KEY POINTS

  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has a reputation as a formidable debater
  • Vice President Mike Pence is seen as cool and controlled
  • Extra precautions are in place to protect the candidates from coronavirus infection, including a plexiglass separator on the stage

Americans focused Wednesday on the vice presidential candidates ahead of their scheduled Salt Lake City debate as President Donald Trump’s health was in question.

Trump was hospitalized during the weekend with COVID-19 and though released Monday, still was under treatment at the White House.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Vice President Mike Pence face off at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City at 9 p.m. EDT.

In past elections, the vice presidential debates have been little more than a side show, but this time they have taken on added significance in light of the candidates’ ages – Trump is 74 and Democratic rival Joe Biden is 77 – as well as Trump’s illness.

You can watch the debate below:

The 90-minute debate, moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page, is scheduled for broadcast on the major networks – ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS – as well as cable outlets – CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN. Twitter users can watch the debate on the platform’s U.S. Election hub, which can be found in the explore tab on the phone app.

Extra precautions were in place to protect the candidates from infection. A plexiglass divider was to separate the candidates, who were to be positioned more than 12 feet apart. All attendees were required to wear masks although Harris, Pence and Page were to be maskless on stage. All those at the site need to report negative coronavirus tests before entering the debate hall and the candidates were to be tested before and after the event.

The Brookings Institute called the debate the “most important vice presidential debate in American history.”

Harris is seen as a formidable debater, a former prosecutor who emerged as a strong voice on police misconduct despite a law enforcement record that sidestepped controversial police killings. Pence has been a key figure in the administration’s coronavirus response, with the pandemic likely to take center stage among debate topics. He is calm and controlled; Harris needs to appear steady and strong.

Brookings Deputy Director John Hudak said questions about presidential incapacitation would be key as the candidates confront each other.

“Whether Mr. Trump is reelected or Mr. Biden wins next month, they will be sworn in during a deadly pandemic that has proved to be particularly dangerous to older men. And Americans will be watching the VP debate with renewed awareness that one of those two individuals could easily become president – not  because they ran for the office but because they succeeded to the office,” Hudak wrote, advising the candidates to appear presidential, something that was sorely lacking in the presidential debate last week.

Trump and Biden were scheduled to meet at their second debate next week in Miami.