Tags: 2020 Elections | Coronavirus | Donald Trump | Joe Biden | Kamala Harris | debate | vice president

VP Debate in Utah: Pence to Press Harris on Socialist Agenda

Wednesday night's stage is set for VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris
Wednesday night's stage is set for VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. (Julio Cortez/AP)

By    |   Wednesday, 07 October 2020 04:23 PM

The stage in Utah has been set with all the trappings of a modern political debate: Red, white and blue carpets, a backdrop of the Declaration of Independence — and plexiglass.

The clear partitions that will divide Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in Wednesday's vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City will pale in comparison to the issues that divide the candidates.

Pence, like President Donald Trump in the previous presidential debate with Joe Biden, is going to push to paint Harris as a proponent of introducing socialism in the U.S.'s longstanding capitalistic society.

"Pence and Harris are a study in contrasts," Alfred Ortiz wrote in a Fox News op-ed. "With Pence, what you see is what you get. He is an Indiana conservative who will cut taxes, reduce regulations, and improve the healthcare system. Small businesses couldn't ask for a better advocate and friend.

"Harris is his polar opposite – a San Francisco Democrat who has never met a tax or regulation she doesn't like. Her agenda is outright hostile to small businesses. According to a 2019 analysis by GovTrack, a nonpartisan watchdog, Harris is the most liberal member of the Senate – even more so than socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt."

Here are the other top storylines to follow as events unfold 9 p.m. ET, uninterrupted for 90 minutes:

VP Debate Moderator Susan Page Is Respected by Both Sides

After Fox News' Chris Wallace faced a storm of criticism for his handling of a chaotic first presidential debate last week in Cleveland, longtime USA Today White House bureau chief Susan Page will be in the hot seat to manage the pace and back-and-forth between an often measured Pence against a frequently animated Harris, known for her one-liners some pundits believe are scripted.

One variable that might help Page: the candidates will be seated, unlike the standing presidential candidates in the last debate. Some pundits believe that will lead to more calm and more substantive policy discussion.

Harris to Press Pence on His Coronavirus Task Force Leadership

With a number of White House staffers having tested positive for COVID-19, Harris will have an opportunity to hold Pence's feet to the fire for his handling of the global coronavirus pandemic in America. Pence was assigned by Trump to lead the task force.

Pence will have a case to make he helped the states – many of the worst locales led by Democratic leaders – received personal protective equipment and government assistance during the pandemic.

Also, Biden-Harris have been critical of the Operation Warp Speed to get therapeutics, including questioning whether they would take a vaccine for COVID-19 if it is made available during the Trump administration's last months of his first term.

Harris' Past Debate Criticisms of Joe Biden

Pence will try to succeed where Trump was unable to: challenging Biden's record on criminal justice law and past comments on working with segregationists.

Harris hammered Biden for policy choices she suggested betrayed the spirit of the civil rights movement, if not directly opposing all it stood for. Then she really hit her stride, exhibiting the controlled force of a practiced cross-examiner.

"Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America?" Harris asked Biden in Biden's first Democrat primary debate.

Pence will be tasked to questioning Harris on her harsh criticism before turning around and accepting his vice presidential nomination.

Who Can Prove to be More Presidential?

With the chaos of the last debate, featuring Biden calling the president a "clown," a "liar," and a "racist" without proof – and Trump frequently interrupting and pressing Biden on questions Wallace would not ask or push – both VP candidates will be on the hook to look presidential to the American people.

While Trump claimed victory in the last debate, polls have given Biden the boost, perhaps because of Trump's forceful style.

Pence is more measured, while Harris is a champion of debate quotable. Both will be seen as potential next-up candidates. Biden would enter the White House as the oldest sitting president, while Trump in 2016 was already the oldest president to be elected to the White House.

Also, it is not just the age, Biden has had past health issues and Trump was recently treated at Walter Reed Medical Center after testing COVID-19 positive. Either Pence or Harris might be just one illness from taking the reins as commander and chief.

Which Candidate Can Generate More Voter Enthusiasm

Harris, an Indo-Jamaican women, has some genetic advantages to spur some under-addressed voting blocs. But Pence, like Trump, is an older, white male – which tends to turn off everyone who is not those.

Pence figures to pin Harris' record as the most progressive member of the Senate as too far left for moderate voters.

Trump frequently cornered Biden into backing off progressive initiatives like universal healthcare and the Green New Deal, saying "You just lost the left."

Newsmax TV's Sean Spicer, host of "Spicer & Co.," noted Biden's withdrawal from Sen. Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., more progressive agenda might lead to less voter enthusiasm from them once-activated, far-left voter base.

Spicer's point was if Biden-Harris does not move for dramatic change, left voters might be less inclined to aid the grassroots campaign in cities throughout the country, if not skip voting for a moderate Democrat presidential candidate altogether.

Packing the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Judge Barrett is slated to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee starting Oct.  12 and projected to get out of committee and sent to the Senate by Oct. 22, potentially going to a full Senate vote before the election.

Harris is a member of the Senate sure to vote against Barrett as a matter of Democrat form, so Pence can press her on that and ask her to go on record for her comments Democrats should retaliate pushing Judge Barrett through before the election by packing the Supreme Court.

Trump tried to press Biden on that, but he refused to answer. It might be the 1A issue of this election cycle after the Democrats' hard push on coronavirus mishandling by Pence and the Trump administration.

Also, Pence is a devout Christian and a pro-life conservative, an issue Harris might press as a pro-choice women's advocate, particularly as it relates to adding Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court to further the conservative advantage to 6-3.

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Here are the top storylines to follow as events unfold Wednesday night at the Vice Presidential debate between VP Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
debate, vice president, mike pence, utah, pandemic, covid-19, moderator
Wednesday, 07 October 2020 04:23 PM
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