press about his advice for Harris.

Biden then turned back and said, “She’s gonna do well” with a thumbs up before he entered the building for a fundraising event.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Oct 07, 3:46 pm
Pence vs. Harris on the issues: COVID-19

In February, Trump announced that Pence would lead the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest crisis he’s ever managed in his political career. Pence held numerous White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings at the height of the pandemic and oversaw the deployment of personal protective equipment and ventilators to states facing an overwhelming number of patients.

Pence repeatedly downplayed the severity of the virus, both with his actions and public statements. He once said that the pandemic would largely be behind the nation by Memorial Day and in April, Pence disregarded a Mayo Clinic policy and did not wear a mask while visiting patients in Minnesota, even after his office was informed about the policy there.

Since that visit, Pence and his staff have been more consistent in wearing a mask in public, but he has occasionally walked a rope line after campaign events without one, signing autographs, but staying a few feet back.

Harris has continuously condemned Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and repeatedly called for leaders to “listen to the scientists and the experts,” on how to proceed. In August, when she and Biden sat down with ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir and “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, Harris said their approach will be guided by public health experts “unlike what we have seen now which are the politics guiding a public health crisis.”

Harris has called for what she describes as a national “standard” for wearing masks. And on a possible vaccine for the coronavirus, Harris said she wouldn’t solely believe Trump on its efficacy. She said she’d want to hear information from credible sources before believing it’s safe. “I will not take his word for it,” Harris said on CNN. “He wants us to ingest bleach.”

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 3:09 pm
Harris, Pence both skilled in debate format

Both vice presidential nominees are seasoned debaters. During her ill-fated presidential primary bid, Harris participated in several debates and made headlines for her zingers, including a clash with Biden over busing to integrate schools. Expectations are high for her in the matchup against Pence, who hasn’t participated in a debate since 2016 but has held his own ground in the past.

In an interview with Hillary Clinton for her podcast “You and me Both,” Harris spoke about the challenges of preparing the debate, including her expectation that Pence could offer “a series of untruths” from the debate stage.

“I don’t necessarily want to be the fact checker,” Harris said in the interview. “At the same time, you know, depending on how far he goes with whatever he does, he’s going to have to be accountable for what he says.”

Pence has called Harris a “skilled debater” and has told supporters at campaign events that he looks forward to being on stage with her, though he has remained mostly tight lipped about his expectations or how he’s been preparing for the matchup.

In 2016, Pence participated in the vice presidential debate against Sen. Tim Kaine and was seen to have successfully thwarted attacks over comments Trump made about women and Mexican immigrants, as well as his policy proposals.

During his debate against Kaine, Pence was disciplined, poised and polished and largely waited for his turn to get a response in.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 2:17 pm
Experts express concerns about possible coronavirus transmission at vice president debate

Two, five-foot tall plexiglass walls will stand between Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris at Wednesday night’s debate.

The thick plastic barriers, approved by the Commission on Presidential Debates, will try to prevent the possible transmission of the coronavirus as Pence and Harris face off onstage for 90 minutes.

The Debate Commission said the plexiglass was part of a “variety of health safety protocols,” according to a factsheet. “Plexiglass will be used as part of the CPD’s overall approach to health and safety.”

Experts say that among the many protective measures put in place, the proposed plexiglass may not be the most effective option, particularly in light of updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to its guidelines on Monday acknowledging the potential for airborne transmission of the virus while indoors.

According to the CDC, it’s possible for the virus to be transmitted beyond 6 feet by forming particles that can linger in the air for prolonged periods of time when infectious individuals “cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe.” The risk of airborne transmission is greatest in poorly ventilated indoor spaces as well as during prolonged exposure. Pence and Harris will be 12 feet apart from each other and from the moderator.

The clear dividers on stage could offer an added layer of protection, but it should not be a standalone measure, experts say.

More on experts concerns about safety protocols for the debate can be found here.

-ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik and Ramie Fathy

Oct 07, 2:09 pm
Social distancing, plexiglass have been utilized in Senate debates over the past few weeks

Amid the controversy surrounding a plexiglass barrier at the vice presidential debate Wednesday, a number of Senate debates across the country have utilized the measures.

In last Friday’s South Carolina debate, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison brought his own plexiglass divider to his debate against Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Both candidates said they tested negative the day before the debate and those attending had to fill out a questionnaire saying they had no symptoms.

The Arizona Senate debate on Tuesday night also saw the candidates using plexiglass dividers.

In Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner and Democratic challenger John Hickenlooper were separated with plexiglass dividers. Both candidates tested negative prior to the debate.

In North Carolina’s debate last Thursday, plexiglass wasn’t used, but Sen. Thom Tillis and challenger Cal Cunningham were socially distanced from each other and the moderator.

In Iowa, Theresa Greenfield and Sen. Joni Ernst shared a table with the moderators. All were separated by plexiglass barriers.

-ABC News’ Meg Cunningham and Kendall Karson

Oct 07, 1:48 pm
Advocacy organizations gear up for debate showdown

Women’s rights and advocacy organizations on the left have been working together to promote Harris’s candidacy. This week they are gearing up too against what they fear will be sexist or otherwise biased attacks during the vice presidential debate Wednesday.

The long list of organizations, including BlackPAC, Color of Change PAC, EMILY’s List WOMEN VOTE!, Planned Parenthood Votes! and UltraViolet say they are working in tandem on messaging and outreach. On the phone with ABC News, Shaunna Thomas, the head of UltraViolet, argued that female politicians are still more likely to face attacks — subtle as they may be — about their qualifications, trustworthiness and character. She said the coalition was planning to release content on social media and around neighborhoods Wednesday with an eye toward women of color in battleground states.

They want to underscore again the historic nature of the ticket.

“A lot of people are excited about this long overdue and historic moment for women of color and the whole country. Never has a woman of color served in such a position … and it’s time,” she said.

The coordinated push comes as Biden again leaned into the issue of race and inequity in America on Tuesday during his event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

“I think about what it takes for a Black person to love America that has a deep love for this country that has — for far too long — never been recognized,” he said on the historic Civil War battlefield after talking about his conversations with the families of Black Americans whose loved ones have been killed by police.

-ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks

Oct 07, 1:18 pm
Pence tests negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday

Vice President Mike Pence tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday, according to his office.

Pence’s office said on Tuesday that the vice president had gotten a negative PCR test Tuesday afternoon and negative rapid test Tuesday morning — Pence had also gotten a negative PCR test Monday. Pence’s most recent negative result was from an antigen test.

Pence’s office has not responded to questions about what type of test members of the vice president’s group attending the debate were using.

Sen. Harris also tested negative for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson and Averi Harper

Oct 07, 1:07 pm
Inside Pence debate prep: ‘On-message Mike’ forced to defend Trump’s handling of coronavirus

While President Donald Trump resisted typical debate preparations, Vice President Mike Pence has held lengthy mock debate sessions and enlisted the help of a former prosecutor and state attorney general to play his opponent.

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — who was also a member of the president’s impeachment defense team — was tasked to play the role of Sen. Kamala Harris in mock debate sessions with Pence in Washington, D.C. before he left for Utah.

Bondi is a career prosecutor who has a history with Kamala Harris — both served as state attorney generals.

“Kamala was my colleague when we were attorneys general together and she’s very smart, she’s a seasoned debated, you know she’s career prosecutor so prosecutors can debate and they can debate well,” Bondi told Fox News.

While top aides privately call Pence “on-message Mike,” referring to his more measured, consistent tone, he will be forced to defend the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as the president suggests his contracting COVID-19 was an act of political courage to help him lead the fight against the virus.

Aides plan to use Pence’s experience as the head of the White House coronavirus task force to frame him as being on the “front lines” of fighting for the American people on COVID-19.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has also been advising Pence. Walker helped Pence prepare for the last vice presidential debate against Sen. Tim Kaine in 2016.

Walker told Fox & Friends on Wednesday that there’s no doubt Pence will face questions on COVID-19, but will focus on how the administration took quick action — including shutting down China travel.

Walker said Pence will be “calm” but also “emotional and aggressive” during Wednesday’s debate.

-ABC News’ Rachel Scott and Katherine Faulders

Oct 07, 12:39 pm
Pelosi tells Harris to ‘be yourself’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Wednesday that she’s been texting with Sen. Kamala Harris about tonight’s vice presidential debate.

Her advice to Harris: be yourself.

She also noted that health care will be a big topic tonight and encouraged Harris to beat that drum loudly.

-ABC News’ Mariam Khan

Oct 07, 12:16 pm
Mike Pence: Everything you need to know

Vice President Mike Pence represents a more traditional style of the Republican Party compared to President Donald Trump but has been a loyal second-in-command throughout their first term in office. Pence has been at the forefront, sometimes leading, major policy efforts of the Trump administration, such as the White House’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair did not personally know one another prior to their 2016 race, but their first term has strengthened their bond. Pence has been steadfast in his support for the president through controversy, whether it was a ban on travel into the U.S. from predominantly Muslim countries, Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate, or the decision to resume large, in-person campaign events amid coronavirus.

Read more on Pence’s background here.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Oct 07, 11:29 am
Pence vs. Harris on the issues: Abortion

He speaks at March for Life, the nation’s largest annual rally against abortion. She presented a landmark plan to protect abortion rights.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris are set to face off on Wednesday in a debate bound to display their drastically opposing views on the issue, which takes on renewed urgency as the Senate considers the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court. Harris is in the unique position of being a sitting Senator who will decide Barrett’s fate ahead of the election.

The two vice presidential candidates represent opposite sides of the spectrum on reproductive rights, as nationwide support for abortion rights remains high. A July 2019 ABC News/Washington Post poll found 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with only 24% saying abortion access should be harder.

A May 2020 poll by Gallup found similar results, with only 20% of respondents saying abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

Read more on the candidates’ positions on abortion here.

-ABC News’ Alexandra Svokos

Oct 07, 10:41 am
Pence charged with sorting out Trump-centered chaos at VP debate

If Wednesday night showcases Sen. Kamala Harris the prosecutor, consider the new evidence added to her case.

And if Vice President Mike Pence is cast as the best explainer and defender of Trumpism, consider how much harder his job has become.

It’s been eight short but incredibly long days since the first presidential debate. Since then, President Donald Trump has struggled to denounce white supremacism; refused to commit to accepting the results of the election; spread falsehoods about the voting process; been diagnosed with COVID-19, amid a full-fledged Washington outbreak; choreographed a triumphant return to the White House to urge the nation not to let the pandemic “dominate”; pulled the plug on further coronavirus relief talks until after the election and then reconsidered the move in some late-night tweets.

Enter the number twos — in a campaign where there’s seldom been more attention on the potential need for their services.

Pre-debate squabbles in Salt Lake City include fighting over plexiglass partitions and more space between the candidates to accommodate social distancing. What’s really separating the vice-presidential candidates, though, are campaigns of the men at the top of the ticket — who have distinct styles that are nothing like those of their running mates or each other.

Four years ago, it was Pence holding steady and calm in a debate with a feisty Sen. Tim Kaine, who faced blowback for his interruptions in a mild-mannered affair. Just last year, Harris’ main debate opponent was the man she now shares a ticket with — bringing set-piece attacks that appeared to nick former Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, amid the chaos of the moment and the relative stability of the campaign, Harris will bring a case that Pence might be uniquely equipped to defend.

-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein

Oct 07, 10:10 am
Harris tests negative for coronavirus

Sen. Harris underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 yesterday and COVID-19 was not detected, per a Harris aide.

-ABC News’ Averi Harper

Oct 07, 9:49 am
Kamala Harris: Everything you need to know

California Sen. Kamala Harris was selected as former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate on Aug. 11. She is the first woman of color on a major party’s ticket, and if elected, she’d be the first woman and first woman of color to serve as vice president.

Her nomination came after serving as senator for California and as the state’s attorney general — and after her own, unsuccessful presidential nomination run. She suspended her presidential bid on Dec. 3, 2019 because, she wrote in an email to supporters, she didn’t have the financial resources to continue.

Read more on Harris’ background here.

-ABC News’ Tessa Weinberg Sruthi Palaniappan

Oct 07, 9:04 am
Debate safety measures a matter of contention between the two camps

In response to COVID-19 concerns from Kamala Harris’ team, the Commission on Presidential debates has agreed to add additional safety precautions at the debate.

Vice President Mike Pence and Harris will be seated 12-feet and 3 inches away from each other and from the debate moderator, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page. As was the case at the presidential debate, there will be no handshakes between the candidates, and while the commission said there would also be plexiglass separating Harris, Pence and Page, the Pence campaign has objected to using it.

A senior administration official in Pence’s office told ABC News Tuesday that there had been no formal agreement about the plexiglass and that while Harris and Page could use it, Pence doesn’t want to.

In a statement to ABC News, Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller said, “If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.”

Though Harris, Pence and Page will not wear masks on stage, everyone else in the debate hall will be required to wear one. Anyone who takes their mask off will be escorted out, according to the rules.

During the presidential debate in Cleveland, members of the Trump family were seen sitting in the audience without masks, even after being asked to put them on.

Harris and Pence will be tested prior to the debate, according to the commission, which is a change from the presidential debate when the campaigns were responsible for testing their candidates and traveling parties.

“They’ve got to wear a mask, and if they take their mask off they’re gonna be escorted out, and I don’t care who they are, they’ll be escorted out,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, in an interview with ABC News.

The vice president has tested negative each day since Friday, and his White House physician has cleared him from having to quarantine, citing that he is not a “close contact” with anyone who’s tested positive, including Trump.

But Pence was present at the Rose Garden ceremony on Sept. 26 when Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Eleven of the attendees have since tested positive for COVID-19. He was also in the Oval Office with Trump the morning of his debate, just days before the president tested positive.

Harris tested negative for COVID-19 Monday after being screened in Salt Lake City, where she has been gearing up for the debate, according to an aide.

Oct 07, 8:24 am
Pence will get first question at debate

Pence will get the first question at Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced Tuesday evening, along with a few more details of what viewers can expect.

Pence will be seated stage left. Harris will be seated stage right.

The candidates will be socially distanced with 12 feet and three inches of space between the center of one chair and the center of the other chair.

Similar to last week’s presidential debate, there will be no opening or closing statements.

Unlike last week, nine 10-minute pods of discussion will fill the 90-minute debate. Each pod will start with a question. The first candidate will get two minutes to answer. The second candidate will then get two minutes. After that, there will be six minutes of discussion.

Oct 07, 7:43 am
COVID-19 looms large over vice presidential debate

In the days since President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took the stage for their first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, last week, the coronavirus has become even more of a central campaign issue than ever as the vice presidential candidates prepare for their only debate in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday night.

The way the Trump administration has handled the pandemic is likely to be central to the debate as the White House deals with a cluster of COVID-19 cases, including the infection of Trump himself, amid a campaign and administration that have downplayed the virus and flouted the advice of health experts.

On Wednesday night, Trump’s stance on masks, his decision to restart large campaign rallies that pack thousands together with no opportunity to socially distance and his admission to Bob Woodward that he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus will likely be brought up, with the spate of White House coronavirus cases giving Harris new ammunition to claim the administration hasn’t taken the pandemic seriously enough.

Pence may also be asked to answer for Trump’s words, comparing COVID-19 to the flu as recently as Tuesday and previously saying the virus would just “disappear.”

Harris has previously said Trump has shown “a reckless disregard for the wellbeing of the American people” by failing to contain the outbreak and is likely to continue that line of attack.

“Even now, some eight months into this crisis, Donald Trump still won’t take responsibility. He still won’t act,” Harris said in a speech on Aug. 27.

Pence will likely defend Trump by saying he ordered the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE), sent ventilators to states and shut down travel from China as evidence he sprung into action early on. He may use Trump’s short hospital stay as evidence of the progress made with regard to therapeutic drugs and to boost the president’s position that Americans shouldn’t let coronavirus “dominate” their lives.

Oct 07, 5:05 am
Debate changes in light of Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis

In light of President Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent concerns from Harris’ team, the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed to add additional safety precautions to Wednesday’s debate at the University of Utah.

Unlike last week’s presidential debate, everyone in the audience will be required to wear a face mask or covering and those who don’t will be escorted out of the venue.

“They’ve got to wear a mask, and if they take their mask off they’re gonna be escorted out, and I don’t care who they are, they’ll be escorted out,” Frank Fahrenkopf, chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told ABC News.

Harris and Pence will be tested prior to the debate, according to the commission, a change from the presidential debate when campaigns were responsible for testing their candidates and traveling parties.

And the candidates will be separated by more than just the issues — or at least one of them will be.

After Pence’s close proximity to others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the Harris campaign requested plexiglass barriers be used at the debate and the commission agreed — but the Pence campaign said Tuesday that they never agreed to a plexiglass partition.

A senior administration official in Pence’s office told ABC News Tuesday that the CPD decided to publicize the new safety protocols before any formal agreement was made and that the moderator and the Harris campaign can do as they want, “but we do not.”

The official said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend plexiglass whenever 6 feet of separation isn’t possible, but noted the candidates will be 12-feet apart on stage. The comment fell in line with Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short who told The Washington Post Tuesday that plexiglass is “not needed.”

Pence’s communications director, Katie Miller, who tested positive for COVID-19 in May, also responded to the request in a statement to Axios earlier this week saying, “If Sen. Harris wants to use a fortress around herself, have at it.”

Following news that Miller’s husband, senior Trump aide Stephen Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus, she reportedly left Utah and a spokesperson declined to comment if Pence would agree to plexiglass.

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