Vice Presidential Debate 2020: From Covid-19 to women rights, these are issues Pence and Harris might argue on

The first and the only vice presidential debate of the year is only a few…

Vice Presidential Debate 2020: From Covid-19 to women rights, these are issues Pence and Harris might argue on

The first and the only vice presidential debate of the year is only a few hours away, set on Wednesday, October 7, at 9 PM ET in Salt Lake City. With the presidential debate last month turning out to be a disappointment for many, there are high expectations from the two 2020 VP candidates — Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris — who are both known for their expertise in debating. There is also high expectation of key issues concerning the voters being discussed during the debate without interruption, something which was lacking in the debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on September 29.

Ever since Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, Pence has kept a low profile and would be expected to give a much-needed boost to the Trump-Pence campaign through the debate. On the other hand, Democrats are pinning their hopes on a success based on Harris’ renowned prosecutorial skills to make a case against Pence. Here is a list of issues that the two candidates are likely to touch base on during the much-anticipated discourse:


The Covid-19 pandemic will likely take the center stage on the debate, with President Trump’s handling of the crisis coming into question. Over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to the contagious disease as experts warn that the public health crisis could worsen in the coming months. Harris is also likely to attack Pence with Trump’s recent Covid-19 diagnosis and his much-criticized behavior concerning precautions. The president, over the weekend, made a surprise visit outside the Walter Reed Medical Center — where he was hospitalized — to greet his supporters despite being infected with the virus.

The Republican received widespread criticism for putting his security detail at risk of contracting the virus from him. Trump, a day later, was also seen posing for a photo-op in the White House, where he removed his mask despite being infected. Pence, meanwhile, will have to fend off Harris’ attack on the administration’s handling of the crisis considering he chairs the White House coronavirus task force.

Supreme Court

With the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senate Republicans have vowed to go ahead with confirming hearings for the president’s replacement candidate Amy Coney Barrett next week. The vacant Supreme Court seat is expected to come up during Wednesday’s debate as it is a major talking point for both the Republicans and Democrats as the latter look to delay the process until after the presidential elections set next month. Republicans, meanwhile, consider a prior appointment a winning issue as they seek to consolidate support on issues like gun control and stringent abortion laws. Barrett has a record of opposing abortion rights.

The two candidates have vastly differing views on abortion and the landmark ruling that guarantees it, in the Roe v Wade case. While the vice president is staunchly pro-life and has often argued that the historic ruling should be overturned, the senator has consistently maintained a pro-choice position. Harris supports the Roe v Wade judgment and had also proposed a plan last year to protect abortion rights in the country.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks as White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows look on (Getty Images)

Defunding police

Considering the ongoing widespread protests across the country, and riots in some areas, against systematic racism and police brutality, law and order is an issue which is bound to come up during the discourse. Protesters have increasingly called for defunding the police as one of the measures to combat police brutality, with most Democrats supporting the idea. However, Trump and Pence have slammed the notion. Biden, in the presidential debate, had also spoken against defunding the police. It will be interesting to seek “top cop” Harris’ stance on the issue considering she is half-Black and sympathizes with the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile, Pence, who has maintained a theme of law and order throughout the campaign, championing rights of law enforcement will seek to attack the Biden-Harris campaign for not vehemently condemning the violence in the country.


Harris, during the Democratic presidential primary earlier this year, was denounced for changing her stance on the US healthcare. The California senator, who was one of the proponents of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, during her own presidential bid had said that her healthcare plan would eliminate private insurance before backtracking later.

Pence is likely to attack Harris’ uncertain stance on the US healthcare and would probably look to project her as further to the left than her running mate Biden, who has opposed Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ bill consistently. The senator, meanwhile, will possibly slam the Trump administration’s plan to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act without having a concrete replacement bill for it.

Senator Kamala Harris speaks during a voter mobilization drive-in event (Getty Images)

Women’s Rights

A discussion on women’s rights is also likely as some critics fear that the debate may turn sexist considering President Trump has often called Harris a “nasty woman.” Pence, although often described as soft-spoken, has been deemed “extraordinarily hostile” to women’s rights by many experts including Jennifer Dalven, director of the Reproductive Freedom Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Harris, as the first woman of color seeking to become the country’s vice president, will be expected to attack Pence on the issue and champion women’s rights.

The debate is set to be moderated by USA Today Washington bureau chief Susan Page.

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